The Global Faith and Media Study
Findings At-a-Glance

Faith and Religion: A Global Overview

To what degree do you consider yourself to be a person of faith? 1 = not a person of faith and 7 = a strong person of faith.


Journalists: Challenges and Fears

Journalists feel coverage of faith and religion is poor, inconsistent, and becoming more marginalized.

Journalists feel fear about getting religious coverage right, especially in largely secular newsrooms.

Faith and religion aren’t seen as a driver for reader engagement.

Religious stories aren’t seen as a good fit for hard news except in times of controversy.

A Growing Appetite: What People Want to See

  • There is a growing gap between the coverage of religion and the needs of the faithful.
  • The is a global desire for better coverage, understanding and representation of faith in media.
  • 53% of respondents say the media actively ignores religion as an aspect of society and culture.
  • 59% of respondents believe it’s important that the news media cover a diverse set of faith and religious perspectives.
  • 63% of people globally say that high quality content on faith and religion is needed in their respective countries.

Representation & Depiction

People want faith and religious stereotypes to be addressed

61% say media perpetuates stereotypes rather than protect against them

78% believe stereotypes should get the same, or more, attention as race and gender stereotypes

8 in 10 believe faith and religious groups must provide more – and more relevant – spokespeople from their faiths

85% want more diversity andlived experiences from faith representatives

The Media POV: A Closer Look

There is universal agreement that editorial coverage on faith and religion has become more and more marginalized.

  • Newsroom Economics
  • Fear of Getting it Wrong
  • Diversity and Newsroom Dynamics
  • Clicks for Controversy
  • Lack of Spokespeople and Stereotyping

Newsroom Economics

Media respondents said reduced budgets have led to a lack of specialist journalists, leaving generalists to cover topics – including faith and religion.

“In Mexico it's really focused on covering political news and covering crime…sometimes it's really selective the moments when we talk about religion.
– Mexico 

Religion is just peripheral to be honest. My perception is that it kind of crops up in these rather slightly kind of marginal corners of journalism.”
– UK 

Fear of Getting it Wrong

Media interviewees described a general fear around covering religion. In an era when religion has become increasingly politicized, news coverage, often at speed, brings with it the tacit acceptance that it’s impossible to cover the topic with a level of nuance and sensitivity given the time and resources available.

“I don't cover such stories, because you never know when you are offending someone.
– Kenya 

“Religion is so personal; I'm doing a job for public good. Why do I have to explain something about religion? I mean, reader doesn't need that. For that they can just download the Bible or Quran and read it.” 
– Turkey 

Diversity and Newsroom Dynamics

Respondents in all regions noted that the newsroom rarely represents the plurality of religious views in society. Among journalists with a strong faith background, there was a feeling that they might be negatively judged if they covered stories relating to their beliefs out of concern it would raise questions about their impartiality and risk damaging their reputations.

“In our team right now, we do not have any person who is a Muslim or any person who is another faith…not that we hate them, or we don't want to recruit them. But it's just because they are not people who apply for jobs”
– Kenya 

“I was asked to write a piece because I was the only Muslim on staff”
– Turkey 

Clicks for Controversy

There is consensus that faith and religion are not seen as a driver for reader engagement. Editors almost never encourage stories in this area unless they correspond to a narrative of controversy, dissent or scandal. This runs counter to the findings which suggest that 63% of people globally said that high quality content on faith and religion is needed in their respective countries.

“I get feedback every week about how my last story performed. This sets me a target for what I do this week.”
– Ecuador 

“The news that creates traction is crime and politics…It is made clear to me from my editor that these are the paper’s priorities and they have numbers to back them up.
– South Africa

Lack of Spokespeople and Stereotyping

Stereotyping was identified as an issue, with a lack of diverse media sources and spokespeople, perpetuating the problem. Religion is frequently positioned as a conservative or extreme force in coverage, which creates a tendency to seek outspoken dogmatic spokespeople over more middle-ground religious observers with mainstream views.

“We are unintentionally creating a stigma or a bad stereotype, particularly on our Muslim brothers and sisters in the Philippines.”
– Philippines

"It's usually covered as a feature of conservative politics."
– United States

The Voice of People: An Overview
Unease & Anxiety
Someone as Other
The Way Forward: Obstacles & Opportunity

The Challenge

  • The media is perceived as actively ignoring religion rather than appropriately addressing it.
  • Many – 43% – feel the media’s current approach to faith related coverage creates unease and anxiety.
  • 61% say the media perpetuates faith-based stereotypes rather than address and protect against them.
Full Story
Shifting the Frame

The Opportunity

  • There is universal consensus – 63% – that quality faith-related content is needed.
  • There is a market for more, and better – 56% say they are likely to engage with quality faith-related reporting.
  • 56% say there should be more coverage on complex religious issues.
  • 59% want to see news cover a diverse set of faith and religious perspectives.
  • The majority – 78% – say religious stereotypes should get the same or more attention as race and gender stereotypes.
  • 84% say faith and religious groups need to provide the media with spokespeople, especially those with a lived experience.

HarrisX: The Global Faith & Media Study

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