Beliefnet
Covering religion can be a tough journalistic assignment, as BenjaminFranklin learned back in 1731 when he had to publish a "standing apology"for printers in order to placate members of the clergy whom he had offended.Franklin's apology is but one example of religious news coverage from thisuseful anthology, which spans 300 years of American journalistic history."Readings on Religion as News" examines the relationship between religious news coverage and the decline of newspaper competition with a somewhat arbitrary selection of articles categorized into four general time periods from early colonial era down to the present time when religious "diversity takes hold." With that diversity of faith, the authors contend, has come "a collision of values."

The authors, both former religion reporters, include unusual and little knownstories in this collection, placing those articles within their historical contexts in brief introductory sections to each chapter. This compilation stands alone as an anthology of religious news coverage and fills a void for scholars ofAmerican religion and journalism history. It would be all the more valuable,however, if it included a cross-referencing system to enable searches bypublication, text, or date.

Buddenbaum and Mason accept Mark Silk's assumption that the media support widely shared cultural values that are at their core religious in nature. The stories selected for inclusion in this volume illustrate"continuities in issues, arguments and styles." Their examination ofreligious news coverage highlights the ways in which the media has shapedboth the country's religious climate and public opinions about religion. Taken as a whole, media coverage of religion demonstrates that while over time theissues themselves appear to be far flung and wide ranging, the fact ofreligiously motivated debate on matters of public concern has been aconstant in the history of this country. That continuity only reinforces thetruth that when it comes to religion and the news, there is indeed nothingnew under the sun.

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