News magazines in the U.S. are cutting back their religion coverage even as European media is showing a new interest in the subject.
In his e-newsletter Sightings (Nov. 9), Martin Marty cites a report by the Religion Newswriters Association that the three major news weeklies,Time, U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek have either recently cut back or phased out specialized reporting on religion. While Time still has a religion reporter, such coverage is no longer has a regular, guaranteed slot in the magazine. When Kenneth Woodward recently retired from his post at Newsweek, the magazine did not hire a replacement.
Likewise, Jeff Sheler often had best selling religion cover stories in U.S. News & World Report, but he was recently phased out at the magazine. One reason given for the cutbacks is that American news weeklies increasingly run short articles and reach for the more sensational news [the trend is not yet strongly evident in the religion coverage in daily newspapers].
French-speaking Europe is definitely not the most religious place in the world. However, coverage of religious news in the French media has been on the increase in recent years, and sometimes the increase has been a qualitative one too. Moreover, even a growing number of people in the “secular camp” have become aware that religious factors should not be ignored in the contemporary world — hence the debates on how to teach about religion in the schools.
One significant indicator that religion is gaining attention has been the launching in September of an 80 page magazine titled Le Monde des Religions by the reputed Parisian daily Le Monde, a secular newspaper. In 2002-2003, Le Monde bought a majority of the shares of a Catholic media group which owned among its publications a magazine devoted to religion news, Actualité des Religions. It decided to transform it into a new magazine: thus was Le Monde des Religions born, with a launching budget of more than $600,000.
Hopes are to reach a paid circulation of 50,000 copies within two years. Le Monde des Religions will be published every two months. Its second issue (November/December) covers a variety of issues and news in different religious traditions. Its central article is devoted to American fundamentalism, an issue often perplexing to French audiences. It is encouraging to notice that two of the articles are authored by Sébastien Fath, a leading French expert on evangelicalism .
— This article was written with Jean-François Mayer, RW contributing editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religioscope.com)