How do we figure? Six of the top ten stories during the week of February 23-27 included significant religious factors. Haiti led the pack with a cumulative 33 minutes of network news air time, followed by gay marriage (25 minutes), the Catholic priest sex scandal in 4th place (10 minutes), The Passion in 5th (9 minutes), Howard Stern‘s silencing in 7th (8 minutes), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 9th (7 minutes). Add to that list Iraq as a subject that’s suffused with religious questions and you plump up the total by 8 minutes.
Sure sounds like the networks have a handle on this whole God thing.
Or not: Virtually no major news outlet has paid any attention to the three big religious forces involved in the Haitian conflict (evangelical missionaries, liberation theology Catholics, and Vodoun). And the rest of the stories are talked about strictly in tangible terms, but for the occasional preacher called upon to thunder against various abominations (take your pick: gay marriage, predator priests, Howard Stern).
Tyndall Report notes that each of the network anchors nodded toward the religious roots of the gay marriage furor. “Anchor Peter Jennings,” writes Tyndall, “characterized [Marilyn Musgrave, drafter of the marriage amendment] as a ‘committed Christian’ and asked her why same-sex marriage is sinful. ‘I do not think it is appropriate to bring that into the arena. I am not a minister; I am a lawmaker,’ she replied.”
To which Jennings might have asked in good conscience: “What the hell are you talking about?
Such a question would support no political agenda — it’d be decent reporting. When laws are made based on religious ideas, journalists should investigate those ideas and hold their champions responsible for them.
Failing that, they should give up and read The Revealer‘s even newer new feature,“Shockwave!” in which Elizabeth A. Castelli shows you how it’s done.