Why Reporting on Religion Matters

Professor Paul Glader presents on the importance of reporting on religion at a workshop at the College Media Association Spring National Conference 2022.

By Elena Eberwein

While religion remains a prevalent part of American lives, newsrooms and the stories that come out of them don’t always reflect the faith of the population. 

Paul Glader, a journalism professor at The King’s College, spoke in a workshop Thursday afternoon about the challenges journalists face when reporting on religion, why it is important to make sure faith is included and the mission behind his work in creating Religion Unplugged

A Gallup Poll in 2020 found that church membership in the U.S. is declining for the first time. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belong to a church. While it’s a decline from previous years, it still makes up a large portion of the population and is important to consider when reporting. 

“We don’t live in as much of a religious society as 100 years ago,” Grace McDonald, a junior at the University of Nebraska said. McDonald is a religious person, and said she tries not to bring her bias into her newsroom. When she arrived at the university her freshman year, the higher ups at her school paper didn’t see religious events as newsworthy.

She said over the years it has gotten better as her paper works on diversity and inclusion, and more religious reporters have joined the staff. 

Since such a large portion of the U.S. is religious, when reporting it is important not to exclude faith from individuals’ lives, Glader said. 

Oftentimes religion is reported on in a negative light. The workshop attendees discussed the reporting of sexual abuse in the Catholic search by the Boston Globe Spotlight team. 

“Journalism about sex abuse in the Catholic Church was a service to the Catholic Church,” said Glader. Because of that reporting, offenders could be removed from the clergy. 

One workshop attendee said, “People who are predators will seek out opportunities to be predators.” The comment acknowledges that we should write about these individuals as predators, not lumping an entire faith into that category. 

Through his work and research on religion, Glader sought out new ways to create bridges with religious reporting and mainstream news outlets. Religion Unplugged was born. 

Religion Unplugged is an online news magazine funded by The Media Project that focuses on the topic of religion. Glader is the Executive Editor of the magazine and the site receives over 1 million views a year. The magazine has a weekly podcast, a newsletter and social media presence. Glader said they’re “less sectarian than denominational press.” 

The website has won a variety of awards. Glader highlighted one piece about the Mormon church hiding over 100 billion dollars in a secret hedge fund that wound up making national news. The magazine takes pitches from journalists all over the world and of all experience levels. 

Posted on: March 10, 2022CMANYC16admin