646: New Pew reporting shows religion’s importance—and its major gap in media

Religion writing is harder than ever. With the collapse of traditional news media, important news stories on faith are few and far between. But religion’s overall influence in America? Enormous.
    Those are conclusions of Pew research into news media and religion, pending a new annual report on “Religion in the News,” due out Thursday. If you’re a leader in your congregation or community, this is news you need to know—so we’re starting today with some valuable background.

1.) Religion Is Important Even to Restless Young Americans 18-29: Pew research shows that millions of these young men and women may not have a specific religious affiliation—and most aren’t interested in weekly attendance at worship. But faith is an essential part of life even for this younger generation.
    Here’s a link to a story on these findings about “Millennials” and faith.

2.) The Overall State of Traditional News Media? CRISIS! If you care about traditional news media—and we do, because ReadTheSpirit is a journalistic effort to keep fairness, accuracy and balance alive in American media—then the scope of this crisis is stunning.
    The 2010 Pew State of News Media report begins with these 2 words: What now? More urgent questions follow, based on Pew’s analysis of data from 2009:
    What are the prospects for alternative journalism organizations that are forming around the country? Will traditional media adapt and innovate amid continuing pressures to thin their ranks?

And with growing evidence that conventional advertising online will never sustain the industry, what progress is being made to find new revenue for financing the gathering and reporting of news?
    The numbers for 2009 reveal just how urgent these questions are becoming. Newspapers, including online, saw ad revenue fall 26% during the year, which brings the total loss over the last three years to 43%.

Local television ad revenue fell 22% in 2009, triple the decline the year before. Radio also was off 22%. Magazine ad revenue dropped 17%, network TV 8%. Online ad revenue overall fell about 5%, and revenue to news sites most likely also fared much worse.
    Here’s a link to the report’s Table of Contents. But, note: Some portions of this Table of Contents link to the previous year’s reports, including the Religion link—until the new 2010 Religion in the News report is posted on Thursday.

3.) Is There Hope for New Models Like ReadTheSpirit? Yes! Obviously, we’re thrilled to see bright rays of hope for new journalistic models like ReadTheSpirit. Wading through all the Pew data, the lack of successful new models is startling! Right now, readers and industry leaders are scrambling to identify innovative ideas that work. Here at ReadTheSpirit? We’re proud to be one of those promising new models!
    What’s more—the successful new models, most likely, will focus on specific areas of reader interest. The old concept of “covering the waterfront” in a single news publication simply doesn’t work.
    Pew reports: Online, it is becoming increasingly clear, consumers are not seeking out news organizations for their full news agenda. They are hunting the news by topic and by event and grazing across multiple outlets.

4.) What’s the Latest on Religion Reporting in News Media? Well, last year’s 2009 report (for the calendar year of 2008) concluded that religion accounted for about 1 percent of the attention of traditional news media—mainly touching on Benedict XVI and religious issues in the American presidential election. Beyond that? News media essentially has written off religion—at a time when data show that faith remains a vital concern across the spectrum of American life.
    Stay Tuned: On Thursday, Pew publishes the 2010 Religion in the News report (covering the calendar year 2009).
    Here’s a link to the Pew Journalism.org “Front Page,” where the new Religion in the News report will be the top headline on Thursday.




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