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New Global Study Shows Journalists Need More Religious Literacy

Summary by Alessio Atria

A new Davis & Partners global study discusses the news media’s perceptions of and often misunderstandings about faith. A summary of the findings was shared by the company’s founder and president, Jim Davis, during the opening lunch of Dare to Overcome, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s annual faith@work conference, May 23-25, 2022.

Faith and Media: New Global Study

According to this global study, 63% of faith-related media has a negative slant.

The study also finds that less than 20% of journalists lack an understanding of the nuances of faith beyond the religious traditions in which they were raised. Such a lack of understanding contributes to a preponderance of negative press on religious hot-button subjects ranging from sexual abuse and LGBTQ issues, to gender and race.

The global faith and media study finds that 78% of faith-based news media emanates from social media while 16% of it emerges from blogs, and another 6% comes from news organizations.

In terms of the consumption of faith-related media, the study estimated that 86% of faith-based content is usually given a quick glance by the consumers, as they usually just look at the headline and skim the actual article. Only 14% of the consumers in the study indicated that they shared or re-shared faith-related content, suggesting that only a small percentage engaged with the content more thoroughly.

This study has also estimates that 35 million American people would welcome more faith-related content. Among these 35 million, 39% identify as people of color, 26% as Evangelicals, another 22% as Protestant, while 27% said they did not consider themselves members of a certain wisdom tradition and instead saw themselves as very religious people who supported many faith traditions.

Conclusions: The study offers hope that faith could be more positively represented in the news media, but that this can only happen if there is a collective effort. Faith leaders and the news media must encourage a sense of mutual understanding and better collaboration so that everyone can be more accurately portrayed. Indeed, faith communities offer many priceless contributions to society, which often go unreported.

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For more on the positive socio-economic contributions of religion to American society, see the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s study, $1.2 trillion US Religious Economy.