Michael Otterson, the Director of Public Affairs for The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints and a contributor to The Washington Post’s On Faith blog, speaking at a Poynter conference on religion and politics made this point and warned:
There is increasing danger that journalists are unwittingly creating another stereotype, and that is that all evangelicals are lined up against Mormons, and vice versa. But evangelicals and Mormons embrace a lot of diversity, and most of us also get along just fine with each other. By repeating the cult reference over and over again, and attributing it to “some evangelicals,” is the media casting this in concrete and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Both Baker and Lane Williams, a communications professor at BYU-Idaho agreed that while some of the reporting on Mormonism has been problematic, it has been better this year, and far more fair and accurate than the attention the religion has received in commentaries.
If there is one particularly easy, if partial fix for more fair and accurate reporting on Mormons, it’d be checking in with Mormons once in a while. (This was a point made by all the Mormon scholars I spoke with.)
“The Mormon voice is essentially missing,” says Baker of the coverage that has come with this year’s campaign. “Everyone else is speaking about Mormons as if we weren’t in the room. Few ask for a Mormon perspective.”
There are plenty of active commentators in the Mormon blogosphere—termed the bloggernacle—who opine about this sort of thing daily. Or lots of Mormons who would no doubt be happy to be asked—Baker, Williams, and Givens all were.
There have been a few good examples of how this can be done in a way that both informs readers and humanizes Mormons without advocating for them. See this story from The New York Times, this one from Politico, and the many written by McKay Coppins (who also happens to be a Mormon) at Buzzfeed. Weird it hasn’t been tried more before.
So, what do Mormons think of ‘their’ moment? They think the media, and particularly the commentator class, is missing it.