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CFP Deadline: Feb. 1, 2019)

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AAR Honors Journalists for Best In-Depth Reporting on Religion

June 26, 2013

Contact: Susan Snider

Jaweed Kaleem of the Huffington Post placed first in the 2013 American Academy of Religion Award for Best In-Depth Newswriting on Religion. Jessica Ravitz of CNN placed second, and G. Jeffrey MacDonald, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, placed third.

“We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s award, which recognizes well-written, well-researched writing on religion,” said Jack Fitzmier, Executive Director of the AAR. Founded in 1909, the AAR is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion.

Thirty-eight journalists submitted articles published in calendar year 2012 for the 2013 contest. The names of the contestants and their media outlets were removed from the submissions prior to judging. The first-place winner receives $1,000; second-place, $500; and third-place, $250.

Kaleem, the national religion reporter for the Huffington Post, took first place in the contest. “On a beat in which many reporters seem to return again and again to the same stories, this reporter found a remarkable number of fresh angles for a strikingly diverse set of subjects, from the plight of non-white Western Buddhists, to the language struggles of second-generation Hispanics in Spanish-language churches, to the challenges facing an effort to retain and/or recruit Jews in a small southern city. Each story is well reported, peopled with excellent real life examples, and informed by insightful experts,” summed up one judge.

Ravitz, a writer and producer at, placed second. One judge praised her “in-depth and up-close” profile of scholar Joanna Brooks, calling it a “fascinating and beautifully told story,” and added that Ravitz’s piece on Newark Mayor Corey Booker’s friendship with a rabbi and a Mormon “is as much of a lark as the setup might suggest.” “Excellent pieces, terrific writing,” said another judge

MacDonald, an author and freelance journalist writing for the Christian Science Monitor, placed third. The judges noted that MacDonald “combines empirical data with thoughtful cultural analysis to shine a light on new trends in American religious life,” spotlighting his “extensive, impressive look at changing religious demographics in New England.”

The judges were Peggy Fletcher Stack, senior religion writer for the Salt Lake Tribune; Michael Paulson, politics and religion editor for the metro section of the New York Times; and Erik Owens, Associate Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and a member of the AAR's Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion.