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AAR Announces Winners of 2019 Best In-Depth Newswriting on Religion Contest

July 31, 2019
Contact: Marion Pierre



Freelance writer Ian Johnson, placed first in the 2019 American Academy of Religion (AAR) Best In-Depth Newswriting on Religion contest; Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, staff writer for Global Sisters Report, placed second; and Joshua J. McElwee, Vatican correspondent for National Catholic Reporter, placed third.
“The AAR is pleased to recognize these journalists whose news reporting includes well-written, diverse and engaging topics,” said Alice Hunt, Executive Director of the AAR.  “The news articles address some of the prominent religion news stories of 2018 that not only inform but also enhance the public understanding of religion,” Hunt added.   

Ian Johnson submitted articles that address an unfettered interest in religion in China that speaks to the relationship between religion, politics, and society, including "#MeToo in the Monastery," "10 Million Catholics in China Face Storm They Can’t Control," and "The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam." Jurors described this work as a “deep-dive series of articles with an excellent mix of journalism and public scholarship.” The winning series “also provides new and relevant information to today's political and religious debates and is informed by scholarship that the public sometimes has a hard time accessing,” cited the jurors.

The collection of articles put forward by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins addresses the diversity of religious and human experiences. It covers stories that “often aren’t provided the kind of treatment they deserve—black spirituality among the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the plight of refugees, and Ferguson many years later,” noted jurors. Her articles included "First black sisters pioneered black spirituality in Catholic Church," "Seeking Refuge: As resettlement agency in Kansas closes, other doors open," and "Michael Brown's death still galvanizes anti-racism efforts in Ferguson." Jurors noted that the series “highlights how people in adverse circumstances can often discover the best in themselves and in others by summoning their highest religious ideals.”

Jurors said the news stories submitted by Joshua J. McElwee were “really strong reporting on what is considered one of the biggest religion stories of 2018 by someone who understands the Catholic church well.” Three of his five articles include "Exclusive: Former papal abuse commissioners want re-evaluation of group," "Bishops' prosecutions may point to new phase in church's sex abuse crisis," and "Vatican appears likely to empower archbishops on abuse claims against bishops." “This is a great collection of pertinent information whereby if you weren't well read on the topic you would feel better informed after reading it all,” commented the jurors.     

Each journalist submitted three to five articles published in 2018. Prior to judging, journalist names and all identifying and media outlet information were removed. The first-place winner receives $1,000; second-place, $500; and third-place, $250, which will be awarded at the AAR’s Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA, during the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion (CPUR) session on November 23, 2019.

The jury included Asma Afsaruddin, professor, Indiana University Bloomington and member of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion (CPUR); Jaweed Kaleem, national race and justice correspondent, Los Angeles Times; and Liz Kineke, producer, CBS Culture and Religion News.

Founded in 1909, the AAR is the world’s largest association of religion scholars with some 8,000 members in North America and abroad. The mission of the AAR is to foster excellence in the academic study of religion and enhance the public understanding of religion.