Mostly, GetReligion focuses on critiquing media coverage of religion.
Occasionally, we update readers on important developments on the Godbeat. The following news — which we are a bit behind in sharing — falls into that category.
Comprehensive reporting efforts on the changing landscape of American religious practice and theological thought will see significant expansion in 2015 as a result of $1.25 million in grants awarded to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism by Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Henry Luce Foundation.
Diane Winston, holder of the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC Annenberg, will direct the effort.
The grants will fund a new editor and freelance-reporting budget for Religion Dispatches, the award-winning online journalism magazine based at USC Annenberg. The magazine is one element in the Knight Chair’s ongoing effort to advance specialized reporting.
Lilly Endowment awarded $1 million for a project titled “Remapping American Christianities” and the Henry Luce Foundation awarded $250,000 to pursue “Innovating Coverage of Theology.”
In addition to funding freelance reporting and a new editor, the grants will allow Winston to convene thought leaders who will help chart new directions to cover territory overlooked by other websites and print publications, she said.
The grants also will support greater collaboration between editors of Religion Dispatches and the Knight Chair with students at USC Annenberg.
“The next generation of reporters should understand the importance of religion in the daily lives of Americans and learn how ordinary people look for and find meaning, identity and purpose,” Winston said.
To Winston's comment, we offer a hearty "Amen!"
Congratulations to Winston and USC on the funding boost.
Religion Newswriters Association President Bob Smietana told me:
This is good news for the religion beat. The more journalists and journalism students who are informed about the changing face of religion in America, the better. Congratulations to Diane and the staff of Religion Dispatches.
I'm especially happy that my friend Cathleen Falsani, a fabulous religion writer, will be back on the beat as senior editor for the Remapping American Christianities project.
Congrats, too, to Falsani.
In other Godbeat news, we mentioned in a recent post that the San Antonio Express-News seems to be wavering on replacing the great Abe Levy, even though the Texas newspaper advertised for the position.
On a positive note, it appears that the Louisville Courier-Journal — which did not replace star religion writer Peter Smith after he left for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2013 — will appoint a religion writer.
This is among the job descriptions as Gannett's Courier-Journal revamps its coverage area and adds beats, according to media blogger Jim Romenesko:
LVL Reporter I, II or III – Louisville Life – Religion, Faith, Spirituality and Paying it Forward: Louisville has a strong religious heritage. It is home to two major seminaries and a significant Catholic Archdiocese. One of the largest mega-churches in the country is here. And it is increasingly diverse in the range of religions represented. In addition, the church is often the center of many activities for young families, and young professionals are beginning to look at their spiritual beliefs. This beat should produce a wealth of coverage that will appeal to those readers. In addition, it will look at young professionals and young families are getting involved through political, social and community activism to serve their communities or solve critical problems in the city.
It's good news that the Courier-Journal apparently recognizes — once again — the importance of the Godbeat.
Should the Louisville religion beat focus on people of a certain age? That's a different question, and I don't know enough of the inside story to offer an educated opinion.