Religion Communicators Council honors 22 for work during 2018

Wilbur Award winners receive a handcrafted stained-glass trophy and national recognition for their work

CHICAGO — Wilbur Award winners represent a diverse, but exclusive group of communicators who have thoughtfully brought religious issues and spiritual themes into the public discourse.

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) announced 22 Wilbur Award winners April 12 at the annual convention celebrating the professional association’s 90th anniversary. The awards honor excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – for communicating religious issues, values and themes during 2018.

Fr. Jim Gardiner, an experienced communicator from the Catholic Church who understands both ancient liturgy and the demands of the digital age, was host for the awards presentation.

Judges comments on “Deconstructing My Religion,” a television documentary from CBS Religion and Culture, noted “this powerful story needs to be told.” This interfaith special examines what happens when people have doubts about the faith tradition in which they grew up and how sharing personal stories can be a way to heal spiritual trauma.

Images and headlines help tell the story of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper’s compassionate coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue shootings. The Post-Gazette reported the first moments as traumatized survivors emerged from the synagogue through the following days and weeks as the story continued to show the enormity of the crime.

The story of an Indiana tattoo artist, drug addict, PTSD sufferer and unlikely pastor is told in “Making His Mark,” a profile by WTWO TV in Terre Haute for a local news Wilbur. It is the story of an effective religious leader who owns his struggles and doesn’t fit the mold.

A 12-episode series podcast, “Can These Bones: A Faith & Leadership Podcast,” takes its name from the vision of the valley of dry bones found in Ezekiel 37. It has the goal to provide information and hope to Christian leaders who struggle in their own valley of dry bones.

Other Wilbur winners include Vanity Fair, Texas Observer, Religion in Life, Mitch Albom, Jonathan Merritt of the New York Times and others. See complete list below.

The Religion Communicators Council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949, making 2019 the 70th presentation. Secular communicators enter work in seven categories. Juries of media professionals, coordinated by council members across the country, evaluate submissions on content, creativity, impact and excellence in communicating religious values.

The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations, longtime religion council leader and former Presbyterian Church executive.

2019 Wilbur Award winners (for work produced during 2018)

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES print and online

MAGAZINE ARTICLES print and online

  • National or Top 15 metro markets (single article, series of articles, religion page)
    • Pope Versus Pope,” John Cornwell, writer; Vanity Fair, New York, New York
  • Commentary/Blog/Column


  • Fiction
    • “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven,” Mitch Albom, author; Harper, HarperCollins, New York, New York
  • Non-fiction
    • “Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs,” Beth Ricanati, MD, author; She Writes Press, Berkeley, California
  • Non-fiction
    • “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks,” Diana Butler Bass, author; HarperOne, HarperCollins, San Francisco, California


  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • The Secret History of Muslims in the US,” Negin Farsad, Zeyba Rahman, Hussein Rashid, Joshua Seftel, Maria Stanisheva; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Smartypants Pictures & Animadocs, Brooklyn, New York
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • The Gate: Dawn of the Bahá’í Faith,” Steve Sarowitz, executive producer/writer; Bob Hercules, director/producer/writer; Edward A. Price, producer/writer; Adam Mondschein, producer; Spring Green Films, Los Angeles, California



  • Drama
    • Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story,” T.D. Jakes, Derrick Williams, Craig Baumgarten, Toni Braxton, and Judith Verno, executive producers; Larry Rapaport, producer; Vondie Curtis Hall, director; Laura Harrington and Stephen Kay, teleplay; Based on the Book “Prepared For a Purpose” by Antoinette Tuff; A&E Lifetime, Manhattan Beach, California
  • News Segment
    • The CBS Evening News: Sikhs in Semis,” Jim Axelrod, correspondent; Mosheh Oinounou, executive producer; Javier Guzman, senior producer; Sharaf Mowjood, producer; CBS News, New York, New York
  • News – network or national syndication (4-8 min.)
    • A Gift of Dance” Lesley Stahl, correspondent; Mary Lou Teel, producer; April Wilson, editor; Rand Morrison, executive producer; CBS Sunday Morning, New York, New York
  • News – network or national syndication (8 min.+)
    • 60 Minutes: Inside the Secret Archive,” Bill Whitaker, correspondent; Guy Campanile producer; Lucy Hatcher, associate producer; Craig Crawford, editor; Bill Owens, executive producer; “60 Minutes,” CBS News, New York, New York
  • News Story – local or regional
    • Making His Mark,” Sierra Hignite, reporter; Josh Lum, photographer; WTWO TV, Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • Deconstructing My Religion,” Elizabeth Kineke, writer/producer; Elyse Kaftan, editor; Yuti Joshi, associate producer; CBS Television: Religion and Culture, CBS News, New York, New York
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • Jesus: Countdown to Calvary,” Hugh Bonneville, presenter; Gerry Hoban, director; Eric Luskin & Cynthia Fenneman, commissioning executives (American Public Television); Béatrice Aullen, commissioning executive (ARTE); Roger Childs & Ray Bruce, executive producers (RTÉ, Dublin, Ireland)
  • Interview
    • Religion in Life,” Conrad (Ozzie) Ostwalt, host; Jesse Jackson, guest; Kelly Hunter, producer: “Religion in Life;” Rob Gelber, general manager, AppTV; Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina




Shirley Struchen
[email protected]
212) 870-2402