05 December 2005
A wholly religion-and-the-media story comes from The Guardian, where readers’ editor Ian Mayes fends off the accusations that his paper is disparaging to and contemptuous of religion, and simultaneously, that it has lately turned from a secular paper to “the most religious of all” papers. The reader lodging the complaint dismayed that her paper of secular, progressive choice covered religion more than any other paper in England and the editor, surveying the op-eds by religious figures and the news stories wherein religion played a significant role, had to agree with her, but asked: should the volume of coverage be “incompatible with a secular stance on the part of the paper itself?” He thought no. So do we, and here’s an instance in which our sympathies are less with an aggrieved readership than “the media” itself, which is giving a good-faith effort to cover the subjects that are determining much of politics and public debate today, and in response hears that reporting an issue is picking sides. But all slights aside, perhaps the most interesting bit of Mayes’ defense is the self-reflection it prompted among the Guardians themselves, who, upon thought, declared their paper’s spiritual orientation as deeply rooted in “non-conformist Christianity,” with a strong secular and civil liberties legacy, a Quaker heritage and a Unitarian minister grandpapa… That may be the next step in niche journalism, where “secular” papers religiously identify themselves as blatantly as does The Washington Times, or it may be a healthy level of self-awareness in a climate where even “secular” is seen as a denomination.