Kiera Feldman, an investigative reporter who works often with religious subjects, has written about a sex-abuse scandal at the Grace Fellowship Christian School near Tulsa, OK. Speaking from that experience, she said:
There is a common ground upon which secular and religious people can meet. A shared interest, a universal language. In my stories, that happens to be abuse. Perhaps medicine becomes the faith we share. Thanks in large part to the mental health profession, my subjects and I might have different religious beliefs, but we believe many of the same things about trauma. And we bond over these very human things: We are all capable of feeling many of the same things like pain, grief, betrayal, the big stuff of life.
Kathryn Joyce’s first book was on the Quiverfull movement, and she has a forthcoming book on adoption and religion. Here was her take:
I think evangelicals speak to journalists, despite the frequent cultural divide, for a couple of reasons. For a lot of people who believe God is directing their lives, being approached by a reporter can also be part of the plan. I’ve been told by a number of devout sources — including those who know I come from a very different background — that God sent me to cover their story. I’ve also found that many people, including those who are conscious that their convictions or lifestyle are unorthodox, believe in what they’re doing so strongly that they’re willing to speak publicly about it even to skeptical journalists; it’s a matter of honoring their beliefs. In the end, why does anyone talk to reporters? Because, mysteriously enough, people want to talk about their lives.
When I run into trouble with a source, rare but heartbreaking, I’ve found that the answer to our conflict is not the old, tired, “secular” vs. “religious” clash of cultures. Rather, it’s contained in their anticipation of my conversion. Though we’ve already established that we see the world differently, that we have our reasons for talking to each other and our uses for each other, the fact remains that people who believe—really believe—want the writer, and everyone else, to believe, too.
While the “liberal media” is often framed by conservatives as activist and acting on an agenda, it seems that the deeper criticism contained within that charge is the simple fact that, after hearing The Word of their side of the story, the media refuses to become an activist force for their cause. It questions the power of what they believe in, to see that an open mind might hear their testimony and not heed it. And yet, as is true for most people, we can’t help but recite our stories and mantras to someone who will listen in good faith.