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AAR Honors Journalists for In-Depth Reporting on Religion

June 17, 2015

Contact: Susan Snider

Elizabeth Dias of Time placed first in the 2015 American Academy of Religion Award for Best In-Depth Newswriting on Religion. Daniel Burke of CNN placed second, and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald placed third.

“We’re very pleased to announce the winners of our annual journalism award that recognizes well-researched writing on religion,” said Jack Fitzmier, AAR Executive Director. With some 9,000 members in North America and abroad, the AAR is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion.

Dias, a religion and politics correspondent for Time magazine, won first place. Her submission included articles about preacher and best-selling author Barbara Brown Taylor; the faith of Hillary Clinton; lawyers fighting for religious freedom before the Supreme Court; and the impact of the Ebola outbreak on a Catholic bishop in Liberia. “The Barbara Brown Taylor profile is really excellent, and the whole package has quite a range of subjects, all handled deftly and with great authority,” said one judge, praising the “consistent quality” of Dias’s work.

Burke, the religion editor at CNN, placed second. His submission included articles on the Pope Francis effect; Muslims working in Hollywood; missionaries who put themselves in harm’s way; changes to Catholic teaching on the modern family; and the history behind Santa Claus. “Quite a diverse array of subjects,” remarked one judge, with “sprightly writing . . . tons of reporting . . . lots of experts.”

Ovalle, a reporter for the Miami Herald, placed third. He submitted articles on the Yoruba religion in Nigeria and its evolution in the Americas. This writer “gets enormous credit for tackling a new subject (Santería/Lukumi) that is rarely featured by religion reporters, and taking the time to explore how this faith has evolved and how it is changing,” commented a judge.

Thirty-two journalists entered articles published in calendar year 2014 for the 2015 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.

The judges were Cathleen Falsani, senior editor of Religion Dispatches; Michael Paulson, theater reporter, and former religion reporter, for the New York Times; and Josef Sorett, assistant professor of religion and African-American studies at Columbia University, and a member of the AAR's Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion.