Denver Newsroom, May 14, 2021 / 03:01 am
The news-checking website GetReligion.org is in its 18th year of looking for “ghosts” in mainstream media. The “ghosts,” as co-founder and current editor Terry Mattingly calls them, are holes in news coverage that exist either because the media does not want to cover the religious aspect of a story or because the reporters are unaware that a religious component is present.
“The goal was to openly advocate for an old style, liberal approach to journalism where you are striving for accuracy and striving to let people on both sides of controversial issues have their voices heard in a way that is accurate and shows them respect,” Mattingly said.
GetReligion was founded in 2004. Mattingly and fellow co-founder Douglas LeBlanc set out to dissect news coverage and brought with them a number of experienced religion writers, including Richard Ostling, Ira Rifkin, Julia Duin and Bobby Ross. Together, they hoped to shed light on the inconsistencies in religion reporting or religion bias in the news.
In one such case, then-columnist Mollie Ziegler Hemingway was credited with shedding light on the lack of coverage of the Kermit Gosnell mass murder trial. Hemingway’s post argued that the media ignored and downplayed the trial because it involved the subject of abortion.
“We’ve never managed to have in many cases, fair, accurate, balanced coverage of issues related to abortion,” Mattingly said. “GetReligion was created to defend on topics of religion coverage.”
Mattingly said they rarely criticize a reporter by name because the mistake, or “ghost”, might have been written in—or removed—by an editor. They also, he said, look for the positives in media coverage of religion, and are open to corrections should they commit an error in their columns.
GetReligion.org sees high traffic and engagement on Catholic news stories in particular, which led to Mattingly’s hiring of a dedicated Catholic columnist. Current Catholic columnist, Clemente Lisi is an affiliate assistant professor at The King’s College in New York City and blogs twice per month about the coverage of Catholic news in mainstream media.
“Of all religions, Catholicism gets the most attention, which keeps us busy on the website too,” said Lisi, who joined GetReligion in 2019. “In American culture there is a mystique around Catholicism, whether that comes from the movies or the past, there’s this idea that the Church is this gigantic institution. It’s constantly something people are interested in reading about or engaging with.