This month households across the country will be filling in census forms as the Government seeks to find out more about who lives in Great Britain. The question “What is your religion?” will be included again, as it was in 2001 and 2011. Even asking this question has proved controversial, as humanists say it presumes that people do have a religion. But its inclusion does reflect a growing awareness of religion’s importance in a nation that is more diverse than ever before.
But religion isn’t just important; it’s often controversial and causes huge debate. At a time when religion is ever more prominent in national and international events, it’s important for the public to understand it in all its complexity. But how good is the media at reporting on religion? Is it failing at this role? Are reporters on religion as well-briefed and as expert as, say, science correspondents are at covering science or medical journalists are at reporting on medicine? Is there evidence of bias as well as ignorance in the media’s coverage of religion. How can the journalism students of today be better prepared to be the reporters and producers of tomorrow in covering religion?
This debate will focus on these issues and others around the hot topic of religion.
Richard Greene, Senior news editor, CNN London
Richard runs CNN’s newsdesk, has regularly covered politics and religion for CNN, including the election of Pope Francis and been responsible for major CNN documentaries on anti-Semitism.
Rizwana Hamid, Director, Centre for Media Monitoring
Rizwana has over 30 year experience working in the media and has worked as a producer/director for BBC Television (News, Current Affairs, Religious, Documentary, World Service & Multicultural Programming) as well as for Channel 4 and other international broadcasters. Rizwana has also run media skills workshops for disenfranchised communities in the UK, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Ruth Gledhill, former religious affairs correspondent, The Times; digital editor, The Tablet
Ruth Gledhill has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years and joined The Times in 1987, becoming its religion correspondent in 1989. She held the post until 2014 when she left to study for a Masters in digital journalism. She is now responsible for multi-media journalism at the Catholic weekly, The Tablet.
Catherine Pepinster, religious affairs journalist and author, visiting lecturer in journalism, City, University of London.
Catherine Pepinster has worked for a variety of publications including Time Out and The Independent and Independent on Sunday where she rose to become executive editor. She was editor of The Tablet for 13 years and now works as a religious affairs journalist. She broadcasts regularly on religion and is the author of books on the papacy and martyrdom.