These broadsides are standard GetReligion fare. Importantly, the accusations are generally on target. It’s more than a coincidence that the GetReligion team members behind this website have decades of experience in the mainstream press.
Religion journalism has suffered greatly in this Internet era. Relatively few news outlets ever invested in upping their religion coverage. Today, even fewer do. Blame that on journalism’s downward economic spiral brought about by the World Wide Web explosion — a major theme here at GetReligion.
However, what’s too often missed here is criticism of the similar lackluster coverage originating in clearly conservative media. At GetReligion, conservative-market media more often than not get a pass. This is, in part, because conservative media’s most popular content is offered by right-wing commentators who make little to no effort to hide their biases and whose stock in trade is pure opinion.
GetReligion works hard to expose mainstream biases that pass for reality. But avoiding openly conservative platforms because they do not meet this site’s self-declared criteria for what it will tackle places what I believe is an unfair burden on the mainstream platforms deemed suitable for criticism. I must acknowledge, however, that this website also ignores blatantly slanted news and commentary from a wide variety of important advocacy outlets on the political and cultural far left.
While I’ve been less critical of mainstream religion coverage than my co-bloggers, I confess to also giving conservative media outlets more of a pass than they deserve.
My guilt comes from reading the GetReligion audience and trying not to upset too much of it at once. My attempts to convince fall flat if I’m unread.
Why is this the case? The answer, I believe, is in large part obvious.
GetReligion writers are members of a variety of traditional Christian faiths. In the years that I’ve contributed, my co-writers here have all been individuals I would say represent conservative forms of Christianity — whether Catholic, Anglican, mainline Protestant, Orthodox or evangelical. Again, what united us was commitment to solid, professional work on the religion beat.
That’s fine. GetReligion has the unquestionable right to publish what it deems relevant and to cater to its primary audience — readers critical of trends in the mainstream press. That’s how journalism under the Constitution’s First Amendment should operate.
But that has its limitations. Most importantly, it tends to put the squeeze on broader thinking. Being utterly human, GeReligion bloggers unconsciously gravitate toward nesting in their psychological safe spaces and subjects that they have covered for years. That includes me.
We all tend to drift toward those activities, issues and conclusions with which we feel most comfortable and most capable of holding our own.
During my time here I’ve been the only contributor not a sincere, churchgoing, Christian. In fact, I’m a theologically and politically liberal Jew; I count myself among Judaism’s small Reconstructionist branch, though the New York synagogue I currently favor, and regularly attend via Zoom, can be labeled unaffiliated, or post-denominational.
Hence, regular GetReligion readers will recognize that I tend to post often here about Jewish and Israeli stories (my wife is a Israeli-born and I’ve a strong emotional connection to the Jewish state), along with reports on the larger Middle East. Indian religious brouhahas, with which I also have some personal experience, are another favorite topic of mine.
They’re securely within my intellectual and emotional comfort zone and I tend to fall back on them when I’m due to file another column, and nothing else is grabbing my attention.
My sense is that my Christian colleagues, who I (arrogantly?) assume have the same psychological affinity for emotional comfort as I do, are no different. Particularly as a deadline approaches. They also, for logical reasons, focus on religious topics and traditions that — through the decades — they have covered as professionals.
Additionally, GetReligion’s readership is overwhelmingly conservative or traditionalist. They’d flee this site en masse were it to drift toward a consistently liberal take on life and the meaning of individual and societal freedom. GetReligion lost many readers because of its critical take on former president Donald Trump.
I think that for many GetReligion readers the ever-widening American and global culture wars come down to traditionalists versus libertines. Our “tribe” is our reactive safe space.
I’m not going to critique in detail examples of selected conservative media religion stories I’ve found subpar. That may be seen as my cherry picking stories that irritate my biases, which I hope to avoid here.
But as a professional observer of a range of center-right and far-right news outlets, my impression is that platforms such as the Washington Examiner, The Washington Times,and Fox News are egregious in their failure to provide critics of conservative religion fair coverage. They’re also dangerous to American political cohesion. Citizens are choosing media that divide them.
(When I say Fox I mean, in the main, its website; I rarely tune in to the cable channel’s prime time star opinion agitators. I also make it my business to read various conservative, gung-ho advocacy news feeds and traditionalist-orientated commentators, both pro- and anti-Trump, to stay current.)
So it’s time for me to move on. Let me say thanks to my colleagues for encouraging my contrarian worldview. I would be remiss if I did not give a special thanks to Terry, a man of clear and solid values and integrity, who I first met in the 1980s (I have a fading memory of initially meeting him in some traveling press room on a papal tour, or maybe it was a Southern Baptist Convention meeting.)
Terry has almost always allowed me my GetReligion-outlier say without my having to contend with a heavy editing hand. I’m exceedingly grateful for that. He has urged me to keep writing.
Be well, readers; those that read me here and those who couldn’t abide reading my claptrap. Take care of yourselves in the escalating political, environmental and pandemic chaos that appears daily to be worsening American, and global, society. Ciao.
FIRST IMAGE: Spinning world .GIF from the News Without Politics website.