Religion in the News: 2008

The biggest single religion story of 2008 was compressed into about a week's worth of coverage.

Attention to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in April eclipsed even faith-related controversies surrounding the 2008 presidential election campaign, including candidates' associations with controversial religious figures such as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

For the year overall, religion coverage represented only a small slice of a mainstream news agenda dominated by politics and the economy. Nevertheless, religion received about as much coverage as immigration, education, and race- and gender-focused stories. In 2008, religion coverage filled 1% of the newshole—the time or space available in an outlet for news content—studied by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Beyond the pope's visit and religion stories related to the presidential election, only a handful of other events had a significant religion focus: the release of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum (3% of the religion newshole); religion stories related to the 2008 holiday season (3%); a raid on a Texas compound associated with polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs (2%); the death of Mormon leader Gordon Hinckley (1%); and the Muslim terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India (1%).

Read the full report Religion in the News: 2008 on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's Web site.

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