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Journalists Honored for In-Depth Reporting

August 10, 2006

Contact: Steve Herrick

Charles A. Radin of The Boston Globe, Jean Gordon of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and Naomi Schaefer Riley of The Wall Street Journal won the 2006 American Academy of Religion Awards for Best In-Depth Reporting on Religion.

Radin won the contest for journalists at news outlets with more than 100,000 circulation or on the web; Gordon for journalists at news outlets with less than 100,000 circulation; and Riley for opinion writing. The awards recognize "well-researched and well-written newswriting that enhances the public understanding of religion," said John R. Fitzmier, AAR Executive Director.

Radin submitted stories on Christian and Jewish debates over gay clergy, changes in the celebration of Hanukkah, and a three-part series on moderate Muslims in countries ranging from Indonesia and Malaysia to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. "The writer takes his readers inside mosques, coffee houses and homes from Egypt to Southeast Asia. These Muslims voice no passion to support global jihad, to follow the Qur’an literally or veil and cloister their women, something that is overlooked in some stories on Muslims outside the US," said one judge. Another judge called the series "a remarkable piece of work."

Gordon submitted stories on adult bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah classes, racial diversity in Mormonism, the growth of Christian Orthodox churches in the South, the shortage of Catholic priests in the US and its effect on local communities, and the role religious beliefs play in the economy, which included an in-depth look at economists who pursue the economic study of religion. Commented one judge, "The writer’s stories display a rare and powerful grasp of the diversity and nuances in the American religious scene .... Her reporting on the lived religion of multiple communities stands out for its clear writing, perceptiveness, and originality."

Riley submitted opinion articles discussing religious identity at a prominent university, 350 years of Jewish life in America, Christian schools and accreditation difficulties, faith-based groups’ support of immigration reform, and Conservative Judaism and a campaign to convert the non-Jewish spouses of Jews. One judge commented, "The writer has an elegant style that has used history, facts, and … scholarship to support the editorial’s argument. The editorials show original reporting and are well designed."

Robert Sibley of the Ottawa Citizen placed second in the contest for news outlets with more than 100,000 circulation. "In a beautifully written, heartfelt series the writer transports readers along a 700-mile pilgrimage … deep into the heart of Japan’s Buddhist faith, symbolism and cultural traditions, a world that few North American newspapers present to their readers," noted one judge.

Brett Buckner of The Anniston Star in Anniston, Ala., won second place in the contest for news outlets with less than 100,000 circulation. One judge called his work, "a very informative set of articles with a strong emphasis on history and scholarly interpretation of religious topics. Strong reporting as well. The writer has done the homework."

Tracey O’Shaughnessy of the Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn., placed second in this year’s opinion-writing contest. "This series of articles stands out for its popular style in opinion writing and the writer’s familiarity with theological and historical topics. The op-eds are enjoyable to read, and sometimes surprising," noted one judge.

John Blake of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution placed third in the contest for news outlets with more than 100,000 circulation. One judge commented, "This reporter used a lot of journalistic tools to cover the beat—and used them well. The writer’s in-depth investigative piece was ... well-documented."

Terri Jo Ryan of the Waco Tribune-Herald in Waco, Texas, placed third in the contest for news outlets with less than 100,000 circulation. "This writer has given us five fascinating cameos, usually focusing on a particular scholar’s work in ways that tell a story and explain an interesting aspect of history," remarked one judge.

Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun placed third in this year’s opinion-writing contest. One judge said of his work, "The writer takes us on an extensive journey into world religions and multiculturalism, and the local applications and first person accounts add to the reporting, which is well written and researched."

Each contestant submitted five articles published in North America during 2005. Names of contestants and their news outlets were removed from submissions prior to judging. Each of the first-place winners receives $1,000.

The judges for the contest for news outlets with over 100,000 circulation included Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College and a former Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist for Newsday, and Patricia Rice, freelance journalist and former religion reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The judges for the contest for news outlets with less than 100,000 circulation and for the opinion-writing contest included Gayle White, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Larry Witham, author and former religion reporter for the Washington Times. Shaun Casey, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, served as the third judge on all three contests. Casey is a member of the AAR Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion.

Founded in 1909, the American Academy of Religion promotes academic research, publishing, and teaching about religion. The association has 10,000 members in some 2,000 schools, colleges, and universities throughout North America and abroad.

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