The Religion Media Centre emerged from a conference in 2009, when faith leaders met journalists to understand the gulf in understanding between the two sides. Volunteers created the organisation and started activities enabling us to win funding and begin our work.
The idea to start the Religion Media Centre emerged from an event at Cumberland Lodge in 2009, when faith leaders met journalists to understand the gulf in understanding between the two sides. The conference resulted in a book “Religion in the News” by Prof Jolyon Mitchell, who is still associated with us as an adviser.
At the time, bishops were concerned that religious affairs correspondents were being sacked or moved on in Fleet Street, and thought it was because there was a secular agenda in newsrooms where religion was regarded as a low priority or something most people thought was unimportant and a minority interest.
Journalists thought that faith representatives didn’t understand the media industry, were reluctant to engage, were not good at sharing information and were not easy to deal with.
The idea was that a Religion Media Centre would be a bridge between both sides, working alongside journalists and other media professionals to explain, enhance and encourage the reporting of religion, and thus understanding in society.
The need for the RMC remains clear. Research suggests Muslims are represented within a negative framework relating to crime, violence and immigration. British Jews believe that media bias against Israel fuels anti-Semitism. Christians often feel misrepresented and disrespected.
Religious stories are rarely found on news diaries and there is a widespread view among clergy that the media is only interested in conflict and controversy.
Yet religion is back in the news and as James Harding, former editor of the Times and former director of BBC News, speaking at our festival in 2018, said: “Religious correspondents are blessed with a beat that really speaks to people – how they live, how they love, how they work, how they die. I am arguing there are better stories out there.”