Center hosts national meeting on religion, journalism, and international affairs


Sarah Lords

“Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” These words, attributed to former Washington Post publisher Philip L. Graham, point to the significant role that journalism plays in society, a role that has become all the more complicated by new media platforms.

How do journalistic and “journalistic-like” institutions shape narratives about unfolding national and international issues? Why  do some stories make it “above the fold” while others are relegated to the back page? How does religion influence international affairs? And what training do journalists have in understanding how religion works in domains such as conflict and peace, environment and sustainability, economics and development, health and education, law and human rights, migration and humanitarianism? 

With its cutting edge work on issues such as these and its on-going partnership with the Cronkite School, the Center was selected to host the annual symposium for the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism, and International Affairs (RJIA). The symposium, held at Columbia in previous years, brought together fellows from the RJIA program and connected them with internationally renowned journalists, public policy experts, and thought leaders from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Annenberg School and elsewhere.

The symposium featured nationally recognized journalists, including Leila Fadel (NPR), Bob Smietana (Religion News Service), Liz Kinecke (CBS News), Jaweed Kaleem (Los Angeles Times), and Kelsey Dallas (Deseret News). Local journalists Ted Simons (Arizona PBS) and Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) were also on hand, as were scholars from academic disciplines ranging from anthropology to philosophy, religious studies to media studies. ASU was well represented, including John Carlson and Anand Gopal from the Center, and Kristin Gilger, William Silcock, and Fernanda Santos from the Cronkite School. 

The three-day symposium allowed participants to share findings from emerging research and provided opportunities for attendees to participate in media engagement “practice sessions,” such as mock television interviews that were evaluated by media relations experts.

In addition to fostering new connections among scholars and journalists, symposium organizers also sought to expand dialogue with the wider public. With that aim in mind, the Center hosted two public events, showcased on the following pages, that welcomed faculty, students and community members into larger conversations about key public policy issues with The Nation’s Ben Ehrenreich and the Washington Post’s Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah.