AP Has Strange Notions of What Constitutes Religious News

My primary base news source online is the Associated Press. I use their iPad app every morning to grab the highlights of what’s going on in the world and find them, for the most part, to be pretty good judges of what’s important and decently objective in their reporting. I also use Google News almost daily as well.

ap_logoOne of my main news interest categories is religion and spirituality. When it comes to this topic, however, AP is bewilderingly bizarre in its selection of news it categorizes. Most of the time, the stories it publishes in this subject area are religious violence pieces. But other news pieces it shares as religious are just…not.

Take today’s coverage. Here’s a list of the stories, in the order they appear:

  1. Shiites on procession kill 7 Sunnis in Pakistan. Religious violence
  2. NYC commissioner: Mayoral candidates pandered. The story is about the police commissioner accusing politicians of pandering on the city’s stop-and-frisk law. The religious angle is tangential at best, incidental in all likelihood.
  3. Pope out with cold, cancels morning audiences. OK, you can question whether that’s news, but at least it’s got a religious angle.
  4. Filipino sailors struggle for news of home. Not a single religious mention, reference or relevant idea.
  5. Egypt’s ousted president in solitary confinement. Huh? The fact that Morsi is a Muslim isn’t a main feature of the piece and if every story about a person doing something or having something done to him was religious if he or she has a religion is, obviously, ludicrous.
  6. Attacks against Shiites in Iraq kill at least 41. Religious-based violence again.
  7. Pope shuns presidential escort for state visit. Again, news? But at least it has a slightly religious angle.
  8. Officials: Suicide bomber targets Shiites marking religious ritual in eastern Iraq, killing 22. Religious-based violence. One more time.
  9. Catholic fringe disrupts Kristallnacht ceremony. Good religious tie-in. One of Pope Francis’ favorite events being disrupted by members of his church.
  10. Vatican to put St. Peter relics on display. Again, decent religious tie-in.
  11. Flannery O’Connor prayer journal published. Good religious piece on famed writer’s personal struggle with religion.
  12. Euroskeptic leaders unite, aim for parliament bloc. No religious connection other than that one of the parties, in addition to being anti-EU, is also anti-Islam.
  13. Bishops elect Louisville archbishop new president. Legitimate religious news.
  14. Kosovo Muslin leaders to youths: Don’t go to Syria. Marginally religious, more political, but at least it’s not a stretch.
  15. Triple bombing kills 8 Shiites in eastern Iraq. More violence.
  16. Buddhists in Myanmar protest OIC’s visit. Not violence this time but conflict between Buddhists and Muslims. Again, not clear how much is actually religious and how much political.
  17. Despite ruling, Egypt holds off on ending curfew. Absolutely political. No real religious tie-in.
  18. Biden to push immigration at naturalization event. Nope, no religion here, folks. Just move along.

So here’s my informal tally:

  • 18 total stories
  • 5 on violence and conflict
  • 7 with no or almost no religious connection
  • So 1/3 of the coverage is legitimately about religion or has a legitimate religious angle. Of those, all are about Catholics and Catholicism.

My conclusion: the AP needs a real religion editor.


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