The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, published in January this year, reveals a “crisis in trust” around the world in four key institutions – business, NGO’s, media and government – with media and government distrusted by more people than trusted (see: Lack of trust in media: 'magazine media could offer a blue print out' ).
Distrust of the media is at all time high, but the media still does have some influence (see: Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low ).
The Media Research Center released a study in 2008 reporting pro-atheism bias by major press outlets in the United States. The study found that 80% of mainstream media coverage of atheism was positive and that 71% of Christian-themed stories had an atheist counterpoint or were written from an atheist perspective.
The Daily Mail reported about Britain's influential broadcaster the BBC:
|“||The BBC employs more atheists and non-believers than Christians, an internal ‘diversity’ survey has found.|
The new research has been seized on by critics who accuse the Corporation of bias against Christianity and marginalising the faith in its output.
The survey found that just 22.5 per cent of all staff professed to be Christians
The media was a key ally to the New Atheism movement and helped sell a lot of books by the new atheists.
But take a look at the last 20 news stories about atheism in Google news: Google news - atheism news stories
There are a lot fewer atheism news stories than the period between 2004 - 2012 (the peak of the New Atheism movement was in 2011). And the news stories that do appear are more negative than they used to be.
Generally, Google news about atheism has stories about:
1. How much people dislike atheists and closet atheism (see: Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists and Atheists Widely Distrusted, Even Among Themselves, UK Study Finds ). A recent study found that distrusts of atheists grew in the United States in the last 10 years. Many of these stories try to build sympathy for atheists. Many also encourage closet atheists to come out of the closet. This is obviously a hard sell given the antipathy/distrusts being directed towards atheists often being reported in the stories.
2. People and organizations criticizing atheism
3. Islamic governments imposing harsh sentences/penalties on atheists
4. Islamic fundamentalists killing or trying to kill atheists. Atheism having a social stigma in Islamic countries.
5. Some atheists trying to paint a positive spin on atheism while often admitting that atheism has a stigma.
6. Stories about the "nones" (In the USA fewer than 15% of the "nones" consider themselves atheists)
7. The erosion of secularism in various governments
8. Some stories about global atheism shrinking due to the low birth rates of the atheist population.
For the most part Google news does not paint a rosy picture of atheism.
Coverage of atheism is increasingly being squeezed out
On top of this, you have news often dominated by news about Donald Trump, Brexit, Frexist, right-wing European politics and gaining traction and the school choice movement gaining traction in America. This is definitely not good news for atheists. Why? One obvious reason is this means less coverage of atheism.
In addition, atheist Dr. Gordon Stein wrote:
Atheism has long ceased to be a rare and oft-ignored philosophical outlook...It has transformed itself into an active political programme with clear objectives which, though they vary from state to state, unequivocally include the elimination of state religion, religious education, and the enshrinement of scientism.Historically, atheists have screwed towards the left side of the political aisle (see: Atheists & Agnostics in America Tend to be Politically Liberal ).
For example, according to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power."
Future of press coverage of atheism/atheists
Newspapers and other news organizations are facing dwindling profits and trust. In addition, scholars of religious/irreligious demographics such as Eric Kaufmann are predicting the 21st century will be a time of deseculiarization and a growth of religious fundamentalism in both developed/developing countries. The future does not look bright for news coverage of atheism.
News coverage of atheism in 2007
How Demography Is Enhancing Religious Fundamentalism