Was there too much coverage on NPR about the pope?
Apparently a lot of people think so. There were enough complaints to the Washington-based network this week that NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos responded to them this afternoon.
Some listeners also asked if NPR would cover the transition of other religious leaders as closely as it has covered the pope. This is a logical question. We all know that neither NPR nor the mainstream media in general has done so in the past. I don’t think that they will or should do so in the future.
It’s not that other religions are not of equal or greater importance. Among Christians, there are more Protestants than Catholics in the United States. In a 2010 Pew study, Catholics made up half of the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide. There were more Muslims — 1.6 billion — and almost as many Hindus — 1 billion. (Among world religions, Buddhists came in fourth, with 488 million followers.)
None of these religions, however, are united in a single institution with a single head, as is the Catholic denomination. No other denomination or sect in any of the religions, meanwhile, is as large as the Catholic one. This institutional factor alone gives the pope far more global influence than any other single religious leader.