Course Title: J-348 Religion Reporting & Writing
(3 hours credit)
|Edmund B. Lambeth
Instructor: Professor Emeritus Edmund B. Lambeth
Winter Semester 2004, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:304:45 p.m.
Neff 27, School of Journalism
Dr. Edmund B. Lambeth, Professor Emeritus
Room 26-A, Walter Williams Hall
School of Journalism, 9th & Elm Streets
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
573-882-2831 (O) 573-445-3595 (H)
Seminar in religion reporting and writing. The course also examines the role
of religion journalism in covering faith, public life, and culture. Prerequisite:
J-306 or its equivalent in professional writing experience and consent of the
instructor. [Note: If you have not already pre-registered, contact Professor
Lambeth or Denise Meyers in the Editorial Department Office, 181 Gannett.]
Whatever else it did, September 11, 2001 brought religion to the front
pages of newspapers and magazines and to the top side of radio and TV
news programs. It began to reverse an American journalistic tradition
of neglecting stories of religion and of the spiritual journeys of both
individuals and groups. In short, 9/11 brought the world of religion
and values more sharply into focus as a major element of American culture
and as a new area of challenge to American journalism.
This newly approved,
non-fiction writing course gives J-School students and
others outside the school with appropriate writing skills and interest
the opportunity to try their hand at an emerging and important venue
of non-fiction writing. The goal is not necessarily to recruit seminar
members into religion journalism but to equip them to communicate well
on a subject of growing importance. For journalism students, the prerequisite
is Reporting J-306 or the equivalent in experience. Students outside journalism
with comparable preparation may enroll with the permission of the instructor.
J-348 will be taught as a small seminar in reporting and writing. Participants
may produce articles on such topics as religion and public life; profiles
of men and women active in their faith communities; reportage on emerging
cross-cultural issues related to religion; narratives of the spiritual
journeys of individuals and groups; background articles on faith and
values in the news; and timely features on ethical issues within congregations,
denominations, or public arenas. Special attention also will be paid
to the increasing religious and associated cultural diversity in North
Subjects covered in seminar sessions will include how to originate
story ideas, useful web sites on religion and religion journalism; developing
sensitivity to the religious and cultural language of different traditions;
and generating news and background sources. Students also will be given
access to the work of distinguished religion journalists whose articles
and broadcasts have won awards by the Religion
Newswriters Association and the American
Academy of Religion. Seminar participants will be encouraged
to interview these nationally recognized writers and share their
insights with student colleagues and MU faculty members. An emphasis
will be placed on one-to-one dialogue with a teacher-editor. Where
appropriate, there also will be a working relationship with MU’s
Center for Religion, the Professions, and the Public.
William F. May, Beleaguered Rulers: The Public Obligation of the Professional (Louisville & London:
Westminster John Knox Press, 2001). Available at the MU Book Store, Brady Commons.
Journalism Library Reserve Text
Judith M. Buddenbaum, Reporting News about Religion: An Introduction for Journalists (Ames:
Iowa State University Press, 1998). Note: EBL has purchased three personal copies
of this book and put them on closed reserve in the Journalism Library. A copy
may be checked out only for a two-hour period or overnight at the end of the
day. The book is intended as a background resource to help you navigate areas
of religion and recommended best practices of journalism. Its chapters, listed
below, give you a sense of how it can be useful to you. Consult them as needed.
- Religion in America
- The Role of the First Amendment
- The Varieties of American Religions
- Beliefs & Behaviors
- Organization & Leadership
- Trends in Religion News
- The Audiences for Religion News
- Responses & Responsibility
- Choosing and Using Sources
- Writing Stories
- Improving Religion Reporting
The readings marked by an asterisk (*) are required for all of us in the seminar.
Volunteers are encouraged to read those without an asterisk and are encouraged
to weave them into the discussion and show their relationship to the weekly themes.
Almost all articles in the readings are on the Journalism Library's Electronic
Reserve System (ERES), which can be reached at http://eres.missouri.edu.
Click on "Electronic Reserves and Course Materials." On the next
screen, choose the name of the instructor (Lambeth). The articles are in
alphabetical order. Readings marked as "handouts" in boldface
usually will be photocopied by EBL and given to you in advance of the
class in which they are used.
Web sites containing the articles are provided
wherever possible in the hopefully infrequent
event that the journalism library's ERES
is not "up" or is illegible due
to faint or incomplete scanning.
As a small seminar focused on religion reporting and writing, grading emphasis
is distributed as follows:
- Active and consistent
attendance at twice-weekly seminars
and in scheduled one-to-one working
conversations with the seminar instructor.
Two misses are allowed. (20%)
- Knowledge of and
participation in the weekly readings
and quality of oral contributions to
seminar discussions. Volunteering to
read and report on articles without
an asterisk bolsters performance, including
chapters and sections from the Buddenbaum
resource book. Reports can be made
orally during discussion in class or
completed by one-page, single-page
commentaries placed in my faculty mail
box by the Monday preceding the class
for which they are listed. No late
one-page reports will be accepted. (30%)
- Reporting and
writing performance, reflected in
- the originality
of the reporter's story ideas;
- the development
of those story ideas (and/or
ones suggested by the instructor
and accepted by the reporter);
- the completeness,
accuracy, and quality of written
- and the quality
of re-write response to critiques.
- A story that
is accepted and published by the Missourian or
other outlets is a plus for any J-348
reporter. They add to a student's clip
file and contribute to an institution
that is important to faculty, students,
and the University. (50%)
J-348, like other courses in the School of Journalism, requires that its students
observe the accepted rules of behavior for journalists. We wish to prevent any
instances of plagiarism, conflicts of interest, libel, willful neglect of privacy,
and other breaches of good conduct. Infractions that fall within the University
of Missouri's written standards will be reported to the appropriate campus officer
for possible action
Schedule and readings
Orientation: Introducing Ourselves, Reviewing the Semester
The Contemporary Context of Religion Journalism, Circa 2004
- *David Brooks, "Kicking
the Secularist Habit," Atlantic Monthly, March 2003,
- *Lydia Saad, "Religion
Is Very Important to Majority of Americans," Gallup News Service,
Dec. 5, 2003, 4 pages.
- *Joe Strupp, "Value Judgments: Thirteen famed
journalists discuss the roots of today's ethics crisis
and suggest a few solutions for the future," Editor & Publisher,
June 9, 2003, pp. 10-12, 21-22.
- *Carol Zaleski, "Mr. Rogers," a Faith Matters
column, Christian Century, Apr. 19, 2003, p. 35.
- Larry Witham, "Immigration changes the face of
U. S. religion," Third of a three-part series, Washington Times,
2000, reprinted in The Templeton Award for Religion Reporting, 2002,
Reprinted by the Religion Newswriters Association, with permission by
the Washington Times. Handout. 8 small pages.
- DO: Come
with questions and reflections on the meaning and implications of the
readings for religion reporting and writing. For example, What does "Mr. Rogers" have
to teach us, if anything, about the practice of journalism? What
does the value judgment dialogue in E. & P. have
to do with the religion journalism specialty? Etc.
What do the professions profess? Practice? How are we different from barbers,
tinkers, or circus barkers?
DO: Identify the key arguments of May's chapters.
Relate them to one or more of the readings we did in our first week. What
questions or reservations do you have about his arguments? Based on what
you've read, done or thought about religion journalism, what kind of stories
do you see as needed to fulfill the professional obligations that May and
you have in mind?
- William F. May, Preface and Introduction to Beleaguered
Rulers: The Public Obligation of the Professional, pp. 1-22, and
Chapter 6, "Media Professionals (and Celebrities), Unordained
Teaching Authorities," pp. 193-212.
What is good religion reporting and writing?
- Michael Paulson, "On Ash Wednesday, A Wider Observance," Boston
Globe, February 28, 2001, 3 pages.
- *Peter Smith, "Islam in America, Muslims a diverse
presence in Kentucky," plus sidebars, "African Americans, Despite
movement's splits, empowerment still is theme," + "SUFIS, Mystical
tradition's outlook strikes a chord with converts," + "SHIITES,
Differences with Sunnis matter little at center,"
+3 INFORMATIONAL GRAPHICS, "Five Pillars of Islam" + "Six
core beliefs" + "Glossary,"
all in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Nov. 28, 2001.
- *Beth McMurtrie, "For many Muslim students, College
Is a Balancing Act; Campus life consists of frequent conflicts and occasional
compromises with secular culture," Chronicle of Higher Education,
Nov. 9, 2001, 9 pages.
- *Beth McMurtrie, "Crusading for Christ amid Keg
Parties and Secularism,"
May 18, 2001, Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 pages.
- *Jane Lampman, "Where are the young clergy?" Christian
Science Monitor, Features & Ideas Section, July 19, 2001. 5
- Deborah Caldwell, of Belieftnet.com, "If
Luther Had E-Mail," May 16, 2002, 3 pages.
- *Mike McManus, "Jewish Study Bible a Great Hannukkah
Gift," Commentary Section, The Birmingham (AL) News, p. 4-C. Handout.
- *John Dart, "Simpsons
Have Soul," Christian Century, in the Jan. 23, 2001
issue, 6 pages.
DO: On Feb. 3 we will discuss the strengths
and weaknesses of the stories above. Each person will be asked to be a lead
discussant to one or two of the articles above. We'll also explore what story
ideas these readings trigger for development in J-348. On Thursday, Feb.
5, EBL will bring to class a number of specific story ideas for discussion.
We'll also make appointments for individual discussions on Feb. 10 and Feb.
Individual discussions with EBL regarding story ideas for J-348. Meet in EBL's
office. Please be on time.
Building Competencies in Religion Reporting and Writing
- *Deborah Caldwell, "Confessions
(and Counsel) of a Religion Writer," Poynter Reports Online,
May 6, 2003, 3 pages.
- *Diane Connolly, Religion Link, "Rediscovering
Religion, The Faith Connection," Poynter Reports Online, 7
- *Alicia Shepard, "The Media Get Religion," American
Journalism Review, December 1995, pp. 19-25.
- *Peter Steinfels, "Constraints of the Religion
Reporter, Leading the List Are Breadth of the Beat, Space Limitations,
Lack of Time to Write About Faith of Ordinary People," Nieman
Reports, Summer 1993, pp. 3-5, 55.
- John Dart's the dartboard,
"Religion, media people and issues," a first blogging contribution
by the news editor of the biweekly magazine Christian Century,
- *Joyce Davis, "Covering
Muslims in America," Poynter Reports Online, May 6, 2003,
- *Martin Baron, Editor of The Boston Globe, "How
Multicultural Communities Are Shaping the Future of Journalism," with
Jan Schaffer, Executive Director, Pew Center for Civic Journalism," August
7, 2001, 12 pages. Handout.
DO: Come prepared to discuss these articles
on Feb. 17. On Feb. 19 we will discuss the first story ideas you are developing
for J-348. Completed stories are due in my mail box on Monday, Feb. 23.
|Monday, February 23: First story due
in EBL's faculty mail box by 4 p.m.
Covering the Value Dimensions of Public Life: What Can It Mean to the Practice
of a Reporter with Religious Beliefs?
- Michael Burden and Joel Currier, "Kmart
Closing, February Shutdown clears way for Best Buy and Hobby Lobby;
neighbors hope for revitalized shopping center," Columbia
Missourian, December 5, 2003, p. 1, 10-A.
- *E. Katherine Underwood, "Malpractice
deaths increase," Columbia Missourian, Dec. 5, 2003,
- *Steve Lohr, "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" New
York Times, News of the Week in Review, Section 4, Dec. 7, 2003,
p. 1, 4.
- *May, Chapter 2, "Money and the Professions, Medicine
and the Law," and Chapter 4, "Unacknowledged Public Rulers:
Corporate Executives," in Beleaguered Rulers, pp. 27-50 and
pp. 129-160, respectively.
- Charles Layton, "News
Blackout," a critique of news coverage of the Federal Communication
Commission's effort to "loosen the rules limiting the rules of
concentration," and the opposition to such a move American
Journalism Review, December 2003/January 2004, pp. 18-31.
DO: Using one or the other of May's chapters
as background, outline how you might do an in-depth local story on a) Wal-Mart's
plans for a second Super Store in Columbia; or b) a sequel to the Kmart/Best
Buy/Hobby Lobby news; or a follow-up to the Underwood story on the increase
in death-related malpractice cases. Or, how and why might you wish to develop
an article for a hypothetical Missouri Journalism Review on how well the
media concentration issue was covered in the Show-Me state. This week's "do" is
intended to explore whether and, if so, how religious beliefs can legitimately
inform the moral dimension of journalistic practice in the secular arena.
Religion and Spirituality, The Emergence of a Journalistic Genre?
- *May, Chapter 7, "Ministers, Ordained to What
Public Purpose?" in Beleaguered Rulers, pp. 213-241.
- *Beverly Bartlett, "Taking
Faith to Higher Level: High School Round Table Members Say Their Beliefs
are Based on a Blend of Many Religions," Louisville (KY)
Courier-Journal, Roundtable is a yearly tradition since 1983, Dec.
7, 2003, 9 pages.
- *William D. Dean, "Examine
spiritual culture," Denver Post, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003,
- Carl Raschke, "Intolerance
part of free society," Denver Post, Sunday, Nov. 16,
DO: Reflect on the readings above and
come to class with an idea for a "spiritual journey story"
that might be of general interest to the
citizens of Columbia and/or the state of
Popular Culture, Faith Traditions, and Religious Practice
- *Bill Moyers, "America's Religious Mosaic," USA
Weekend, Oct. 11-13, 1996, pp. 4-6.
- *Stewart M. Hoover, "Religion
in the Media Age," Denver Post, Nov. 20, 2003 at http://www.denverpost.com,
- *Gene Edward Veith, Culture Beat, "Gods
and country, America's civil religion is becoming polytheistic,
raising the question: Should we prefer a naked public square to the
pagan alternative?" World, Oct. 4, 2003, p. 12. Handout.
- *William Harms, University of Chicago Chronicle, NORC
survey finds Americans practice what they are preached," Vol.
22, No. 20, Aug. 14, 2003, 3 pages.
- *Bernadette Murphy,
"How American culture influences worship,"
a book review of Alan Wolfe's The Transformation of American Religion:
How We Actually Live Our Faith (Free Press, 310 pages) from the Los
Angeles Times, 3 pages.
- Michael Medved, "Faith-film interchange can break
down barriers," USA Today, Thursday, September 25, 2003,
DO: Be prepared to compare the theme of Murphy's
review of Alan Wolfe's book with the empirical data summarized in Harms'
article. What contradictions, if any, do you find? Bring to class a story
idea that you think might be developed by you and/or a colleague in J-348.
Monday, March 15: Second story due in
EBL's mail box by 4 p.m.
March 16-18: Individual Interviews with
EBL; appointments arranged by March 9-11.
March 20-28: Spring Break
March 30-April 1
Religion, the Professions and the Public
*Explore the web site of MU's Center for Religion, the Professions, and the
Public (http://rpp.missouri.edu) and
consider how it might be even more helpful to one or more of the constituencies
it seeks to reach and serve. Bring suggestions for it to class for discussion.
*May, Chapter 8, "Professors, Credentialed
for What?" in Beleaguered Rulers,
DO: Use the
web sites provided at the end of the J-348
reading list to identify one article that
you think should be added to the reading
list of one of the nine professional disciplines
represented in MU's Center for Religion,
the Professions and the Public.
April 3: Third story due
in EBL's mail box by 4 p.m.
Religion, Politics and Culture
- *May, Chapter 5, "Politics,
the Despised Profession," Beleaguered
Rulers, pp. 161-190, or Chapter
"Adversarialism in America and
- *M. A. Muqtedar Kahn,
Chapter 1, "Islam in America," Chapter
2, "American Muslims and American
in American Muslims: Bridging Freedom
and Faith (Beltsville: Amana Publications,
2002), pp. 25-45.
- *The IRE Journal,
Vol. 26, No. 3, May-June 2003, pp.
22-31: Meade Jorgensen, Dateline
"PRIEST SCANDAL, Hidden cameras
help, Hidden records frustrate probe
pp. 22, 26; Jill Lawrence, USA Today,
"CITY PORTRAIT, Role of Religion
starkly different in town Profiles," pp.
23, 27-28; Tom Merriman, WJW-Cleveland, "IMAM
DO: In your
hypothetical role as an arranger of a joint
visit by May and Kahn to a J-348 class,
what would be the questions that you would
ask them to a address…and why those questions?
Write them out and bring them to class.
Include in your questions at least one
topic related to American coverage of religion
in the 2004 presidential campaign.
6-9: Individual interviews
with EBL regarding your final
story. Make appointments by April
April 13-15: To
April 20-21: To
April 27-29: To
For more information
about the course, contact Professor Emeritus
Ed Lambeth at (573) 445-3595 or email@example.com.