Journal Article

Between Professional and Religious Worlds: Catholics and Evangelicals in American Journalism

John Schmalzbauer

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 363-386
Published in print January 1999 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 1999 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Between Professional and Religious Worlds: Catholics and Evangelicals in American Journalism

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What is the place of personal religious identity in the profession of American journalism? In a professional culture which prizes the qualities of objectivity and detachment, what place if any remains for the public display of religious and moral convictions on the part of the reporter? This article uses in-depth interviews with twenty Catholic and evangelical journalists (employed at major news organizations such as Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, and ABC News) to explore how religious people in American journalism manage the tension between objectivity and religious commitment. It identifies three types of strategies Catholics and evangelicals have used to negotiate the boundary between professional and religious worlds: 1) privatization and selective compart-mentalization; 2) multivocal bridging languages; and 3) the rhetoric of objectivity. While some Catholic and evangelical respondents attempted to confine their religious beliefs to the private sphere, the vast majority were able to translate their religious and normative convictions into the language of professional journalism. At the same time, most qualified the use of religious or normative language with countervailing appeals to the rhetoric of objectivity, restoring the boundary between professional and religious worlds after it had become blurred.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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