Truth be told, your GetReligionistas do not have the power to bust ghosts.
However, we have been known to spot ghosts on a regular basis and to sound warnings. Ultimately, only the editors and reporters who work in mainstream newsrooms can do anything about all of the religion ghosts that haunt so many of their news reports.
So what is this “ghost” thing all about and why, for the past 10 years, has this concept mattered so much to us here at GetReligion? Let me explain.
Many of our readers continue to assume that GetReligion.org exists (a) to provide coverage of religion news events or (b) to provide a platform for people who want to argue about religious doctrines and trends in the past, present and future. In response, we keep chanting: This is not a religion-news site. This is a site about how many professionals in the mainstream press struggle to cover — to “get” — religion news.
As you would expect, we spend some of our time looking at the work of religion-beat professionals. However, it’s important to note that we end up praising the work of religion-beat professionals as much, if not more, than we criticize it.
After all, lots of people who have spent time researching religion-news coverage — including me — have concluded that the quickest way to improve coverage of this beat is for newsroom managers to hire experienced, trained religion writers and then give them the time and space they need to do their work. Consider, for example, that landmark “Bridging The Gap” study (.pdf here) done by the Freedom Forum more than two decades ago.
The bottom line: The main journalistic problem that GetReligion.org was created to address was not that professional religion writers are blind to the religion angles in major news stories.
Heavens no! The big problem is that so many other journalists are blind to the essential religious content and even context that helps shape the news on other beats — politics, science, entertainment, education, sports, economics, etc., etc.
As I have said many times, here at GetReligion.org we are convinced that if you want to cover news rooted in the real lives of real people who live in the real world, then you need to devote serious attention to religion. Newsroom managers need to grant religion news the respect that they give to other serious, complex topics in news at the local, national and global levels.
And that brings us to all of those “ghosts.” Thus, let’s review a few passages from that very first GetReligion.org post that went live on Feb. 2, 2004, as Douglas LeBlanc and I set up shop.