An evangelical on camera in Dallas.

Last summer’s Southern Baptist Convention was attended by crews from all three commercial television stations in Dallas, Texas. That was unusual, since most TV news operations have neither the time nor the inclination to pay serious attention to religion. The Dallas coverage was even more unusual because the Baptist convention was in Los Angeles.

Television news coverage of religion in Dallas heated up this year when WFAA, the local ABC affiliate, became the first to use a full-time religion reporter, a 25-year-old evangelical Christian named Peggy Wehmeyer. The station management took a gamble on her even though she had never worked in television before. Some of her colleagues at the station, in one of the country’s top 10 television markets, were not accustomed to greenhorns starting out at the top. Some of them balked at working with her at all, although others were kind. She came to the station (first as a writer, then as an on-camera reporter) from Dallas Theological Seminary, where she was public information director.

Marty Haag, the program director for WFAA, said public response to its regular religion coverage has been good. “We were inundated with letters from people who appreciated it,” he said. The religion beat is an unusual one for television, Haag said, but it is a significant one. “This is the kind of beat where all sorts of trends and movements in society show up. It also gives us a chance to report good news stories in which people are doing things for others.”

Haag said Wehmeyer’s transition from print to broadcast journalism has been unusually smooth, given the suddenness, and he added that some reporters are not able to make it at all.

Her Christian friends thought Wehmeyer’s ...

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