I recently had a short discussion with a journalism student about how Mormons and Mormonism get covered in the mainstream media and whether new online media, including blogs, do any better. I’ll summarize my responses below, but I invite readers to offer their own responses in the comments.
1. How do Mormons feel about increased coverage of Mormonism in the mainstream media that accompanied Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy?
I don’t know any Mormon who resents the increased coverage or wishes the media would stop talking about Mormonism. Of course, it is nice when journalists who include references to Mormonism in their stories get the details right. I think the LDS Newsroom has had some success helping journalists get some of the details right, such as distinguishing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from other churches or splinter groups that still come under the larger umbrella of “Mormonism,” some of which continue to practice polygamy.
2. Do you feel there is any consistent bias against Mormonism in mainstream media coverage of Mormonism or the LDS Church?
Not in the narrow sense of particular animus against Mormons or Mormonism. I think bias does play a role in media stories on religion in general. Maybe that’s because journalists cluster towards the liberal end of the political spectrum and don’t think much of organized religion or maybe that’s because journalists tend to be more secular than religious in their personal beliefs. I think some of that bias against or unfamiliarity with religion in general does carry over to stories on Mormonism.
3. Does the new online media, including blogs, provide better information about Mormonism?
I don’t know if it is better information, but it certainly provides more information and makes it more accessible to anyone who can Google a couple of keywords. Twenty years ago, someone who wanted to learn about Mormonism was limited to what was in an encyclopedia, their library, or the local bookstore, and they had to go hunt it down. Now much more infomation is available in seconds to anyone with a browser. There’s a lot of misinformation as well as reliable information, of course, but I think most readers can tell the difference. Furthermore, blogs and other forums allow for lively, wide-ranging discussion of every conceivable topic related to Mormonism, a form of information that was never available at the public library.