The main objective of the media, either secular or religious, is to inform and educate people. Besides performing this basic task while religious media connects people of same faith with each other and faith leaders with their followers, the secular media usually serves people of different or no faith.
As the religious media usually serves a certain community its coverage is not usually as diverse as of secular media. It sees issues with certain angle aligned with its ideology and thus lacks different points of view. It also usually avoids the issues being considered contentious by its consumers and doesn’t challenge clergy even when it is needed.
This type of coverage helps religious media’s consumers to have more faith in their beliefs but deprived them from having a full picture of an issue and opposite arguments.
On the contrary secular media’s coverage is relatively diverse and objective as it caters consumers from different backgrounds. This diversity makes secular media more balanced than its religious counterpart. Not relying on a certain community for its survival and resources also helps secular media in maintaining its editorial independence.
But this editorial independence is the main reason of resentment religious communities usually have towards secular media.
Unlike religious media, secular media challenges and questions their consumers’ established beliefs and addresses the issues sensitive to them rather more harshly. Though this “insensitive” coverage promotes harmony among different religious groups and understanding of each other’s points of view, it might invokes tensions if a sensitive issue was not addressed with due care.
In a religiously-heterogeneous but developed societies like the U.S. where people are learnt to tolerate difference of opinion and can peacefully co-exist even if their religious beliefs are being challenged and debated in mainstream media rather more “insensitively”, this kind of coverage might not always be received open-heartedly.
Because of their deep association with religions, religious communities do not always like the way secular media addresses their issues and this unlikeness pushes them more towards the media less-critical to their faith and religion. This is the reason religious media have more loyal consumer-base, although on a smaller scale, than that of secular media.
On the contrary even many of the frequent consumers of secular media do not like its coverage of one issue or another and usually suspect its motives despite consuming it for years.
This is a kind of trust deficit the secular media faces almost everywhere in religious communities and both can be blamed for it. Religions usually have clear boundaries of what is permissible and what’s not and most of their followers accept it as it is. Religions bind their followers with each other and promote togetherness. So the religious communities have a clear sense of ‘boundaries’ which separate ‘us’ from ‘others’.
Though most religious communities are generally welcoming to ‘others’ and willing to reach out they are not used to welcome the criticism from ‘outsiders’ nonetheless it comes a bit harshly and without taking the related sensitivities into account.
This is the problem the secular media doesn’t usually comprehend and keeps insisting on treating religious communities as it treats secular consumers. It is widely believed in the newsrooms of secular news outlets that freedom of speech and freedom of press give them a right of not taking religious sensitivities into account while covering an issue related to a faith or a faith-based community. So their coverage of such issues is not always welcomed by religious communities and fuels suspicions and mistrust.
The role of religious media becomes more important in this scenario as it can teach lessons to the people on both ends of the rope in this tug of war. It can prepare faith-based communities to accept criticism by invoking debates on contentious issues and highlighting different opinions present inside a community as well as it can serve as a model to secular press of how to approach and make inroads into religious communities.