By Sheila Gewolb
Last week I attended ‘Reporting Belief’ at BBC Wales in Cardiff. This event, organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Training Wales, was designed to bring together faith representatives and the media, to examine ways in which issues concerning faith communities can be fairly reported. It also provided training for faith representatives to optimise their effectiveness when using the media and social media in getting their messages across.
It seems to me that reporting on issues concerning faith is dominated by headline-grabbing activity that is topical at the time. The discussion at the NUJ event was mainly about how terrorist atrocities are used in the media to vilify Muslims and may encourage Islamophobia. In 2014, the news was all about operation ‘Protective Edge’, which condemned Israel and led to anti-semitic attacks on the UK Jewish community. We need to have a more balanced view of these situations in the media. All Muslims are not terrorists and all Jews are not responsible for action in Gaza- which in itself raises another issue of balanced reporting, but we have had this discussion before.
At the ‘Reporting Faith’ event, I raised the issue of the lack of knowledge and understanding by journalists and other media personnel about the Religious context and background to the articles they submit. This suggested was warmly welcomed by other faith representatives. I understand that Cardiff University is looking to incorporate faith matters into their journalists’ training, which is to be applauded, and should act as a model for other educational institutions.
All things being equal, this media day was definitely worthwhile, and follows the first NUJ day run by ITV Wales last November. The opportunity to engage with people who have the power to represent faith to the wider community is important. Events like this should now be organised in London and other parts of the UK.
Sheila Gewolb is Board of Deputies Vice President