Though religion is deeply embedded in American culture, it is increasingly rare for journalists to be trained to report on religion. In light of political and cultural upheaval at home and abroad, there is a greater need than ever for religious literacy in journalism. Religion shapes the stories journalists tell, often in subtle ways that are not visible at first glance. By partnering with professional journalists and ournalism students, we provide resources and training to facilitate deeper engagement of religion in the classroom and in the field. In addition, we see opportunities for greater collaboration between religion scholars and journalists in order to improve the public understanding of religion.
Many of the most compelling news stories in the United States in recent years engage religion in important ways. The stories included in our case studies draw from a range of sources, including national, local, and social media. Topics include Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump and white evangelicals, North Carolina’s House Bill 2, Occupy Wall Street, Park51 (the “Ground Zero Mosque”), the Pulse Nightclub attack, and public debates about refugees, immigration, and national security.
The symposium on religious literacy in journalism was held at Harvard Divinity School on December 8–9, 2016. Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times gave the keynote address, providing an expert overview of the current state of the field.