Pope in U.S. dominated religion coverage in 2008

Nothing else was close. Benedict’s April visit to the U.S. took up 37 percent of the religion newshole, while religion stories from the campaign accounted for 21 percent, according to an analysis of the mainstream media in 2008 conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Other religion-related topics made low single digits at best.

Tough to complain that the media ignores the pope. Whether folks liked the coverage is another thing. This graphic shows what topics related to the visit received most attention:

Pope coverage graphic.gif


Interesting, I think, and perhaps goes against some popular impressions. Yes, the clergy abuse scandal was tops, far and away. But that was inevitable, and the pope’s own words and actions for the first few days also drew attention. “Straightforward coverage” (how these were defined could always be debated, but I think one gets the general sense) and “Substance of message” rank well, and ahead of politics and the church.

Now for the bad news: In 2008, religion filled just 1 (lousy) percent of the entire newshole–the same as immigration, education, and race- and gender-focused stories, according to Pew. Politics (29 percent) and the U.S. economy (13 percent) were first and second.

Moreover, the graphic below shows (graphically) how little else beyond Benedict’s visit–and of course the (bloody) holidays–was covered. Ouch.



Religion coverage in 2008--Pew.gifCoverage of the pope is nice, but this graph shows how the rest of the church does not get covered–or much else, for that matter.

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posted March 19, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I don’t think anybody is arguing that the media ignores the doings of the Church, but there is a good argument to be made that reporters and bloggers (even those who say they are Catholic), report with little knowledge of or a desire to even learn about the Church. See Abp Chaput’s remarks to get a sense of the frustration of many Catholics:

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