report is available online at: www.mediamatters.org/LeftBehind
WASHINGTON - MAY 29 - Media Matters for America, along with Faith in Public Life and progressive
religious leaders from throughout the country, held a press conference today to
discuss "Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in the Major
News Media," a new report documenting the overrepresentation of
conservative religious figures in the major news media. Media Matters, a progressive media
watchdog organization; Faith in Public Life,
an organization dedicated to increasing the strength and visibility of faith
leaders working for justice and the common good; and the diverse group of
progressive religious leaders called on major media outlets to provide a more
balanced expression of religious values and views.
"The overwhelming presence in the news media of
conservative religious voices leads to the false implication that to be
religious is to be conservative, and worse, that to be progressive is to lack
faith or even to be against faith. Nothing could be further from the truth,"
said Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious
Action Center of Reform Judaism. "People of faith have long been, and will continue to be, active leaders
on progressive causes for justice. Our faith compels it."
"I have long felt the media have given Americans a
distorted view of what people of faith believe. This research from Media Matters proves that. I hope both the
print and electronic media in this country will now seek the balance so many of
them profess to have as they continue to report issues of religion and its
impact on our society, government, and the American culture,"
said Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National
Council of Churches USA.
"The media have a vital
responsibility to represent the fullness of Catholic social teaching in what
needs to be a broad and rich debate about the role of religion in public life,"
said Alexia Kelley, Executive Director of Catholics
in Alliance for the Common Good. "Catholic leaders who speak to the moral dimensions of an unjust war, the
dignity of the human person, the growing gap between rich and poor, and global
warming, speak from the heart of our Catholic faith. They must not be routinely
passed over for strident commentary from culture warriors."
"This report clearly indicates
what we've always suspected -- that the media prefer to see the world through a
simple lens, a casualty of which is that the right and the conservative voice
can often take control of the conversation," said Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes, host of the Air America program
The Time Is Now. "So what do we do now? Those of us on who call ourselves progressives
need to speak out and be heard."
"Unfortunately, much of the
secular and religious media are stuck in the habit of
secular-left/religious-right bipolar reporting, and they're failing to see that
the religious and political landscape isn't that simple anymore, if it ever
Brian McLaren, Board Chairman for Sojourners/Call
Media Matters undertook this study in large part
because of the media's response to the 2004 elections, in which key media
figures overemphasized the impact of "values voters" -- a
misleading term used by the media to describe conservative religious voters
motivated by opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, which suggested that
progressive voters did not care similarly about values.
In their coverage, news organizations overwhelmingly presented a
picture in which religious Americans were defined as conservative Americans.
This representation in the media proved to be a misleading characterization of
how these so-called "values voters" influenced the 2006 elections,
in which the "value" cited most by voters was the Iraq war, not issues such as
abortion and same-sex marriage.
- A 2006 Zogby
International exit poll showed that the "moral issue" cited most by voters was the Iraq war, and that more than twice as many
voters cited greed and materialism or poverty and economic justice as "the most urgent moral crisis in American
culture" as those who cited abortion or same-sex marriage.
- Despite their
depiction in the mainstream media, only 10 percent of evangelical
Christians said abortion and same-sex marriage would be the most important
factor in determining their vote, according to a 2006 study by the Center
for American Values in Public Life.
- Even though close to
90 percent of Americans identified themselves as religious in the Center
for American Values in Public Life study, according to a post-election
survey in 2004, only 32 percent of Americans identified themselves as
- Combining newspapers
and television, conservative religious leaders we studied were quoted,
mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders
between November 3, 2004 -- the day after the 2004 presidential election
-- and December 31, 2006.
- On television news
-- the three major television networks, the three major cable channels,
and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or
interviewed almost 3.8 times as often
as progressive leaders.
- In major newspapers,
conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive
TODAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE:
is a best-selling author, a leader of the "emerging church" --
a Christian evangelical movement that seeks new ways to worship and
understand the gospel in a postmodern era -- and Board Chairman for Sojourners/Call
Dr. Jim Forbes
is the former Senior Pastor of The Riverside Church in New York City
and host of The
Time Is Now on
David Saperstein is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
which advocates on social justice issues on behalf of the national Reform
Jewish Movement to Congress and the administration.
Dr. Bob Edgar
is General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, composed
of 35 communions that count 45 million Americans among their members, and
author of Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful
Majority from the Religious Right.
Executive Director of Catholics
in Alliance for the Common Good, a nonprofit organization
dedicated to promoting the fullness of the Catholic social tradition in
the public square.
report is available online at: