Religion in the Media- A Fair Chance Online with the BBC and NYT

“Journalism is merely history’s first draft.” -GEOFFREY C. WARD

As history is taking place for religious and anti-religious groups, are they getting written into this “first draft?” Some argue that religious organizations in England are not getting enough media coverage. Individuals and businesses depend on and live through the news; it is a necessity in our thriving, global society.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the largest broadcaster in the world yet has still received complaints and suggestions to improving their faith coverage. In journalism, it is the journalist/news company’s responsibility to provide the public with impartial, credible information and updates. This means giving all groups a voice or chance to talk and share about what’s going on in their community or group.

The BBC’s religious coverage was brought into question in 2010 by Roger Bolton who works for the BBC, presenting the BBC Radio 4’s Feedback program. He said a religious perspective was commonly absent in their stories. In response, a BBC spokeswoman stated, “BBC News and Current Affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all our BBC networks.” Having a correspondent on a specific issue means a member of staff is assigned to strictly that area, also known as having a “beat” for all their stories.

In the United States, the New York Times (NYT) could be considered the equivalent to the BBC for the United Kingdom, or at least a strong comparative. The New York Times not only has a religious correspondent but also a Times Topic for Religion & Belief. If you, for some crazy reason, are not familiar with the New York Times online (the most popular visited online newspaper website in America), Times Topics are explained by the NYT as:

“Each topic page collects all the news, reference and archival information, photos, graphics, audio and video files published on topics ranging from A M Castle & Company to Zyuganov, Gennadi A. This treasure trove is available without charge on articles going back to 1981.”

Times Topics mean an area of news interest is a pretty big deal and has a lot of collections and articles all conveniently compiled. Equivalent on the BBC’s online website is BBC Religion. In the article from 2010, the Church of England council was worried about a cut in mainstream broadcasters’ religious programming. These cuts could apply to any mediums of broadcasting, ranging from news editorial print, to radio or television broadcasting. Regardless of the cuts, online the BBC has really taken multimedia to the next level.

While researching for this post and looking around, I noticed the BBC’s multimedia to be much more impressive and involved. Here you’ll find calendars, podcasts, music stations, radio programs, service segments, and most importantly, videos in the Learning Zone to further advance your knowledge on religious studies. On the BBC’s Religion page you’ll also see an announcement for RE: THINK 2012, a Religion and Ethics Festival coming to the UK in the Fall. This is important because some of the concerns expressed in the past were about religious festivals for various religions and getting coverage.

I might be missing a link, in the middle somewhere between the article about complaints on inefficient religious coverage and the web pages I have explored today, but it seems as though the world’s largest broadcasting company has done their part, at least with their online presence with faith coverage (assessing their nearly-dozen television and digital television stations is a different story).

Sources Used:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8705560.stm

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/religion_and_belief/index.html

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Food and Religion

Food plays an important role in many religions; ideologies followed for centuries are still valued and practiced today. All over the world, people choose what and how to eat depending on their religious beliefs.  According to foodafactoflife.org.uk, the role of food in religion includes a means of communicating with God through blessings or saying thanks, demonstrating faith through following dietary guidelines, and developing discipline through fasting. Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism are just a few faiths in which food plays a significant role.
Growing up in a Jewish family, I have experienced first-hand the importance and significance of food. Our large family gatherings were associated with a wide variety of food. My grandmother used to joke that I was not allowed to leave anything on my plate at dinner. Although I do not follow a Kosher diet, I am still accustomed to traditional Jewish foods. The bagel, oh yes the bagel, originated in Poland and is often associated with the Jewish people. Challah, a braided egg bread, is also a traditional Jewish bread. Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement is the most holy day of the Jewish calendar. Jewish people traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset. In my family, we would always gather at my grandparent’s house for “Break Fast”. There would be bagels, lox, whitefish, challah, chicken, and chopped liver. Typically Jewish cuisine isn’t the healthiest so as my brother and I got older, and health became more important, we would shift recipes around. I have not found any classic Jewish deli’s in London, however there is one bagel shop in Brick Lane.
The Islamic faith also provides specific dietary guidelines; forbidden foods are outlined in the Koran. Foods that are allowed to be consumed are called halal and those that are prohibited are called haram. Similar to the Jewish Kosher guidelines, beef, lamb and chicken are only allowed if the animal has been killed using the halal method. Muslims are allowed to consume meat slaughtered by Jews as well because the Kosher butchering process is similar to the halal process. Foods considered haram are pork, blood and alcohol. BBC.co.uk states that Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. While studying in London, I was pleased to find such a diverse community. There are restaurants all over London that offer halal cuisine.
Hindus follow the dietary belief of ahisma, or non-injury to living creatures. The cow is held in high regard and is a symbol of abundance which is why Hindus do not eat beef. Strict Hindus follow a vegetarian diet. Fasting occurs in Hinduism as well. Fasting on special occasions demonstrates ones respect to personal Gods.
There are numerous religious areas in London with varieties of food. Brick Lane is the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and is famous for the Indian food and curry houses. I have been to Brick Lane three times and the cultural diversity is eye-opening. If you want delicious Indian food then Brick Lane is the place to go.
Two years ago I took a class at Cal Poly called “Food and Nutrition: Customs and Culture“. The class focused on traditional and contemporary food customs. It was so interesting learning about how food plays important roles in different cultures. Understanding the traditional food customs has been very beneficial because London is such a cultural and religiously diverse area. I have been able to dine at a wide variety of restaurants and utilize proper dining etiquette for each. Understanding the role of rood in cultural and religious practices is necessary in order to respect the different religious communities.

Pride in Faith

I was excited to have the opportunity to experience a little bit of London World Pride last weekend. London’s annual summer LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and other non-heterosexual or cisgender identities) celebration is usually a big one, and add the honor of hosting pride events for the whole international LGBT community, this was quite a large-scale production. Although budget constraints had affected the planning committee recently, I did not notice any compromises.

A number of religious LGBT groups participated in the procession


The planning committee estimates about 25,000 people participated in Saturday’s procession, marching from Oxford Street to Regent Street, through Piccadilly Circus, and down to Trafalgar Square. From my vantage point on Regent Street, the parade lasted an hour and 40 minutes from beginning to end! I have never seen so many people proud to just be who they were, not just proud to be Queer, but proud to be a parent, a doctor, a lawyer, an outdoor enthusiast, a leather daddy, a dog lover, a musician, etc. A significant portion of groups marching represented some sort of religious organization that celebrated both their beliefs and their sexual identities.

Pride flag flown at St. Martin-in-the-Field


For many, participating in a public pride event takes a lot of courage. Regardless of religious convictions, many social stigmas still exist towards publicly associating with the LGBT community. But depending on your faith, there may be even stronger religious and cultural barriers that would discourage you from participating in a pride parade.


In the US especially, Mormons are generally known for not embracing homosexuality in their communities. But last month saw an exciting, almost shocking, event when over 300 Mormons joined together to march in Salt Lake City’s annual pride parade. Even more amazing was a YouTube video featuring several LGBT-identified Brigham Young University students published in April. The video was in response to a campaign called the It Gets Better Project, meant to encourage Queer youth in knowing that they are not alone, and to be optimistic for their future. The students who participated in the video were under a lot of pressure for a short time after the video was released. While it seems like most of the student response on campus was positive, others felt that publicizing their identity was in violation of the university’s honor code, which prohibits “homosexual behavior.” Technically, the honor code is action-based, and merely stating or having feelings for the same gender does not violate this code. Administrators stated that the students would not be punished for participating in the video.

Participants seemed to be proud of both their faith and their sexuality


Other groups represented at the London procession included Christians At Pride, The Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group, and The Rainbow LGBTQI Unitarians. While I wasn’t surprised to see the Unitarians represented at Pride, I was inspired to do more research on them, as I knew very little about them. I had heard of Unitarian Universalist churches and known them to be fairly progressive; they were present at many rallies during the anti-Proposition 8 Campaigns. I was surprised to learn that Unitarians believe in helping find people “find their own spiritual path, rather than defining it for them.” There is a Unitarian church in our Borough of Kensington… perhaps I will be adventuring to this church next weekend!