BILL Heaney wants God to save the Press, claiming – on this site – that, just as football has its football writers, so religion should have its religion correspondents. After all, he says, more people attend Church than go to football.
First, let’s do some quick disclaimers: I only know Bill Heaney through his online presences on allmediascotland.com and on Facebook. He strikes me as deeply religious and you cannot deny that he is a fantastic writer who more than served his time as a journalist. I was religious once (Roman Catholic) but am now quite the agnostic.
Disclaimers done, let’s pull the shroud away from what Bill is claiming.
Bill thinks there should be religious correspondents because religion is part of all of the big stories in Scotland at the moment. I’d respectfully argue that Bill’s missed the point and is clinging to the days when the Kirk/Chapel was seen (in my view, wrongly) as the cornerstone of society and it had more clout. It also harks back to a glory time in the Media when there were lots of specialists.
In fact, I would argue that the Churches (Catholic, Church of Scotland and others) are punching above their weight because of this legacy. Not only that, but they are being played and used by the Scottish Media.
Eight years ago, it was estimated there were approximately 500,000 people attending either a Roman Catholic service or a Church of Scotland one each Sunday. There are, of course, other religions which command their own sizeable congregations in Scotland which Bill doesn’t mention or take into consideration.
But what do numbers mean?
That there should be Facebook correspondents, as there’s am estimated 2.2million Scottish users?
That there should be more positive ‘games’ coverage, because there’s approximately 645,000 consoles in Scotland?
And what about mobile phone experts, to cover the estimated three million-plus mobile phone users in Scotland?
Don’t get me on to sex.
Bill cites ‘gay marriage’ and abortion – issues that impact on society as a whole.
But ‘gay marriage’ isn’t an issue just for the Church. It’s an issue for society. And laws trump religion.
Bigotry? Abortion? Any religious movement is more than welcome to have an opinion on these things but given that religious adherents are in the minority in this country, it would be a damn cheek wanting to be front and centre on everything.
And how might religion be ‘used’ by the Scottish Media? Because journalists know that very often the Church will come out with just the sort of reaction required to turn a story into a row.
Bill says there might be soon a new Pope. And? So? Microsoft might get a new CEO and his decisions will have more impact, day-to-day, on more Scots. I don’t see a Microsoft correspondent gig turning up any time soon at the Daily Record.
That said, if the Churches want to reach out to more people, then there’s never been a better time to do so. The power of online communities and social media means they can get their message out there without worrying about how the Press will use it for their own ends. That way, the religious outlets can stop moaning about the Media picking on them.
The aforementioned 500,000 compares well with combined Scottish daily newspaper sales, so why does religion need the Media?
Bill seems to imply that if religion were to receive the reverence that he thinks it deserves, it would help drive up newspaper sales.
Well that could be easily tested, were every Church PR to instruct its congregations to purchase a certain newspaper.
And as a second test, let’s see everyone visit one website so that, again, we can test the power of this constituency.
I’m open to suggestions, but may I put forward www.contently-managed.com? Because, God knows, I need the traffic.
Craig McGill has written for – or been a member of staff at – TIME Magazine, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, The Scotsman, Evening Times, The Press & Journal, The Sun and Evening Times. An author of four non-fiction books, he has been recently appointed a lecturer in ‘cross-platform journalism’ at Edinburgh Napier University.