Stories about race in America lead the 2018 Wilbur Awards

ATLANTA — Days after the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his birthplace of Atlanta, notably the heart of the South with a complicated history of race, equality, and justice, the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) celebrated the winners of the 2018 Wilbur Awards.

RCC announced 22 Wilbur Award winners March 5. The awards honor the creative journalistic excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – in communicating religious, social justice, and political issues, values and themes in culture during 2017.

The evening was hosted by M. Alexis Scott, journalist, political commentator, and Atlanta community leader.

Stories ranging from the treatment and perception of Muslims in America, sanctuary for immigrants, the hypocrisy of religious freedom when not offered entirely to non-Christian faiths, and more provided new insights to viewers and readers on the state of race through the eyes of faith and religion.

BuzzFeed News, Buzzfeed's online journalism portal, won two awards featuring stories about Muslims and their lives in America. “Thank you to RCC for the coolest looking award in journalism,” said Hannah Allum, BuzzFeed News reporter. She continued “thank you to Muslim Americans for inviting me into your homes and sharing your fear, anxiety, and also your resilience.”

Ahmed Ali Akbar, BuzzFeed's host of the “See Something Say Something” podcast, offered a look at the diversity of Muslims dealing with the life challenges that are similar to those in every other walk of life from relationships, dating, human sexuality, and where faith intersects.

The injustices faced in varying communities was also lifted up through Stakes is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America by the Rev. Michael W. Waters. In his acceptance speech, Waters noted that he and his family had recently made the journey to “brutal spaces” of the civil rights movement in hopes that they can be transformed into places of joy and love in honor of the anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. “It has been a sovereign journey, and also a journey of resistance.”

Waters also carved space in his acceptance speech to commemorate the “nine precious souls who were taken from us from Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.”

As the evening progressed, the audience was engaged with highlights of stories that celebrated forgiveness, redemption, peace and justice, love, and mental health in a variety of places and through the lens of very different walks of life.

The 2018 Wilbur Award winners join a particular class of alumni that include names such as Morgan Freeman, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Pauley, Mister Rogers, CBS Sunday Morning, ABC's 20/20, Meet the Press, Vanity Fair, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the New York Times. Each winner is awarded a beautiful stained glass trophy to commemorate their achievement.

2018 Wilbur Award winners (for work produced during 2017)

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES print and online

MAGAZINE ARTICLES print and online



  • Drama
    • A Heart That Forgives, M. Legend Brown, director; Kelly Gay, producer; Ken Jenkins, writer, executive producer, screenwriter; TK Henderson, screenwriter; AHTF Films LLC, Plano, Texas
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • Bending the Arc, Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos, directors; Cori Shepherd Stern, writer; Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern, producers



  • News – network or national syndication (up to 8 min.)
    • A Place at the Table,” Richard Buddenhagen, producer/editor; Nancy Giles, correspondent; Rand Morrison, executive producer; CBS Sunday Morning, CBS News, New York, New York
  • News – network or national syndication (8 min.+)
    • Sanctuary,” Scott Pelley, correspondent; Jeff Fager, executive producer; Oriana Zill de Granados, Michael Rey, Dina Zingaro, and Jorge Garcia, producers; Bill Owens, executive editor; 60 Minutes, CBS News, New York, New York
  • News Story – local or regional
  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • Faith on the Frontlines,” Elizabeth Kineke, producer; Elyse Kaftan, editor; Jennie Kamin, associate producer; CBS Television: Religion and Culture, CBS News, New York, New York
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, Martin Doblmeier, writer/director/producer/narrator; Nathan Dewild, videographer/editor/producer; Anthony Bellissimo, graphics; Jen Quintana and Andrew Finstuen, producers; Journey Films (PBS), Alexandria, Virginia


  • Single program
    • Welcoming the Stranger,” Laura Kwerel, producer; Ruth Morris, guest host/producer; Amber Khan, editor; Maureen Fiedler, host of Interfaith Voices; Interfaith Voices, Washington, D.C.
  • Series of programs (two or more)
    • See Something Say Something: Ramadan Series,” Ahmed Ali Akbar, host; Meg Cramer, editor; Megan Detrie, producer; Agerenesh Ashagre, producer; Eleanor Kagan, director of audio; BuzzFeed News, New York, New York
  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • An American Mosque,” Monique Parsons, reporter; Deborah George, editor; Cate Cahan, WBEZ editor; Derek John, sound designer/producer; Produced independently in conjunction with WBEZ broadcasting, Chicago, Illinois

About the Religion Communicators Council
The Religion Communicators Council (RCC), founded in 1929, is an association of communications professionals who work for and with a diverse group of faith-based organizations in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and development.