The Pew Program on
Religion and the News Media
In December, 1997 the Pew Charitable Trusts
awarded the Center an $895,000 grant to fund a program to examine how the broadcast and
print media cover the religious dimensions of the news. In an era when scholars and
journalists are increasingly aware of the persistent and multi-dimensional character of
religion, this pioneering program was designed to help improve coverage and public
understanding by building bridges between academic and journalistic understandings of
religion and by fostering new networks of relationships between the academic and
Through conferences and publications, the Pew Program on Religion
and the News Media addressed not only how religion itself is covered, but also how
religious values and issues affect politics, society, and journalism.
The three-and-one-half year program conducted three educational projects for
journalists and academics that addressed specific journalistic coverage areas. By
design, the Pew Program focused not on the religion beat per se, but rather
on illuminating important--and often poorly understood--religious dimensions of news
covered on other beats.
The Center convened three groups of academic specialists to spend a year preparing
and then presenting a conference for journalists involved in a particular
beat. In 1998-1999 the Pew Program dealt with religion and American politics, in 1999-2000
religion on the foreign desk, and in 2000-2001 religion and urban affairs and social
services. Following each of these conferences the Center published the conference
essays in book form.
The Pew Program also supported a thrice-yearly publication called Religion
in the News (which is currently receiving ongoing
support, beyond the Pew Program grant, from the Pew Charitable Trusts
and from the Lilly Endowment). While the
primary audience for Religion in the News is working journalists, particularly
editors and news managers, it is intended to interest a wide range of readers, including
officials of religious organizations, academics, and others in the non-profit sector.