SUSAN JACOBY, NEWSWEEK - The media do not treat religion fairly because
they routinely give preferential treatment to religion, exempting it
from the critical scrutiny that all other institutions receive (or are
supposed to receive) from a free press in our society. Religious
skepticism, by contrast, is either treated negatively or, more commonly,
omitted altogether from stories about religious issues.
The underlying pro-faith bias of the media reflects and reinforces the
underlying bias of American society. It goes something like this:
religion per se is a wonderful thing, so anything bad connected with
religion is a perverse exception to the rule that God is Great and that
most of God's messengers on earth are also great (though less great than
It takes a scandal of truly massive proportions, such as the long-term
pedophilia cover-up by the Catholic Church hierarchy, for the press to
abandon its traditional posture of genuflection toward religious
institutions. . .
Of course, television is a more powerful source of stereotypes than the
print media. The quality of religion coverage on television is simply
abysmal and reflects an obligatory piety that is apparently one of the
conditions for keeping an FCC license. TV reporters are particularly
fond of interviewing lucky people whose houses have been left standing
after a tornado and who inevitably say, "God was looking out for us."
Why God wasn't looking out for their neighbors, whose houses were blown
away, is an unaskable question on American commercial television.
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