Whence Religion Coverage in the News?

DMN01sm.jpgThe Dallas Morning News pioneered the Sunday “Religion” section in daily newspapers, launching it in 1994. They were quickly emulated by newspapers around the country, including my hometown newspaper, the StarTribune, which established a more politically-correct sounding “Faith and Values” section on Saturday.

As someone — like over half of Americans — who takes religion seriously, I’ve enjoyed that section. About three times a month, there was an original story by the local religion beat reporter, and once-a-month they picked up a story off the wires. There was also the “Notes” section with newsbriefs about religion stories local, national, and international, plus a Faith and Values Calendar that displayed concerts and lectures around the Twin Cities. They even ran the occasional column. In all, it gave those of us interested in religion an nice weekly sense of what was going on around the metro area.

The DMN killed the religion section a few years ago, relegating it to a noteworthy blog. That blog has thrived, on the good graces and during the free time of its authors…until now. Yesterday, Get Religion reported (via Rod) that the DMN has reassigned its two excellent religion reporters, Sam Hodges and Jeffrey Weiss, to cover suburban issues.

Ugh.


My sadnesses are several:

1) The DMN religion blog will soon fold, or peter out.

2) Other newspapers (and MSM outlets) will follow suit.

3) Less good books on religion. Here’s what I mean: Do you ever notice
how some of the best books on politics or international affairs or a
sport (or anything, really) are written by the a reporter who’s covered
that beat for years. Think Thomas Friedman, who wrote From Beruit to Jerusalem 
based on his exeperience as a NYTimes correspondent in the Middle East
– and he is just the king-of-the-hill of scores of books written by
journalists.

Journalists are able to write books that are more objective than books
by advocates (like me), and more lively and anecdotal than books
written by academics.

And now, I fear, excellent journalists like Sam and Jeffrey will never
write books about their lives on the religion beat, cuz there is no
religion beat.

Photo of empty cubicles at the Dallas Morning News courtesy of Courtney Perry.

  • Alan K

    If it sold papers I’m sure they would have kept it.

  • Kenton

    Yes, it’s sad, but most of us here in the Big D processed our grief when religion went from “section” to “page.” It was never the same after that. I *still* think it would be viable to start a weekly grocery store circular that had the same types of stories and ads. But then again, who wants to seed *that* venture these days?
    The blog remains somewhat popular as near as I can tell, even if it doesn’t generate revenue. To that extent I think Sam and Jeffrey will continue to contribute to it. So I don’t think it will “fold.” “Peter out” is probably a little too strong as well. How about “taper off some?”
    And hey, if it does fold, at least Jeffrey lives in my neighborhood, so he’ll still be covering things of interest to me anyway!
    http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/

  • Ted Seeber

    Newspapers in general are a dying media. Blogging is too cheap of competition.

  • http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/30/religion.torture/ Susan P.

    Are you surprised? Do you think the data are reliable?

  • Sara

    The vast majority of reporters today don’t have much knowledge of or experience with religion. This is different than even twenty years ago. The problem with this is that reporters end up focusing on sensationalistic stories or media savvy religious types. Depth content and diversity of topics/perspectives are often sacrificed because of time constraints and lack of understanding. So, maybe media outlets are realizing it’s more ethically responsible to not report on religion.

  • Your Name

    All of these religious-related topics need to remain in the public eye and mind as much as possible, blogs are great for people who have the time and can get that specific in their lives, but many people need something they can scan and think about later, or physically take to work or home and share with people in their life that day.Newspapers do that – Generate good discussion, thoughts, conversation topics with your children/spouse/co-workers. The loss of books generated from no longer having a “religious beat” is a great loss to us all – I agree.

  • http://www.jerrydepoy.blogspot.com Jerry DePoy Jr.

    I echo your ugh.