Report: MSM really likes to cover the faiths of GOP candidates for some reason

In an effort to drown out the president’s infuriating class warfare comments in Kansas, I scavenged my inbox for anything else to write about and remembered I haven’t yet highlighted this very interesting report.

Remember when the mainstream media covered every last detail of President Barack Obama’s connection to a certain racist, anti-American pastor by the name of Jeremiah Wright? No? Hmm.

The MSM might not have had much curiosity about the way Obama’s 20-year attendance at Wright’s church shaped him, but they have more than a passing interest in the way religion has shaped the 2012 GOP presidential candidates.

According to a study conducted by The Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute, ABC, CBS and NBC mentioned GOP presidential candidates’ religion seven times more in the first 10 months of 2011 than they mentioned Democrat presidential candidates’ religion in the first 10 months of 2007.

But perhaps that coverage was positive — an accurate reflection of the GOP candidates’ own open faithfulness? Not so, according to the MRC. From the executive summary of the study:

Journalists Confront, Criticize and Question Conservatives on Faith: In 2007, reporters accepted at face value liberal candidates’ statements about religion. Not so for 2011’s conservatives. The networks were nearly 13 times more likely to be critical or challenging of conservative candidates’ faith than liberals’. And more than half the religion mentions in 2011 sought to create and exploit controversy over how many Christian denominations regard Mormonism.

The report acknowledges the legitimacy of reporting on a candidate’s religion. Deep-seated religious convictions undoubtedly affect the way a person approaches policy and governance — but the experts at the MRC encourage the networks not to inject religion into a discussion when it doesn’t belong and to at least be even-handed in reporting about religion. For example, MRC experts suggest the MSM could appropriately report the discrepancies between what some Catholic Democratic politicians endorse and what the Catholic Church actually teaches. It’s certainly relevant when a candidate claims to follow one line of thinking but actually implements another. Hypocrisy is as undesirable in political leaders as it is in religious leaders. I second that recommendation.

But, especially, I second this bit of advice from the MRC to MSM journos:

Don’t be Foreign Correspondents: According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, more than 75 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians of one denomination or another, and 93 percent say they believe in God. But too often network reporters covering religious conservatives sound as though they’re reporting back from an encounter with remote, primitive tribes. In vast swaths of the United States, people attend church regularly, pray publicly and don’t find expressions of faith uncomfortable or alarming. Those people are news consumers too.

As always, the media are supposed to be a mirror of reality. Perhaps secularists are overrepresented in the world of journalism — but that doesn’t excuse reporters from the responsibility of understanding the audience they serve or reporting the truth about what various religions teach and various voters believe.