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Mormon Media Observer: Mormon Media Observer: Learning from David Broder about religion coverage

Published: Monday, March 14 2011 5:30 a.m. MDT

And what of the Mormon experience of persecution? It strikes me that our Mormon experience provides us with distrust of Washington because of how Washington often gave Mormons persecution and little attention in the early years of the church. I would think a Mormon candidate for president might have an instinctual distrust of a large federal government. Not saying for sure, but it is possible. Reporters could use these facts and use interviews with Mormons to respectfully discuss these issues.

And Mormonism has an unusual sense of American exceptionalism that comes straight from the Book of Mormon. Ether has strong words: "For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off." This is quite powerful stuff that we believe. My Mormon belief provides a powerful patriotism, tinged always with worry.

I tend to be politically conservative, but Mormonism can shape whatever traditionally liberal impulses I might have. My Mormon faith personifies the Earth as sad for the wickedness upon it in the Book of Moses. This personification provides great insight and incentive to enhance my environmental consciousness. Our fasting program and King Benjamin's speech makes me think that helping the needy must remain a personal, and national, imperative.

My criticism of reporters isn't just of how they cover Mormons, but of how they cover other religions, too.

For example, I found no intelligent analysis of the Black Liberation Theology in mainstream media outlets so powerfully presented and embraced in President Barack Obama's former church. I wanted neither glib acceptance nor rejection of these ideas. I wanted respectful depth that explored an issue. I suspect the preaching of liberation theology had a great influence on Obama and, even if our president is unwilling to talk about them, a good political reporter can find sources and experts to present these ideological ideas with respect and depth in ways that could inform my voting.

Broder so often led the way. Let us hope in the campaign about to begin that reporters respectfully look at Mormonism and other religions as something that can powerfully, usefully enhance the views of major national candidates, just as Broder taught by example a few decades ago.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.

As the Mormon Media Observer, Lane is interested in hearing your ideas for stories at lanedwilliams@gmail.com.

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