Thursday, June 30, 2011

reporting on spiritual life?

As someone who is interested in spiritual life and as someone who likes good news reporting, one of the things I have never entirely figured out is why reporting on spiritual life reflects so few reporting skills. It's as if religion, like sports, is given a pass on the hard questions and the result is a lot of words signifying not much more than a cheering section or a platform for one particular salesman or another.

In the past 30 years, I think I have seen perhaps three stories that reflected any digging, any understanding, any willingness to dissect and bring context to a particular religious story. One was the tale of a rabbi in Florida (sorry, I can't find the link) who got too big for his britches and got tossed out on his ear. The other was the tale of a guy I knew who went up the Zen Buddhist ladder only to find himself looking at a fraud in the mirror. The third story came from the LATimes and concerned the life in Tibet after the Chinese put their foot down. Most stories in this country are nearly as knee-jerk supportive of Tibet as stories about Israel are knee-jerk supportive of Israel. But the reporter did manage to ask ordinary people what they thought about the Chinese actions in displacing a long-term theocracy. And one farmer was quoted as saying, "At least we're not slaves any more."

Whaddya know ... there's another side to the story ... just as there is in any decent reporting.

If religion/spiritual endeavor is composed of people, as I believe it is, then why should it not partake of the same difficulties as any other news subject? Is it really enough to report the obvious scandals but not the ticklish matter of how or why a religion might, of itself, contribute to those scandals? And even within the orthodox presentations, wouldn't news recipients want to know what is dubious and what is not?

I don't really expect anything to change, but I do wonder sometimes.

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