Does it really matter if journalists don't understand religion? And what is it exactly that journalists are misunderstanding? In December 2016 Dean Baquet, a Pulitzer Prize- winning American journalist and executive editor of The New York Times, was quoted in The Federalist as saying:
"I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don’t quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she’s all alone. We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And I think we can do much, much better. And I think there are things that we can be more creative about to understand the country."
In many ways, the public relies on journalists to tell us what we need to know. We also rely on them to analyze this curated information and make educated guesses about what it might mean for our futures. If they are either ignoring or fundamentally misunderstanding/mis-characterizing/misinterpreting one of the primary forces that motivates humanity, then this calls into question their ability to curate and analyze society on whole.
Consider Baquet's quote above: "We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives." Suppose we were to replace the word "religion" with "health" or "money" (two other significant motivators). What then? Would that be an acceptable confession from the editor of one of the most influential publications in the world, or would it be outrageous?
Though various publications covered Baquet's comments, including Business Insider and The Washington Times, the article I am discussing here nicely summarized the consequences of this lack of religious literacy:
"At the heart of it, the biggest problem isn’t these inaccuracies, it’s that these errors are symptomatic of a larger problem. The New York Times staff, by one of their top editors’ own admission, are an irreligious group of people who have a very different worldview and belief system from the vast majority of Americans. No wonder they got every single turn of the election completely wrong and can’t seem to comprehend what motivates the 83 percent of Americans who identify as Christians."
Read the full article here.