Talking about God in the newspaper

Published 8:06 pm Monday, July 25, 2016

It seems the further south you go, the more prominent religion becomes.

Here in Suffolk, you can find a church as easily as you can find a convenience store, and the Christian faith is a cornerstone for many citizens.

I am from Northern Virginia, but the majority of my extended family lives in Suffolk. I’ve noticed a stark contrast in Christian influence between both areas.


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The homes of family members up north have little to no Christian curios. But, here in Suffolk, my family is blatant about it. The walls of their homes are plastered with the Ten Commandments etched into wooden plaques, paintings of Jesus and inspirational quotes.

Although my Suffolk family may be more expressive in its faith, this doesn’t change the fact that my family up north are believers in Christ. There is just a difference in culture.

Northern Virginia is more progressive and diverse than Suffolk, with homes straying from displaying articles of Christian faith.

I have carried this over to my writing, attempting to remain as neutral and objective as possible. As a journalist, it is essential to write stories without a hint of prejudice.

Therefore, I was hesitant to mention faith and in some instances, I was encouraged to stray away from the topic altogether due to its controversy.

However, in my time so far at the Suffolk News-Herald, it seems faith is commonplace in our writing due to the city’s culture.

In the majority of my interviews to date, interviewees have alluded to their faith in some fashion. In the past, this was hardly the case, but it attests to how fundamental faith is in this area.

In one recent article I wrote, I made a direct reference to a biblical story. I was anxious about how it would be perceived by my editor.

The story was about a toddler, Gideon Thompson, who had been diagnosed with Stage Four brain cancer. However, after going through treatment, he has been cancer-free for just under two years.

At one point in the story, I compared Gideon’s story to that of Gideon, the biblical character. They both had to overcome nearly impossible odds but were victorious in their individual battles.

In the past, I would not have made this comparison, for fear of exposing my faith and compromising my objectivity. But, I took a leap of faith, and my editor ran with it.

I feel this may have not been typical at more secular newspapers due to the demographic of its readers. But I appreciate being able to tell the story in this way, because it was a testament to how crucial faith was to the Thompson family during Gideon’s road to recovery.

Journalism stresses separation from subjectivity. But it also requires telling the stories of the community. Faith is a foundational principle in Suffolk, and we are justified to write about it.

Sterling Giles is a staff writer for the Suffolk News-Herald. Email him at