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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Love this photo of Bill Buzenberg and his staff at the Center for Public Integrity celebrating their first Pulitzer.
When I first started working on this project in 2003, I had the great privilege of working with Bill. He was our executive producer at the time. I was new to journalism and producing radio, but I got to learn from him on a daily basis — from near and afar (his voice carries through solid doors). What I most admired was his passion: for news and for learning — a great thinker with an infinitely curious mind. He was very kind and supportive; I treasure those days.
When he left to lead the Center for Public Integrity, I was chagrined but knew he’d reshape that important investigative organization. And, lo and behold, he’s led CPI to its very first Pulitzer Prize for "Breathless and Burdened." A hearty congratulations to him and his staff!
~Trent Gilliss, executive editor

Love this photo of Bill Buzenberg and his staff at the Center for Public Integrity celebrating their first Pulitzer.

When I first started working on this project in 2003, I had the great privilege of working with Bill. He was our executive producer at the time. I was new to journalism and producing radio, but I got to learn from him on a daily basis — from near and afar (his voice carries through solid doors). What I most admired was his passion: for news and for learning — a great thinker with an infinitely curious mind. He was very kind and supportive; I treasure those days.

When he left to lead the Center for Public Integrity, I was chagrined but knew he’d reshape that important investigative organization. And, lo and behold, he’s led CPI to its very first Pulitzer Prize for "Breathless and Burdened." A hearty congratulations to him and his staff!

~Trent Gilliss, executive editor

There is little doubt that the news media amplify and exacerbate social and political divisions. Too often, journalists follow a ‘Noah’s Ark’ approach to coverage in which a strong liberal is paired with a vocal conservative in an ideological food fight. The result is polarization of discourse and ‘false equivalence’ in reporting. This lack of nuanced analysis confuses viewers and makes it difficult for them to sort out the contrasting facts and opinions. People get the sense that there are only two policy options and that there are few gradations or complexities in the positions that are reported.

From the Brookings report, "Nudging News Producers and Consumers Toward More Thoughtful, Less Polarized Discourse," by Darrell West and Beth Stone. A worthy read.

This is a tension we’ve experienced first-hand when programming live events for The Civil Conversations Project. We’ve been questioned by producers and journalists in public radio news rooms about our guest choices for conversations on gay marriage and abortion. But, there have also been some really wonderful advocates, newsroom managers like Chris Worthington of Minnesota Public Radio too.

My colleague Krista Tippett delivering Stanford University’s Heyns Lecture. The title of her speech: “The Adventure of Civility.”
(via trentgilliss)

My colleague Krista Tippett delivering Stanford University’s Heyns Lecture. The title of her speech: “The Adventure of Civility.”

(via trentgilliss)

Do the Heagle.
Our technical director Chris Heagle does a lot of dancing in the minutes before the interview when the host and guest take their seats. Mic positioning, sound checks, water ready… just a few of the things our resident expert makes perfect in a quiet, frenzied pace before Krista Tippett sat down with poet Marie Howe at the College of Saint Benedict.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Do the Heagle.

Our technical director Chris Heagle does a lot of dancing in the minutes before the interview when the host and guest take their seats. Mic positioning, sound checks, water ready… just a few of the things our resident expert makes perfect in a quiet, frenzied pace before Krista Tippett sat down with poet Marie Howe at the College of Saint Benedict.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor



“Good communities actually take work.”
~Steve Waldman

I’m a bit late to the game today, but this symposium covering journalism ethics in a digital age at the Paley Center for Media should be great. Digital heavyweights attending include John Paton, Clay Shirky, Eric Deggans, Ann Friedman, Gilad Lotan, Vadim Lavrusik, danah boyd, and David Folkenflik.

Here’s the line-up for the day:

9:00 a.m. Welcome
J. Max Robins, Vice President and Executive Director, Paley Center for Media
Karen Dunlap, President, The Poynter Institute
Craig Newmark, Founder, craigslist and craigconnects

9:15 – 9:30 The View From Here
Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty, The Poynter Institute
Tom Rosenstiel, Director, Project for Excellence in Journalism, Pew Research Center

9:30 -10:45 The Truth: Is It Possible in the Digital Era?
Moderator: John Paton, CEO, Digital First Media

Clay Shirky, Professor, New York University “Post Truth, Post Professional, Post Scarcity”
Steve Myers, Deputy Managing Editor, The Lens, “Fact-Checking 2.0″
Adam Hochberg, Instructor, University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, “Whose Money Should We Take? Credibility in Investigative Non-profit Newsrooms”
Craig Silverman, writer, “Regret the Error,” “The Corrections: A Sign of Sickness or Health?”

10:45 – Break

11:00 – 12:15 The Voices: Will Digital Space Ever Reflect Our Communities?
Moderator: Emily Bell, Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University

Eric Deggans, TV/Media Critic, Tampa Bay Times, “(Mostly) White and (Sometimes) Brown Media People in a (Mostly) Brown and (Sometimes) White World”
Ann Friedman, freelance editor and writer, “It’s Not What You Look Like, It’s What You Eat”
Monica Guzman, columnist, The Seattle Times, “The Community, Formerly Known as the Crowd, Is It a Means or an End?”

12:15 – 1:15 Lunch

1:15 – 2:30 The Vehicle: Can This Ride Take Us to Democracy?
Moderator: Stephen Buckley, Dean of Faculty, The Poynter Institute

Gilad Lotan, Vice President, Research and Development, SocialFlow, “The Unintended Consequences of Algorithmic Curation”
Dan Gillmor, Director, Knight Center for Digital Entrepreneurship, Arizona State University, “Can Private Platforms Coexist With Journalism’s Public Service?”
Vadim Lavrusik, Journalism Program Manager, Facebook

2:30 – 2:45 Break

2:45 – 4:00 The Story: What Stories Do People Want and Need?
Moderator: Andrew Heyward, Former President, CBS News

danah boyd, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research, “The Cost of Fear in an Attention Economy”
Tom Huang, Sunday and Enterprise Editor, Dallas Morning News, “Should We Let the Daily Story Die?”
Kenny Irby, Senior Faculty, The Poynter Institute, “Seeing Is No Longer Believing”
Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty, The Poynter Institute, “We’re Feeding an Originality Breakdown”

4:00 – 4:30 The New Ethics of Journalism: A Guide for the 21st Century
Moderators: Tom Rosenstiel and Kelly McBride

4:30 Going Forward
Paul Tash, Chairman and CEO, Times Publishing Co.
David Folkenflik, Media Reporter, NPR

He had become a journalist who didn’t report, a scholar with no time for extended reading, and a global prophet who wasn’t sure what ideas he wanted to spread. In the midst of his triumph, he was already at risk.

Edward Tenner, on Fareed Zakaria in The Atlantic

I think Mr. Tenner points at something here that transcends journalistic celebrity and personal brand. It’s depth. It’s making the time to find it and discover something rounder.

He’s getting at how we all, even the most modest person operating in this contemporary world, are competing within ourselves. Our work and careers, our colleagues and our families, our leisure time and our extracurricular activities are starved for directed attention, for focused time that leads to something that creates connection at the root level.

We need to do a show on this. Who could we speak to that would take us deeper?

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor


Dan Savages the Bible and Christians on Anti-Gay Bullying 

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

This video of the popular syndicated columnist Dan Savage speaking at a high school journalism conference in Seattle is generating some impassioned (to put it mildly) comments on YouTube. The creator of the “It Gets Better” video project spoke to aspiring young journalists on April 13 about “alternative media, social media, and creating a movement against bullying,” which turned into a bit of a profane rant against the core source of belief for Christians: the Bible. A number of students walked out; a number of students laughed and cheered.

In response to the backlash from believers and non-believers alike, Mr. Savage responded on The Stranger's Slog blog, “I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-assed move. I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself.”

Here’s a transcript to accompany the video. Decide for yourself whether Mr. Savage’s comments were out of line or appropriate for the situation. Or, by upping the divisive rhetoric, I have to wonder if he furthered his aim of helping gay children and young adults from being harmed:

"The Bible. We’ll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can’t help it. They can’t help with the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans that being gay is wrong.

We can learn to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about gay people. The same way we have learned to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slaveowners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War, and justified it.

The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slaveowner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn’t say, ‘Christians don’t own people.’ Paul talks about how Christians own people. We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.

Sam Harris in Letter to a Christian Nation points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong: slavery. What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong 100 percent.

The Bible says that if your daughter is not a virgin on her wedding night, if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. And there is no effort, there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night, if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days.

People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality.

Umm, one other thing I want to talk about is… [laughs to himself] So you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible.

[applause and cheers from audience]

It’s funny as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-a**ed some people react when you push back. So I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings… but, I have a right to defend myself and to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.”


On Jealousy, Transparency, and Lies: John Moe on Mike Daisey and the This American Life Retraction

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Yesterday Ira Glass sent an email revealing that This American Life's report on Apple's manufacturing supplier in China "contained significant fabrications." Mike Daisey’s story and TAL’s decisions to go to air and later retract the show have sparked a lot of discussion in journalism and public radio circles.

There’s a lot of praising, challenging, and questioning going on. Frankly, much of it feels like punditry and harmless posturing. But, this Saturday afternoon a stream of tweets by Marketplace's John Moe put a human face on this story and some of the underlying ethical issues at stake.

(I’ve kept the format in order to preserve, hopefully, the rhythm of Moe’s thoughts.)

John Moe John Moe @johnmoe

I knew Daisey for many years, although its been several years since I’ve talked to him. But I saw his first audition when he came to Seattle

5:22 PM - 17 Mar 12

John Moe John Moe @johnmoe

It was the best audition I’d ever seen. A monologue about Wrath of Khan. Astounding. Completely improvised, I later learned.

5:23 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

I worked at a temp agency and gave him temp jobs. Mike later worked at Amazon when I did. Then he quit and made a 1-man show about Amazon.

5:25 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

It bugged me that Amazon paid him salary and benefits and then he turned around and ripped them. I was also jealous of his talent & success.

5:26 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Then he got a book deal! So I was jealous of his talent and success in writing and theater.

5:29 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

In his book, he said things about my department at Amazon that weren’t true or were exaggerated and/or twisted. Which angered me. So…

5:30 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Over the years I haven’t known how to view his success. Astoundingly talented guy, I questioned his ethics, but I was jealous/petty too.

5:32 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

But this China thing hits me hard. As a tech reporter, I know the Foxconn issue is huge and complex. As a journalist, ethics are critical.

5:33 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

The Foxconn suicides first taught me the word Foxconn. It’s a big issue for me (my brother died of suicide) and I wanted more attn on it.

5:36 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Then when Daisey became a leading spokesperson for Foxconn issues, I was all jumbled up. How did he get these scoops? I was jealous again.

5:37 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Now all this. I don’t hate Mike, I wish him well, and I just hope more truth and light and transparency somehow emerge from this mess.

5:39 PM - 17 Mar 12


Transforming Journalism by Moving and Mobilizing Readers

by Krista Tippett, host

Near El Fahser in North DarfurTwo girls walk through the market in the Abushouk Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, home to nearly 55,000 people, near the North Darfur capital El Fasher. (photo: Ian Timberlake/AFP/Getty Images)

I wasn’t always a fan of Nicholas Kristof’s columns in The New York Times. I’d found them at times simplistic — seeming to reduce the dramas of entire nations to individual stories of despair and/or hope. But I’ve discovered that there is an art and science to this approach. It was fascinating — and quite inspiring — to sit down and get inside his head on all of this.

Nicholas Kristof has lived on four, and reported on six continents, including spending formative years based in China and Japan, before he took his place on the Op-Ed pages of the Times in the cathartic year of 2001. And as he tells us, he soon realized that opining, however brilliantly, left him preaching to the choir. People who already shared his perspective would cheer him on; those who didn’t would not take in what he had to say. The true power of his editorial platform, he realized, was its capacity to bring lesser-publicized events and ideas into the light.

He is credited, most famously perhaps, for bringing the unfolding genocide in Darfur to the world’s attention. But even that “success,” which brought him a second Pulitzer Prize, left Nicholas Kristof wondering and wanting. The world’s reaction to Darfur, in his mind, did not match the tragedy at hand or the moral responsibility it should have engendered. He wanted to understand the fact — as I’ve pondered with many guests on this program across the years — that horrific images and facts are as likely to paralyze and overwhelm as to mobilize us.

And so he started reading research on brain science and the biological basis for compassion, to explore what makes the difference between moral paralysis and compassionate mobilization. We are hard-wired as humans, it seems, to respond powerfully to a single individual’s story and face. But add a second face, and that response diminishes. Add facts, and multiply that story by hundreds or millions, and empathy withers altogether.

Nicholas Kristof reframed his journalistic approach accordingly. It is fascinating to hear him talk about this, and about his own enduring worries about its manipulative connotations. He works to balance the riveting story with the big picture. An empathetic response to a single human story, he’s also learned by way of science and his own experience, can become a portal to a larger awareness. Facts and context can then begin to play a meaningful supporting role.

In the early 2000s, I felt that Nicholas Kristof was simplistic about religion too. Granted, most Western journalists were on a new kind of learning curve with regard to religion. Over the years, I have been deeply impressed by his unusual willingness to learn in public — to admit that he did not understand something, to publish his surprise and self-reversals. He’s gained a very complex and contradictory view of religion as a force in the world — capable of nurturing the worst of violence and the best of care.

He also offers a penetrating view of the self-defeating liberal-conservative/secular-religious divide on global issues as in our domestic political life. He is one of the voices waking up the world to the global scourge of sex trafficking. He believes that this will ultimately galvanize the moral consciousness of this century as slavery galvanized the 19th century. But he is watching with dismay as, for now, the two most effective activists on this issue — liberal feminists and conservative Christians — cannot agree on a shared vocabulary for describing the problem, much less join their energies.

We spend a lot of words these days on the way journalism is changing — usually with an eye to the technological and financial pressures that are changing it. Nicholas Kristof embodies deep cultural shifts that are also transforming journalism as we have known it. His journalism is a new paradigm, I think, one I’m now grateful for. I’ll call it journalism as a humanitarian art. And I look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve.


Online Initiative Enriches Study of Sacred Texts and Deepens News Coverage

by Matthew L. Skinner and Joshua M. Z. Stanton, guest contributors

Exploring the ChurchPhoto by Trey Ratcliff/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0

Picture this: an Iraqi reporter becomes interested in the work of a Jewish student in Israel after reading an article about Jewish-Muslim relations in medieval Spain that the student published online. The reporter contacts the student and interviews him about future prospects for Jewish-Muslim coexistence.

As the student in this story and co-author of this article, Joshua Stanton knows first-hand how technology is reshaping the way people of different religions interact. To start with, he and the Iraqi reporter would never have connected without the Internet, which enabled them to bypass regional politics and borders.

Yet the Internet’s potential can yield various outcomes. Despite our increased connectivity, people of different faith traditions remain all too likely to talk past one another. Just look at the comments section of any online news article.

The Internet also allows people to perpetuate longstanding arguments over the most central of religious identifiers: sacred texts and the figures within them. Which son was Abraham prepared to sacrifice — Isaac, a central figure in the Jewish and Christian traditions, or Ishmael, whose story is central to Muslims? Did Isaiah predict the birth of Jesus in the Hebrew Bible? And of course, who was the religious prophet of ultimate importance? Recycled ignorance and nasty disagreements over disparate prophetic texts often leave online dialoguers depleted and demoralized.

The key, it would seem, is not whitewashing the differences that exist between religions and their sacred texts but clarifying them and using them as a basis for informed discourse online.

People of faith do well to read their own sacred texts with curiosity about how these writings influence their understanding of what a life faithfully lived looks like. Yet we also become more responsible and more informed practitioners when we allow those outside our traditions to read along with us, over our shoulders. Too many people have not looked seriously at other traditions’ texts. And too many interpreters do not interpret in ways that invite “outsiders” into the conversation.

For example, Muslims and Jews may know that the Torah and the Qur’an differ over which son God called Abraham to sacrifice — Isaac or Ishmael. But do they know that some rabbinic commentaries affirm the Qur’anic position that the events must have taken place in a dream? And have Christians considered how such ideas might inform their interpretations of the story that view it as foreshadowing Jesus’ obedience and death? Without opportunities for more public, hospitable investigations of one another’s scriptural traditions, Jews, Christians and Muslims might simply reassert old stereotypes, even as their leaders and scholars model isolationism.

Technology allows people to learn about sacred texts, their origins, their histories of interpretation and their ongoing relevance from informed leaders and scholars they would not otherwise be able to learn from.

ON Scripture, a new initiative launched by Odyssey Networks, a multi-faith media coalition, in collaboration with the major online news site, The Huffington Post, aims to create this sort of online space. It presently offers resources focused on the study of Christian scripture, but is poised to launch ON Torah in the coming months, which will focus exclusively on sacred Jewish texts. Odyssey Networks also hopes to launch ON Quran in order to highlight the rich textual traditions of Islam and thus enable all three Abrahamic traditions to have centres of text study housed on the same website, making it easier for individuals to find out information about all three faiths.

While initially operating independently, the weekly online articles from ON Scripture about the Torah and the Christian Bible offer interpretations that religious leaders put forth about their own tradition’s sacred texts, guided by the traditional cycle of scriptural reading of that particular tradition.

In time, we hope to expand the conversations, perhaps having rabbis, pastors and imams in dialogue with each other in videos that broadcast respectful dialogue about scriptural texts, even in light of real differences. While the forum is currently in English, it may come to span multiple languages, bringing people of faith from across the globe into constructive dialogue aided by cutting-edge translation technology.

As people of faith open their scriptures in full public view, they open themselves to grow in mutual understanding and appreciation of how ancient scriptures continue to shape and motivate people of faith. Even in disagreement, there can be understanding.

Matthew SkinnerMatthew L. Skinner is Associate Professor of the New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and Founding Editor of ON Scripture.

Joshua StantonJoshua M. Z. Stanton is Founding Co-Editor of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and of ON Torah, as well as a Schusterman Rabbinical Fellow at Hebrew Union College.

A version of this article was published by the Common Ground News Service on November 8, 2011. Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Ritual sanctification is assumed to take place at the moment when questionably obtained information passes into the hands of a reporter. This is a little facile. … Journalists are indispensably well positioned to expose abuses of power, but a press pass is not a moral unlimited-ride card. If the scandal caused journalists to reflect upon their own power, and their capacity to abuse that power, it would be a good thing.

Nicholas Lemann makes some astute observations and smart points in The New Yorker's Comments section.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor


A few recent newsgames do something curious: They hide basic trivia questions under a layer of moral decision-making. It is often assumed that taking a tired design and adding some nominal amount of ethical choice — usually in the form of binary story branches or good/neutral/evil alignment meters — will somehow reinvigorate and edify its players.

But there’s a serious problem with this easy inclusion of moral choice: Even a simple move to branch out from the standard structure of a game results in an exponential need for more content. And in a genre where budgets are often tight, cuts will likely need to be made as a result. This means less thought goes into the causal chain between choice and consequence, undercutting the very goals that the inclusion of the simple moral system hoped to attain. A half-baked moral system can have the opposite effect on people’s reasoning, and can even become confounding.


Simon Ferrari, from "When Moral Systems Miss the Point in Newsgames"

The 2010 Knight News Challenge winner’s post on MediaShift’s Idea Lab blog is a smart assessment of the pitfalls of applying morality or ethical veneers to news quizzes and interactive games. His premise, which ought to be deliberated upon more by reporters and producers, could just as well be applied to all forms of journalistic output too.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor


Positive Religion News That Is Still Newsworthy

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Personal MinistryPersonal ministry by bicycle. (photo: waferboard/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

Respected theologian Martin Marty has a winning article highlighting a mainstream news story that has finally gotten religion reporting right. The New York Times' recent profile of a Baptist couple who spend their retirement doing disaster relief work stood out as a “too-rare” kind of reporting on religious people and topics as Martin Marty writes:

"We have to wear virtual sunglasses when we do our too-rare Sightings of positive religion news in public media, so bright are these exceptions to the down and depressing accounts. Since most religious people and those who benefit from their doings see and experience more bright sides than down sides, we ask: is there something wrong with those who report and publish or broadcast the depressing and scandalous stories?"

He argues that there is double standard for religion reporting, in that such stories get boxed into one category or another:

"(I) have come up with a formula: if religion is covered as news, the bad stuff will predominate; if it appears as features, the good side gets a chance to show."

It would be a delicate balancing act to blend news reporting with the best aspects of features reporting:

"News waits for someone to embezzle or kill or seduce another in the name of God. Features allows for creative reporters to get up close to believing and behaving people who use their imagination, faith, energy, and communal spirit to serve others."

He is praising an unusual gift for readers, the opportunity to learn the language and practices of other faith traditions in a tight news cycle. After many years of working in a daily newsroom, I know that beast of news production has an endless appetite. And with dwindling resources, those thoughtful features are getting harder and harder to cultivate in that environment.

Eager as I am to break a good story, I’d have wrestled long and hard about being first to publish this information. Isn’t it a private matter in the life of a man who is no longer a public official?

Arnold SchwarzeneggerConor Friedersdorf

The associate editor at The Atlantic deliberates on the Los Angeles Times decision to be the first to publish the story about Arnold Schwarzenegger fathering a child with a household staffer ten years ago.

Is it a private matter? Would you have published the story?

About the image: Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at a lighting ceremony at the California capitol building in 2008. (photo: Lon R. Fong/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor


USC Journalism Students Look at Religion, Ethnicity, and Coexistence in Israel’s Villages, Towns and Cities

by Diane Winston, special contributor

I teach at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Among my course offerings is religion coverage, an increasingly marginalized beat within a progressively problem-ridden industry.

Although religion is a key element in reporting on politics, culture, and society, cash-strapped news outlets are cutting back specialty beats to save money. Even more troublesome, legacy news jobs are fewer than ever, the news hole is shrinking, and the favored style of story telling is sensational, simplistic, and conflict-driven. Nevertheless, my goals remain the same: helping students to write clearly, think critically, and probe religion’s role in social and political trends and events.

For the last two years, I’ve pursued those goals by focusing on the fault-lines in the coverage of global religion. Using the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a starting point, I’ve asked students to find alternative frames for the conflict along with new voices to lift up and unsung stories to tell.

In 2010, students explored the nexus of religion, politics and gender in Israel and the West Bank. In 2011, the class will look at religion, ethnicity, and coexistence In Israel’s Arab villages, mixed towns and Jewish-majority cities. Students report across multimedia platforms with the goal of seeing their work in outlets ranging from the Washington Post to Global Post.

This class’ 13 graduate students represent a cross-section of races, religions, regions, and ethnicities. Some are in their 20s; others in their 30s. Many have traveled widely, but only one has visited Israel. They’re all interested in politics and international relations and see religion as an integral part of coverage.

Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.

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