TORONTO, October 22, 2010 – Anti-religious bias exists in the media because it exists in society and therefore exists in newsrooms, National Post reporter and editor Charles Lewis told the League’s AGM in Toronto.
“The Catholic Church is singled out more as a target for anti-religious bias because it is the biggest Christian denomination, has an identifiable hierarchy with no question of “who’s in charge”, and stands for everything that liberal journalists don’t believe in,” said Mr. Lewis, who serves as the Post’s religion reporter and editor of the blog Holy Post.
The Vatican’s questionable media relations skills – highlighted best recently by the Vatican press office including the ordination of women and the sex abuse scandal in a single document, creating the impression that the Church regards them as equally grave – are also a factor, he added.
“Whatever their own beliefs, good editors understand that religion is interesting to their readers even if they themselves are not friendly to the church.” Noting that The Post is among the very few dailies that still has a religion reporter, he said that this dedicated focus may help account for why the Christian Horizons case and the censorship of pro-life student exhibits got much more extensive coverage there than elsewhere. While religion can be difficult to cover, those media that fail to do so are omitting a subject that plays a role in many of their readers’ lives and in society.
Mr. Lewis added that some of the problems that plague the reporting of religion also affect other subjects, given that news by definition is about the unusual or the sensational. “You could look at the coverage of the sex abuse scandal, with the “new” revelations day in and day out, and say yes, they went too far, but that’s what newspapers do.
“There are no conspiracies. Inaccuracies and bias in reporting relate more to the need to meet deadlines quickly, with fewer editorial resources than we once had, and ignorance of religious matters. In general this is an age of secularism and secularism is winning. There is also huge religious ignorance, as illustrated by the recent Pew Survey, which found half of Catholics don’t know the doctrine of the true presence, and as many Protestants could not identify Martin Luther.”
In the business portion of the meeting, voting members of the League approved its board of directors for 2010-11, welcoming Luke Campbell of Alberta. They also approved the 2009 financial statements and annual report, available to members upon request.