There he goes again. “He” in this case is Brian Stelter at “Reliable Sources,'“ the CNN show that covers a wide range of news about mass media, including mainstream journalism.
In the past few months — while discussing press struggles with normal America — Stelter has asked some interesting questions about the fact that many journalists in elite zip codes struggle to, well, get religion. He hasn’t said “GetReligion” yet, but he has mentioned that there are websites that keep track of this problem. Maybe I can picket his office next time I’m camped out in New York City?
This came up recently when I wrote an “On Religion” column about the new “Alienated America” book by Timothy P. Carney, who leads the commentary section at The Washington Examiner (click here for the column and here for the GetReligion podcast that discussed this). That column included material from a Carney appearance on “Reliable Sources” that included comments about You Know What.
The context — #DUH — is a discussion of why so many journalists missed the rise of Donald Trump in flyover country. A key point: Core Trump voters talked about religion, while those whose daily lives revealed deep religious convictions tended to oppose Trump in the primaries. Here’s a chunk of that column:
Religious convictions among voters in some communities across America — in Iowa, in Utah and elsewhere — clearly had something to do with their rejection of Trump and support for other GOP candidates. These fault lines have not disappeared. …
Stelter said the problem is that religion is "like climate change." This topic affects life nationwide, but it's hard for journalists to see since "there's not a bill being introduced in Congress or there's not a press conference happening in New York."
This media-elite blindness skews political coverage, said Carney, but it affects other stories, as well – especially in thriving communities in flyover country between the East and West coasts.
"Far too many journalists know little or nothing about the subjects and issues that matter the most to religious believers in America," he said. "It's not just that they make egregious errors about religion. It's that they don't understand that there are religious angles to almost every big story and that, for millions of Americans, religion is at the heart of those stories."
In other words, way too many journalists notice religion — when it shows up in New York City and Beltway events that they believe are connected to their The One True Faith, which is politics.
The other day, Stelter returned to this subject while discussing the evolution of American values and public life with a very controversial author — Jewish conservative Ben Shapiro.
By all means, click here to watch the relevant chunk of this interview. The discussion of religion and the news starts at the one-minute mark, or thereabouts.
Here’s the latest quote from Stelter. Let us attend:
“Talking about faith, talking about religion, it’s oftentimes a blind spot for the American media. It’s an ongoing disappointment for me and, I think, a lot of other people as well — that these topics are not more front and center in the public square that the press creates.”
You know, that would be a great title for a book, perhaps something like The Media Project volume entitled “Blind Spot: Then Journalist’s Don’t Get Religion.” Click here to buy a copy of that.
But, hey, let’s make things even easier for Stelter. I’ll try to reach him through Twitter and through a logical enough looking email address that’s floating around online.
It Stelter wants a copy of “Blind Spot,” I will hand-carry one to him the next time in New York City, which is in about two weeks (for a religions-liberty conference session on, well, press efforts to cover religion and the First Amendment).
In the short run, do an online search for these terms — “GetReligion” and “blind spot” — and you will get 400 or so hits.
Why not do some surfing, since many these links point to GetReligion posts that provide case studies of exactly what Stelter and Shapiro are discussing in this CNN interview.
Speaking of which, Shapiro responds to Stetler’s remark with a discussion of practical issues — such as the location of elite newsrooms in some of the most secular zip codes in America.
By the way, based on my experiences in Washington over a decade-plus, I would say that the DC-to-Boston Acela zone is somewhat “secular,” but that its establishment class also includes many, many people who — think Barack Obama — are committed to liberal forms of religion. Of course, secularists and religious liberals tend to think alike (hello fine print in “Nones” numbers) on hot-button issues of culture and morality. The big clashes are between reporters and religious traditionalists.
Meanwhile, watch that slice of the “Reliable Sources” interview with Shapiro — CLICK HERE.
FIRST IMAGE: Photo by Bill Lollar, posted at Flickr.