dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

Some years ago, an American reporter who covered religion was at Tel Aviv airport leaving Israel.

As she was subjected to the usual questions from Israeli security, she was asked what she did for a living. “I write about religion,” she replied. “Which one?” the security officer responded. “Well, all of them,” the reporter said.

“How is that possible?” the officer asked. After 20 more minutes of questions, the reporter was allowed to board her plane, but it was clear from the conversation that the security officer could not conceive of a journalist writing about a faith to which she did not subscribe.

It’s an interesting question during this season of religious celebrations: Does a journalist have to be “religious” to cover religion? Is it desirable to have a reporter of one faith covering stories about another? What about atheist or agnostic reporters?