Reporting the divided soul of the nation

Religion and politics in American news media

Authored by: D. Ashley Campbell

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Journalism

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138304963
eBook ISBN: 9780203731420
Adobe ISBN:


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Journalists are required to attend to the intricacies of religious practice, theology and institutions for decades. However, journalism’s coverage of the role of religion in socio-political debates may not always lead to a better-informed civil society, but instead can participate in exacerbating reported conflict. This chapter examines the relationship between religion and politics in the USA news media and its participation in fueling and sustaining conflict. Building on past studies about religion, politics and journalism and using two case studies – the evangelical vote in the 2016 election and the National Football League’s (NFL) #TakeAKnee protest – this chapter illuminates how some misconceptions about religion in the news media and the media’s overlooking of a particular marriage of religion and politics – American civil religion – lead to a lack of nuance in public discussion of socio-political issues in the USA. Ultimately, this chapter aims to demonstrate how a more historically contextualized and nuanced approach to reporting on religion within and beyond the God beat ensures that news media live up to their role as educating civic society for the benefit of democracy.

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