Jaweed Kaleem

'I see God through his creation' — a fantastic story about an unlikely topic: Sikh truck drivers

'I see God through his creation' — a fantastic story about an unlikely topic: Sikh truck drivers

I’m a longtime fan of stories by Jaweed Kaleem.

Five years ago, when he served as senior religion writer for the Huffington Post, I interviewed him about reporting inside Pakistan.

More recently, I praised his coverage of post-Trump Muslims for the Los Angeles Times, where he’s the national race and justice correspondent.

Now, I want to call attention to Kaleem’s fantastic feature on a topic you might never have thought of — I know I hadn’t until reading his piece.

That topic: Sikh truck drivers. (Important note: He’s not the first to tackle this timely topic.)

Personally, I had a fine time last year tagging along with a disaster relief truck driver on a trip from Nashville, Tenn., to Panama City, Fla., after Hurricane Michael.

On my trip, the menu included Beanie Weenies and Vienna sausages.

It certainly sounds like the food on Kaleem’s cross-country journey for the Times was more exotic:

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Friday Five: RNA finalists, church-state questions, 'Sing Hallelujah,' Sikh truck stops, 'just' praying

Friday Five: RNA finalists, church-state questions, 'Sing Hallelujah,' Sikh truck stops, 'just' praying

The Religion News Association announced the finalists this week for its 2019 Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence.

Regular GetReligion readers will recognize many of the names.

Julia Duin is one of the finalists for pieces she wrote for GetReligion and the Wall Street Journal. I am honored to be included for my work with The Christian Chronicle.

In other Godbeat news, The Associated Press has named Sally Stapleton as its new global religion editor. She’ll oversee the wire service’s new global religion team, funded by an 18-month, $4.9 million Lilly Endowment Inc. grant in partnership with Religion News Service and The Conversation.

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: With no obvious choice this week, I’ll point readers to two interesting GetReligion posts at the intersection of church and state.

The first is Richard Ostling’s post reflecting on the U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow a century-old, 40-foot cross at a public war memorial in Maryland.

The other is Terry Mattingly’s post on the latest round in the Catholic school wars. The question, once again, is: Can teachers take public actions that defy church doctrines?

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Religion writers in Los Angeles: Do religion (and religion news) need to be 'reimagined?'

Religion writers in Los Angeles: Do religion (and religion news) need to be 'reimagined?'

When you live in a near-rainforest climate as I do, the chance to spend a few January days in the sunshine is irresistible. That (plus the fact I got some scholarship money) is why I flew from Seattle to Los Angeles for a few days to attend “Reimagining Religion 2018: New Stories, New Communities,” a conference co-sponsored by the Religion News Association and the Religion Communicators Council.

I was one of 225 people (a mix of students, journalists, ministers, writers, activists and educators) who spent a day in the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism building. We listened to a parade of folks tell us how or why so many religious groups are reinventing themselves or “reimagining” their faith in different ways. There was quite a bit devoted to how the “nones” -- people who are spiritual but practice no organized religion -- see the divine.

One problem covering the latter, said Jason DeRose, the West Coast bureau chief for NPR News, is that reporters don’t know how to ask questions to “nones” and the “nones” have not figured out how to articulate the answers.

Also: Are the “nones” a movement or lack of a movement? And is a lack of doctrine actually a kind of doctrine?

So there was a lot of thinking through of the what-will-the-future-of-faith-look-like question at this conference. Which made for some really intriguing panels plus some discussion on the present state of the religion beat. 

I arrived at the meeting 15 minutes late, thanks to the really nasty LA traffic on Interstate-5. (Must say, if you’re not a person who prays before coming to LA, you will become one.

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Celebrate good times, come on! Enjoy these three great reads from the Godbeat

Celebrate good times, come on! Enjoy these three great reads from the Godbeat

Like most everybody in the blogging world, we're focused on producing engaging content that people will read, share and, just maybe, comment on.

That means that we often gravitate toward the hottest, most timely topics — the kind trending on social media — when deciding which stories to review.

Moreover, negative posts pointing out journalistic problems and bias in mainstream media coverage of religion news tend to generate much more interest and buzz.

Please allow me to summarize the response to most of our positive posts about stories that do everything right: zzzzzzzzz. In case you need a video illustration of that response, here goes.

But since — amazingly — you actually clicked on a post promising "great reads," I'm going to reward you with three nice stories by Godbeat pros. All published within the last week, these are the kind of excellent pieces that sometimes get lost in our GetReligion guilt files.

What's the common thread that binds all three of these stories together? For one, all of the writers are religion beat pros who've received frequent praise from GetReligion: Jaweed Kaleem of the Los Angeles Times, Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and our former GetReligion colleague Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post.

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Heartland authenticity: Praise for one paper's nuanced coverage of post-Trump Muslims

Heartland authenticity: Praise for one paper's nuanced coverage of post-Trump Muslims

In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump's election, one of the prevailing — and predictable — storylines has been the plight of Muslims in the U.S.

It's sort of the post-election version of the "Muslim backlash" stories that follow any terrorist attack by an Islamic radical.

Among the major news organizations where I've seen such reports: CNN, the Dallas Morning News, the Detroit News, National Public Radio and Religion News Service.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (among others) reported this week:

Hate crimes increased nearly 7% in 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday, a rise that was driven partly by a sharp increase in anti-Muslim incidents, which rose 67%.

At the same time, some are skeptical of claims of a "post-election hate crime epidemic." 

And in his post Tuesday, GetReligion's Ira Rifkin delved into reports "that Trump secretly reached out to Arab embassies in Washington to say they should simply ignore his anti-Muslim campaign statements."

So — on this subject matter — where does the politically correct narrative end and the actual news begin? Some of that may depend on one's own biases and life experiences. A few of the reports cited above are better than others, and I'll acknowledge that I didn't have time to digest each word of all of them.

But I do want to endorse a piece by Jaweed Kaleem of the Los Angeles Times. 

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Whoa, prepare to be surprised by this media treatment of home schooling and religion — with a twist

Whoa, prepare to be surprised by this media treatment of home schooling and religion — with a twist

Here at GetReligion, we love tips and feedback from readers.

So when Kevin McClain tweeted us a link, we checked it out.

Now, that sound you heard when I read the headline — "Homeschooling Without God" — was fear, trembling and gnashing of teeth. Before I clicked the link, I called my friend Linus of "Peanuts" fame and asked to borrow his blue security blanket.

Seriously, I braced myself for the kind of snarky putdowns of faith-driven home-schoolers that I've seen in some past narratives. In case you missed them, see my January 2014 post "Wait, not all home schooling is stupid and harmful!?" and my August 2013 post "WPost: Virginia law highlights stupidity of home schooling."

But against my better judgment, I went ahead and opened The Atlantic story. Then I saw the byline. That next sound you heard was me whooping and pumping my fist. Suddenly, I was in a much better mood. 

When I saw the name of the writer — Jaweed Kaleem — I knew I was in for an insightful, respectful treatment of the subject matter. 

In case you're not familiar with Kaleem, he is the vice president of the Religion Newswriters Association and spent the last several years as an award-winning national religion writer for the Huffington Post. In 2014, I did a 5Q+1 interview with him on reporting inside Pakistan.

Kaleem recently announced that he's joining the Los Angeles Times as its national race and justice correspondent — but he plans to keep tackling religion issues, too:

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Huffington Post losing its religion: What's up as key staffers leave and news org drops RNS?

Huffington Post losing its religion: What's up as key staffers leave and news org drops RNS?

I never know quite what to make of the Huffington Post.

Is it a news publication? An advocacy commentary site? A combination of the two? This is a topic members of the GetReligion team have been debating for years, since our focus here is on mainstream news material.

On the one hand, the online-only news organization won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for "Beyond the Battlefield," a 10-part series on the lives of severely wounded veterans and their families. Clearly, the HuffPost runs some serious news material.

On the other hand, regardless of what I think about Donald Trump, I find it difficult to take seriously the journalism of a media outlet that appends this note to its coverage of the Republican presidential candidate:

Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

I bring up the HuffPost because of recent signs the website may be losing its religion. Literally.

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Interested in a March event with James Davis and lots of other religion-beat talent?

Interested in a March event with James Davis and lots of other religion-beat talent?

This may sound like a strange question, but, trust me, there is a good reason to ask it: Are there any GetReligion readers out there who would be interested in visiting the University of Wisconsin at Madison in mid-March?

Why is that? Well, because of a March 14th conference with this title: "Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life." Click here, pronto, for all of the details. Here is the overture on the home page for the event:

America’s religious landscape is shifting, and, as a result, news coverage of religion has never been more important. “Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life” will give journalists and the general public an opportunity to explore one of the most important, sensitive, and controversial topics in contemporary America.
The one-day conference will feature journalists and scholars who will help participants gain a deeper understanding of the role religion plays in public life and how religion is -- and isn’t -- represented in the news media today.
The conference will culminate in a keynote address, free and open to the public, by television journalist David Gregory, former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press and the author of How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey.

Yes, that would be David Gregory talking, I am sure, about some of the territory covered in these GetReligion posts by our own Bobby Ross, Jr. -- click here and then here for details.

Glance over the packed program for that day (click here) and you will see many other names familiar to GetReligion readers, beginning with our own James Davis, in the panel called, "How the Press Covers Religion and Spirituality." Other familiar names on the docket include Cathy Lynn Grossman, Jaweed Kaleem, Bob Smietana, Dilshad Ali and Tony Carnes.

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You won't believe what just won a Wilbur Award for religion communication in secular media ...

You won't believe what just won a Wilbur Award for religion communication in secular media ...

Actually, you might believe it.

But who doesn't enjoy a little clickbait, right?

A year ago, in the intro to a 5Q+1 interview here at GetReligion, I wrote:

Jaweed Kaleem, the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Supple Religion Feature Writer of the Year, produces exceptional journalism on a regular basis. Don't be surprised if his latest story — in which he goes inside Pakistan to report on religious minorities — turns out to be one of the best religion news stories all year.
It's a must read.

Am I a prophet or what?

Kaleem's Pakistan story just won a Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Association.

Here's how the Religion Communicators Council — at whose convention I was honored to offer a keynote presentation in 2006 — describes the awards announced this week:

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