Pew Forum Report, Religion in the News: Islam Was No. 1 Topic in 2010

24 February 2011 – The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

According to a study recently released by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, events and controversies related to Islam dominated U.S. press coverage of religion in 2010. Much of the coverage focused on the plan to build a mosque and Islamic center near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. Also in the news was a Florida pastor’s threat to organize a public burning of the Koran and commemorations of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Stories related to these three events collectively accounted for more than 40% of all religion-related coverage studied in mainstream U.S. media (broadcast and cable television, newspapers, radio and major news websites).

As a general matter, the study noted that mainstream media devoted more attention to religion in 2010 than in any year since the Pew Research Center began measuring coverage of religion and other subjects in 2007, with the amount of space or time media devoted to religion doubling between 2009 and 2010, though the percentage of total coverage is still very small (about 1% of total coverage in 2009, 2% in 2010). For the first time since tracking began in 2007, neither the Catholic Church nor religion’s role in American politics was the No. 1 topic of religion coverage in major news outlets.