Is the media really hostile to religion?

Ariel University study reveals surprising data and shows how the media really reflects society.

Reut Hadar ,

Professor Yoel Cohen
Professor Yoel Cohen
Ariel University spokesperson

Some often claim that the media is detached and aloof from the public and that it does not truly reflect the majority opinion.

Prof. Yoel Cohen, a professor at the School of Communications at Ariel, presents a new survey which shows the religious orientation of Israeli journalists, and compares them to the general public in the country.

The survey was published this month in the international academic journal Asian Communication Research. The survey consists of 260 journalists who answered 143 questions relating to media and religion. The survey divided respondents into three groups: secular, religious (national religious and haredi), and traditional.

Among the participants, 54% described themselves as secular, 13% described themselves as traditional, and 20% described themselves as religious.

These results indicate that about a third of the journalists in Israel define themselves as believers, contrary to popular belief among the Israeli public that the overwhelming majority of journalists are secular.

However, the number of journalists who defined themselves as traditional is less than their proportional representation in the general population. Today about 35% of the Israeli public defines itself as traditional.

Twenty-five percent of respondents said they did not believe in God, 8% of respondents answered that they "believe less" and 13% said that they believe to some extent.

Fifty-four percent responded that they believe to a great extent. In addition, the survey found that journalists who define themselves as traditional are closer to "religious" in their views about fundamental questions of faith as Divine existence: 79% of traditional journalists believe in God. By comparison, 28% of those who defined themselves as secular said they do not believe in God.

In order to assess more accurately the views of journalists, the study also examined the lifestyle of the participants and the extent of their dedication to Jewish tradition.

The survey shows that many journalists attach great importance to Jewish custom. For example, 94% of respondents answered that they participate in a Seder meal (higher than the general population where only 84% insist on participating in the Seder) and 57% are careful not to eat chametz.

57% of journalists are accustomed to fast on Yom Kippur (compared to 67% of the overall Jewish Israeli population) and 26% of journalists indicated that they do not use electrical appliances on the Sabbath (compared to 24% of the overall Israeli Jewish population).

Proximity between traditionalist and religious journalists in maintaining religious tradition is also evident: 74% of traditionalist journalists indicated their participation in Sabbath meals, 69% recited Kiddush, 76% of traditionalists eat kosher, and another 7% occasionally. Another interesting fact is that only 15% are careful to separate milk and meat all the time. In addition, 69% of all journalists support the separation of religion and state.

Prof. Joel Cohen explains, "The study shows that journalists in Israel maintain the same outlook, holiday observance, and religious practices as the rest of society.

"The allegations that we are used to hearing about the Israeli media, such as 'anti-religious' and 'not participating in the Jewish life cycle' and the existence of an observance gap between journalists and the general Israeli public are refuted by the findings of the survey.

"In fact, the survey shows that there is a no gap between journalists and Israeli society and in fact it can be argued that journalists represent the Jewish public in Israel. In summary, we can conclude that the media is not influenced by journalist's views and beliefs but rather their agenda is determined by current events and professional journalistic considerations," he concludes.