Clemente Lisi: Diversity of thought would go a long way in improving newsrooms and the stories they produce, especially about religion.
In an era of fake “news,” readers are bombarded each day with stories – most of them legitimate, but sometimes totally made up – and fueled by social media. The newsgathering process, the method by which journalists report the news and editors determine the value of stories, has increasingly become a bone of contention.
Readers no longer blindly accept accounts in the morning papers or continuously streamed on Twitter feeds. Sloppy errors, perceived biases, and last year’s presidential election all helped feed into the narrative that the mainstream press is out of touch with everyday Americans. Indeed, the Internet has become both an opportunity for journalists, but increasingly also a challenge.
Newsrooms, from my experience, lack diversity. While diversity in the job market is the aim of all companies, no other industry needs it more than journalism. Newsroom diversity leads to big ideas, better debates, and improved news coverage. The problem? Diversity is often seen as having to do with either race or gender. Are there enough African Americans on staff? Should we hire another woman? These are all questions media companies grapple with behind closed doors every time there’s a job opening.
What employers never lose sleep over (or even talk about) is whether there are enough devout Catholics in their newsroom or if they need to hire a person of faith – any faith – to report on what’s going on in the world and in the community. Believing in God is taboo in the newsroom.
To say there is a religious blind spot in hiring is a gross understatement. But it make a big difference in the way important issues such as abortion and gay marriage are covered by media outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Media coverage can sway public opinion and help determine laws and policy. It impacts social mores and it’s being done largely without people of faith in key positions.
There is no more secular setting than in a newsroom. Liberal bias does exist in the media, but most journalists don’t see it. You can’t see bias when everyone around you thinks and feels the same way.