In a recent radio interview, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, candidly confessed that “media powerhouses don’t quite get religion.” David French explains exactly how mainstream journalists tend to misunderstand this crucial aspect of the human experience:
The original sin of religion reporting is the failure to believe what religious people say. There’s always an “other” reason for their actions. In much coverage of American Christianity, this mindset is obvious. You believe that God ordained marriage as the union of a man and a woman? Well, that’s just bigotry in search of a belief system, religion wielded as a club against the marginalized. . . .
Our nation has consistently misunderstood the challenge posed by jihadist terror, too, in part because our secular leaders and reporters often don’t believe jihadists mean what they say. Too many in the mainstream press believe jihadists are mainly motivated by resentment of colonialism, or by anger over the Iraq war, or by American support for Israel, rather than by the deep and ancient desire to spread fundamentalist Islam across the entire world.
The second sin of religion reporting is believing that ideological inconsistency and moral failings expose the bankruptcy of religious reasoning or the illegitimacy of religious identification. [To put it in Christian terms, we] all fall short of the glory of God. That’s not hypocrisy, but humanity. . . .
Then there’s the third sin: the belief that a good Google search or a quick Wikipedia read transforms a reporter into a theologian. . . . Finally, in spite of the enormous diversity of human experience, there are still those (even in the ranks of reporters and pundits) who believe that all religions basically teach the same things.