YOUNGSTOWN Expert: Press must cover wave of faiths

The press and people must pay attention to events in the religious world, an expert said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- An expert on religion and the press wonders how journalists will cover interfaith activities in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Community services called in the aftermath of the holy war declared by extremists included representatives of the Islamic community along with Christian and Jewish religious leaders, noted Dr. Andrew Walsh, the associate director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and managing editor of Religion in the News. Both are based at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. He spoke Monday on "Understanding How American Journalists Cover Religion," at Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University.
The leaders of the community services made sure they included Islamic representatives along with other faiths.
New wave: Youngstown was shaped by a wave of Eastern European immigrants. Now, he said, a wave of immigrants of different faiths is reshaping the country.
To do a good job covering them, there will have to be enough journalists out there to record those changes, Walsh said.
"And people have to have an obligation to pay attention," the scholar said. "The most distressing [trend], in the last 10 years, especially since the end of the Cold War, is that Americans think they don't have to give a hoot about anything."
Newspapers nationally in recent years have begun covering religion in the belief, so far unsubstantiated, that it would increase circulation, Walsh said.
Much of that has been "warm and fuzzy" coverage and vaguely spiritual stories done with a featurish approach for lifestyle sections.
Walsh believes religious writing should focus on more on more substantial religious news, such as the changes from that recent immigration. Instead, religious writing is still shaped by what he called liberal Protestant views that fall into seven forms.
They are: Good works, tolerance, hypocrisy, exposing false prophets, inclusion, supernatural beliefs and declension, or the belief the world is in spiritual or moral decay.
False prophets: Those with unacceptable beliefs are false prophets who take the good of religion and turn it into something scary, he said.
"Osama bin Laden is a false prophet," Walsh said.
X"Focus," a half-hour interview with Dr. Andrew Walsh, will air at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on WYSU-FM 88.5 Youngstown.