If for nothing else, the unpredictable musings of Matthew Lewis in his twice-weekly column at The Week can get people talking. But what’s he saying?
Lewis, who is Christian, writes in his column Friday that national newsrooms “should at least have a few journalists hanging around who share — or at least, aren’t hostile to — the Christian faith.” He says it would help the newsrooms “understand America,” where most people identify as Christians. A recent obituary of a former NYT reporter who was Christian and reports on a Philadelphia doctor’s extreme abortion practices inspired Lewis’ column.
Lack of diversity in the news industry is well documented, whether on race, sexuality, gender or religion. But what’s often missing is an explanation as to why an increase in diversity would lead media outlets to “understand America.” Would more Christians in a newsroom lead to different story selection? Would a Christian reporter’s story on the stock market have a different perspective than a reporter who considers himself more secular or even Jewish? What about Muslim? It’s possible to be both Christian and live a secular life in the workplace, which is something Lewis doesn’t acknowledge in the piece. So why more Christians?
“Too many Jews?” asked Gawker‘s John Cook on Twitter. “Because there are too many non-Christians?” asked Politico‘s Glenn Thrush. “I love these periodic calls for affirmative action for the religious majority,” tweeted The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta.
“I never said newsrooms shouldn’t be diverse,” Lewis defended himself to FishbowlDC. “I’m actually making an argument in favor of diversity.”
Lewis told FishbowlDC a Christian perspective is outnumbered in newsrooms by a “secular worldview bias,” which in turn skews the news. “It’s hard to imagine the disparity doesn’t impact our media coverage,” he said. “Could it be a reason why the public seems to be increasingly skeptical of the mainstream media?” He added that news judgement is impacted, using the reports on the abortion doctor as an example of something that might have gained more national attention with more Christians in the newsroom.
“This is not to say that only Christians are concerned about abortion,” he said. “That’s obviously not the case. But it is to say that Christians are probably more attuned to this issue than a secular humanist might be.”
Steve Silberman, who writes for Wired, assumed on Twitter, as did TIME‘s James Poniewozik, that Lewis was referring to “evangelical Christians.” Meaning, Christians trying to spread their beliefs. Lewis didn’t specify in his column, but said anyone who assumed he meant evangelical “didn’t read the column.”
“It’s not about using your perch to proselytize,” he said. “It’s about having someone in your newsroom who identifies with — or at least isn’t hostile to — the religious beliefs of many Americans.”