NEW YORK — Religion News Foundation (RNF), Religion News Service (RNS), The Associated Press (AP) and The Conversation announced today the creation of a global religion journalism initiative, an effort to expand religion news reporting in the U.S. and around the world.
This initiative includes the creation of a joint global religion news desk aimed at providing balanced, nuanced coverage of major world religions, with an emphasis on explaining religious practices and principles behind current events and cultural movements.
Staffed by journalists from RNS, a subsidiary of RNF, and AP and editors from The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit publisher of commentary and analysis sourced from academic experts, the desk will produce multiformat religion journalism intended to improve general understanding and analyze the significance of developments in the world of faith.
The initiative is funded by an 18-month, $4.9 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to RNF. It is one of the largest investments in religion journalism in decades.
“The Global Religion Journalism Initiative grant fundamentally transforms religion journalism in the U.S. and globally,” said Thomas Gallagher, president and CEO of the Religion News Foundation and CEO and publisher of RNS. “It is deeply affirming and humbling to be entrusted with this important grant, especially at a time when competent, reliable, professional religion journalism is needed more than ever.”
“This collaboration significantly expands AP’s capacity to explore issues of faith, ethics, and spirituality as a social and cultural force,” said AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano. “We are delighted to be working with these organizations to produce meaningful religion journalism that will help inform audiences across the globe.”
“Thanks to Lilly Endowment, The Conversation can now expand the coverage we give to ethics and religion, which is one of our eight areas of editorial focus,” said Bruce Wilson, Chief Innovation and Development Officer of The Conversation. “Through this unique collaboration with the AP, RNF and RNS, The Conversation can bring our fresh insights to an even wider range of audiences across the country and globally.”
Through the initiative, AP will add eight religion journalists; RNS will add three religion journalists; and The Conversation will add two religion editors. Additional business staff will also be hired across the organizations.
“This is an opportunity to bring content about religion to a much broader audience and market than has previously been possible. We look forward to bolstering AP’s product offering for our member news organizations and customers,” said Michael Fabiano, AP vice president for local media.
The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s support for efforts that strengthen the public understanding of religion. Grants have helped fund other media projects, including RNF’s support for RNS and documentaries about religious leaders and traditions.
“This collaboration among RNF, The Associated Press and The Conversation is groundbreaking and holds significant promise to increase both the volume and quality of religion news reporting,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We believe the initiative will help ensure that fair and accurate news coverage about religion reaches broad audiences and improves understanding about how religion shapes national and international events.”
Each organization retains editorial control of its respective content, which will be clearly labeled and distributed by AP. RNS opinion content will be available to AP member news organizations and customers, though it will not appear on the AP wire.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. In addition to strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the United States, the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion aims to support fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the U.S. and across the globe.
About Religion News Foundation
Religion News Foundation is an independent, educational and charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advances religious literacy through websites, resources, networks, training workshops, events and other programs tailor-made for media professionals, corporate clients and the general public. RNF is not affiliated with any religious tradition. RNF supports professional journalists who cover religion through the support of the Religion News Association and through the ownership of the Religion News Service, LLC. RNF facilitates and encourages discourse about religion in a neutral and informative way without endorsing or promoting any particular belief system or point of view. RNF is affiliated with the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.
About Religion News Service, LLC
Religion News Service is an independent, nonprofit and award-winning source of global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, reported by a staff of professional journalists. RNS is not affiliated with any religious tradition. Founded in 1934, RNS seeks to inform readers with objective reporting and insightful commentary and is relied upon by commercial and faith-based news organizations in a number of countries. RNS is a subsidiary of Religion News Foundation and is affiliated with the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.
The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from AP.
About The Conversation
The Conversation US launched in October 2014 with funding from six foundations. It is an independent source of commentary and analysis from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public. A team of professional editors work with academic scholars to unlock their knowledge to then be shared with the wider public. Access to trusted, independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism is critical to a functioning democracy. Our goal is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues leading to a better quality of public discourse.
Katie Garcia, Athene Strategies
Lauren Easton, Director of Media Relations
The Conversation Contact
Bruce G. Wilson, Jr., Chief Innovation and Development Officer