Balance & fairness

Do religion reporters face issues of balance and fairness that are different from other beats? By Kim Sue Lia Perkes Freelance Writer For religion reporters, the issue of balance is often more complicated than other beats because stories that deal with theology are about beliefs and not proven facts. So how does one discern what […]

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Highly charged services

What are some helpful hints on covering highly charged religious services, especially ones that seem to defy rational explanation? By Sandi Dolbee The San Diego Union-Tribune* You walk into the room and the first things you hear are the sounds. People mumbling and wailing, speaking in languages you simply don’t recognize. Others are falling down, […]

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Pulpit politics

What may houses of worship do to advance political causes or candidates? By Ira Rifkin Freelance Writer The Church at Pierce Creek was a non-denominational, conservative Protestant congregation outside Binghamton, N.Y., until the Internal Revenue Service revoked its tax-exempt status for sponsoring a 1992 newspaper ad attacking then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s stands on abortion and […]

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Personal biases

How can I interview and write about religions I don’t believe in? By Jeffery Sheler U.S. News & World Report* This, I think, raises a basic question of professional ethics every reporter faces regardless of beat. As most of us learned in J-school, standard journalism ethics require that, in reporting and writing the news (as […]

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Loaded language

When is it appropriate to use the words “fundamentalist” and “cult?” What are other terms with which I must be careful? By Don Lattin The San Francisco Chronicle* CULT is a word that should be used with care. Some of its dictionary definitions are value neutral, with such meanings as “formal religious veneration,” such as […]

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Finding experts

How do I find an expert on a particular religion or theological issue? By Adelle Banks Religion News Service Face it now: You will never know everything about religion. The key as a reporter is to learn whom you should know who could ably explain various aspects of the faith groups you cover. At a […]

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Church & state

What are the laws regarding how churches and religious institutions comply with government guidelines? By Charles Austin The Record* Because the phrase, “freedom of religion,” is a beloved mantra of American democracy, the relationship between religion and civil authority is one of the most complicated and misunderstood aspects of modern life. In fact, religion in […]

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Revealing your religion

When do you reveal your religion to sources? By Julia Lieblich Chicago Tribune* Several years ago, I spent time with a Jehovah’s Witness family in Tennessee, hanging out with a mother and her children during home schooling, church services and door-to-door proselytizing. I didn’t tell the family about my faith, and I was relieved the […]

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Controversial stories

Do editors only want controversial religion stories? By David Gibson The Star-Ledger* Most editors are somewhat schizoid when it comes to religion coverage. They want Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah stories one day. Then the next day they want the embezzling priest nabbed in a sex scandal. Why? Because “crime” stories have a built-in immunity […]

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