Media in Australia needs more minority religious journalists and is suffering from a lack of dedicated religious and ethics correspondents, a panel on reporting on religion has heard.

John Sandeman, an independent journalist and writer for Eternity, and Siobhan Marin, a writer, producer and presenter with ABC Radio National, spoke with host Anthony Segaert, from the Sydney Morning Herald, about their experience writing stories about religions, especially complex ones. 

“Religion reporting can be dangerous… it could be dangerous for your own spirituallity and your own community,” Sandeman told the Credo Communications event at the University of Technology Sydney last week.  

Marin added: “Religion is a very serious issue for many people… the last thing you want as a journalist is to offend someone.”

Sandeman, a practicing Christian, said he strongly believes religious reporting requires critical thinking and journalists must strive to be accurate and truthful.   

Find a balance between left and right, positive and negative… agree with the church or disagree with the church,” Sandeman said.  

 Marin warned reporting on religion is a serious matter and religious people’s stories can blow up and receive backlash, therefore ethical guidelines are important to minimise this danger.   

We have obligations and responsibilities to present the stories and voices of marginalised religions.

“Religious stories are never boring… suddenly a religious story blows up and many people get excited to know more information about it.  Journalists need to be careful and pay attention on how to write stories that involve religion,” she said.

 Marin added Australian media needs to increase diversity and hire more people from different religious backgrounds as religious minorities continue to be underrepresented.  

 “We have obligations and responsibilities to present the stories and voices of marginalised religions,” she said.  

Both speakers warned Australia is losing skilled journalists and producers who have broad knowledge and a deep understanding of how to report on religious stories.  

“It has been a shift in how religion is reported in the media,” Sandeman said. “Australia is losing skilled reporters and editors and only a few journalists are interested in ethics and religion.”

 Marin said it was time to hire knowledgeable and passionate journalists in ABC units to make media more diverse and inclusive.  

Main image, left to right, Anthony Segaert, Siobhan Marin and John Sandeman. Photo: Tamar Pilobisian.