IPSO Blog: Reporting faith issues

IPSO staff were happy to attend the inaugural “Religion and Media” Festival held at JW3, the Jewish Community Centre. The fascinating event hosted a variety of speakers from across the media: TV news, the printed press, social media and broadcasting were all present.

The all-day festival was a celebration of the best coverage of religion in the media, and a forum of for debate about the coverage of faith issues.

Religious texts, teachings and scriptures tell some of the very oldest stories, but that hasn’t stopped an evolving media from thinking up new and innovative ways to tell them.

Technological change has enabled religious groups to use new types of media to adapt and reach new (often, younger) audiences, shaping the ways that we interact with faith, spirituality, religion and worship. One of Facebook’s policy mangers gave a very interesting talk about the power of the internet in amplifying voices – both for good and for bad.

Several members of the audience raised concerns about a lack of visibility and coverage of their own faiths across the media. There were concerns aired that Christianity (primarily Anglican and Catholic) and Islam could be seen to be dominating the agenda – with Quakers, Sikhs and Jehovah’s witnesses feeling pushed out and ignored by elements of the mainstream media.

Others felt unnecessarily penalised by what they considered negative coverage and a number of speakers made the case for more in-depth and sensitive reporting which would also work towards fostering an understanding of faith and cultural practices.

Also discussed was a perceived decline in religious coverage and the possible reasons for this. Cut-backs within newspapers have resulted in a loss of religious expertise. Where a religious correspondent may have once been an important member of a paper’s staff, these specific roles and their inherent expertise are becoming more of a rarity.

All in all, a fascinating day, and one which shared many positive examples of how religion is talked about and debated across all media.

Find out more via the Religion Media Centre, by visiting their website.