2016-06-30
Covering religion can be a tough journalistic assignment, as Benjamin Franklin 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 this useful 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 known stories 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 of American religion and journalism history. It would be all the more valuable, however, if it included a cross-referencing system to enable searches by publication, 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 of religious news coverage highlights the ways in which the media has shaped both the country's religious climate and public opinions about religion. Taken as a whole, media coverage of religion demonstrates that while over time the issues themselves appear to be far flung and wide ranging, the fact of religiously motivated debate on matters of public concern has been a constant in the history of this country. That continuity only reinforces the truth that when it comes to religion and the news, there is indeed nothing new under the sun.



more from beliefnet and our partners