From misunderstanding basic tenets of faith to failing to reflect, or properly weight, the diversity of religious thought, the press does not understand religion. On the subject of press coverage and religion, I found this article by Les Sillars and was blown-away (h/t RNS Blog). This article is so rich with sub-topics of discussion, that I am unsure how to fairly approach the overall topic: the press doesn't understand basic Islamic tenets of faith; how the press' coverage of religion influences support for public policy on the Hill; the press unfairly stereotypes conservatives; the press has a "bigoted" approach to religion; the press won't get better anytime soon on the topic of religion, if it doesn't get worse. Each of these topics is worthy of exploration and discussion. If you have time, please read the article.
To me, the article missed one important issue. I am most bothered by how the if-it-bleeds-it-leads conflict-generating media elevates certain (more extreme) views into the public discussion creating the general misperception that those views are both normative and majority; their skewing or mis-weighting of the plurality of theological voices leads, cognitively, to a fallacious availability heuristic. In this light, lost is the respect for the vast diversity of religious and theological thought, dismissed by the oversimplified - and perhaps dumbed-down - fault lines of conservatism versus liberalism. And when the press is only willing to cover a very narrow set of hot-button issues (i.e., abortion, homosexuality, environmentalism, school prayer), this supposed ideological binary perpetuates and exacerbates the divisiveness already inherent within those discussions. Healthy theological diversity is out, and unhealthy theological disagreeableness is in.