Journalists' understanding of religion 'patchy'

In a joint submission to the House of Lords communications committee inquiry into media ownership and news, the churches said the need to compete for audiences has meant news agendas have changed in recent years, with a growth in coverage of celebrity and entertainment issues.

The proportion of journalists professing a faith stands at 21 per cent, according to a YouGov poll, far behind the 70 per cent who profess a faith in society generally.

There should be continuing professional education for journalists about religion, the leaders suggested, as knowledge among the media about faith issues is “patchy”.

The joint submission was made by the Rt Rev Nicholas Baines, Church of England Bishop of Croydon, and the Rt Rev John Arnold, Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster.

They noted: “Owing to the need to compete for audiences, the media are more inclined to cover headline-grabbing celebrity and entertainment news than issues such as faith that are increasingly significant within communities and have a greater bearing on world events.

“Though there have been significant initiatives to improve levels of religious literacy, such as within the BBC’s College of Journalism, the overall picture is patchy.”

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