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 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.
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
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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”
“I was asked to write a piece because I was the only Muslim on staff”
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.”
“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
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.”
"It's usually covered as a feature of conservative politics."
– United States