(De-)differentiation and religion in digital news

Authored by: Johanna M. Sumiala

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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This chapter rethinks religion in news media and journalism through the conceptual lens of differentiation. It explains how differentiation shapes the public presence of religion in the news. Differentiation impacts religion by undermining its significance as a news topic and also affects reporting on religion by giving emphasis on the type of religion that fits the news criteria. In recent decades this has resulted in an increase in reporting on Islam. This development can be called the Islamification of religion in the news. This chapter applies an empirical study of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the coverage of Islam in digital news to complement theoretical analysis of differentiation. It demonstrates how digitalization of media environments shapes differentiation and its impact on religion. Special emphasis is given to pluralization and polarization of news frameworks in covering religion. In conclusion, this chapter argues for a process of de-differentiation of digital news on religion and consequently a hybridization of the public presence of religion in today’s digitally saturated public sphere.

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