Margot Kässmann, Bishop of Hannover and Chair of the Council of the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Germany), outshined accusations of pedophilic priests in the German press by cruising through a red light at three times over the legal alcohol limit.
Aside from Ms. Kässmann’s latest tangle with the press, Protestants are rarely showered with media attention in the German-speaking world. Even here in Switzerland – the country of Protestant reformers Zwingli and Calvin, mind you – news stories focused on Islam and Catholicism readily steal the spotlight from Protestant headlines. For over a year, Carmen Koch (Zürcher Hochschule Winterthur) analyzed Swiss newspapers to examine trends in religious reporting, presenting her results in the journal Communicatio Socialis. In her study, Koch found the share of articles dealing with Protestantism to be scarce. According to Koch, “Protestantism lacks an interesting leadership personality like Catholics have with the Pope.”
Similarly, Vinzenz Wyss and Giudo Keel (both from Zürcher Hochschule Winterthur) interviewed 35 Swiss journalists, asking how they deal with religious news. Their qualitative study confirms that religion rarely finds itself at the center of media coverage. Newsrooms consider religious subjects “not so sexy.” According to the journalists interviewed, religion must be presented along with sex, violence, education, school or government, in a “scandalous context” at best.
Few of the journalists surveyed see religion as a neglected topic. Given this fact, it’s interesting to learn which religions the Swiss journalists identify with. Thirty-two percent are Protestant, 31 percent Catholic, and 34 percent are non practicing, thus constituting the largest group. Perhaps the Protestants should call in a bit more PR for God if they’re hoping for a boost in media attention! Or maybe they should be taking notes from the Dalai Lama. Concerning the coverage of Buddhism, he has, according to Carmen Koch, an “extraordinarily dominant position,” which can only be explained by the “prominence of this actor.”
Carmen Koch: Das Politische dominiert. Wie Schweizer Medien über Religionen berichten, in: Communicatio socialis, 42. Jg./Heft 4, 2009,365-381
Vinzenz Wyss/Guido Keel: Religion surft mit. Journalistische Inszenierungsstrategien zu religiösen Themen, in: Communicatio socialis, 42. Jg./Heft 4, 2009, 351-364
Published in Schweizer Journalist, Nr. 2+3/2010, by Stephan Russ-Mohl and Rahel Aschwanden