Christians in Journalism? More needed than ever before

Danny Moers- Staff Writer

Journalism within the religious community is struggling to find its foundation. Out of 178 schools affiliated with the CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) slightly over 30 offer journalism degrees. Dordt is one such institution, and as of this past year the college now offers its students the change to major in journalism major. While the number of Christian colleges and universities that offer journalism majors has increased over the past several years, the reason for the journalism major’s unpopularity is raising questions from those on the outside looking in.

Terry Mattingly, founder of the Washington Journalism Center, poses a simple question to colleges within the CCCU:

“Why are so few of you offering journalism degrees?”

Christians have worked to discover their place in media for years. Most have found it doing public relations for a ministry or some sort of non-profit organization. Others have founded Christian news publications such as “Christianity Today”, or “WORLD” magazine. A simple Google search will lead to countless more websites promoting Christian values and headlines.

But what about Christian journalists working for secular publications?

As Christians work to gain bylines in secular media sources they often run into trouble when trying to publish a faith-oriented article.

“Christians have a role in journalism just as much as non-religious people do. It all depends on what the majority of readers want to see and who is in charge of those decisions,” Mattingly said.

The recent presidential election caused journalists all over the world to reflect on their work. CNN published an article on the early morning of Nov. 8 claiming Clinton’s chances of victory to be 91 percent, and The New York Times reported that Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning on Nov. 7. Anyone who read or watched mainstream media was floored when Trump was victorious. The media clearly made a mistake, and it became obvious how and where.

In 2004, the Times developed a team within their own newsroom to analyze the publication’s quality of work. The committee produced an article after completing the study and titled one of the sections “The News/Opinion Divide.” This section consisted of the committee’s discoveries on how much opinion was finding its way into their reporters’ articles.

“Our news coverage needs to embrace unorthodox views and contrarian opinions and to portray lives both more radical and more conservative than those most of us experience. We need to listen carefully to colleagues who are at home in realms that are not familiar to most of us,” wrote one of the team members.

At this point, the Times employees began to realize how out of touch they were with a massive portion of their potential United States audience.

Bill Keller, former executive editor of the Times, wrote a response to the findings of the team. Keller said, “I endorse the committee’s recommendation that we cover religion more extensively, but I think the key to that is not to add more reporters who will write religion as a beat. I think the key is to be more alert to the role religion plays in many stories we cover, stories about politics and policy, national and local, stories of social trends and family life, stories of how we live.”

Religion played a major role in the 2016 presidential election. According to Pew Research Center, eight out of ten white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. Many of these people reside in the Midwest or outside of major populous areas.

The New York Times, one of the most heavily read news publications, was calling for a greater emphasis on religion in their paper in 2004. Fast forward to 2017 and the same is still true. A recent study done by seven Times employees, titled “Project 2020,” tackled these same issues and they came up with similar solutions. They aspire to properly cover all sectors of the United States and the world. They no longer want to be out of touch with rural and religious America. Their goal is to, according to their website, “tear apart the barriers” and “differentiate between mission and tradition.”

Religion is not well understood, therefore it is rarely covered well within secular society. Christian news publications do have their place within the journalism world. However, there is a strong need for Christian journalists to work at secular publications. In these position, God-fearing men and women may begin to enlighten a confused America on what questions that have been forming for years. As Dordt, a college that encourages prospective students to enter into a field where change is past due, demonstrates, Christian institutions should not fear their students entering the world of journalism.

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