Download all chapters of "Reporting on Religion" (PDF)

You may be a newcomer to the religion beat, a student or a veteran journalist who keeps encountering religion in stories. You may work in print, broadcast, radio or on the Web. This booklet will guide you through the basics of reporting on religion, pointing you to important resources and considerations and warning you about potential pitfalls. It will help ease your way into what many of us think is the best beat in the business.

We also hope this booklet convinces you that religion can enrich your stories by explaining people’s motivations and providing details that can transform run-of-the-mill reports into surprising or provocative narratives. Religion shapes people’s actions and reactions in very private and very public ways across the range of news and features. Without it, you’re often not getting the whole story.

Religion journalism — like journalism in general — is undergoing seismic shifts because of changes in the news business as well as changes in society. To keep this guide from being outdated as quickly as yesterday’s news, it resides on the Web on the Religion Newswriters’ home page, Check there for updates and for the Religion Newswriters’ Resource Library, which offers extensive resources for religion reporting.

Table of contents

  1. The basics
    1. The case for covering religion
    2. The case for religion specialists
    3. Trends in religion news
    4. What about religion on other beats?
    5. Do you need to be religious to report on religion?
    6. Who makes a great religion journalist?
  2. Best practices
    1. Get oriented
    2. Preaching, teaching & proselytizing
    3. Getting titles right
    4. Redefine the religion beat
    5. Rely on people power
    6. Report news and nuance
    7. Remain calm amid conflict
    8. Embrace diversity
    9. Judge not, lest ye be judged
    10. It’s a miracle!
    11. Sharpen your pencils
    12. Columns and the brave new world of blogging
  3. Resources
    1. Numbers: Why you can’t count on them
      1. Religious identification surveys
      2. Polls and surveys
    2. Experts
    3. Web sites
    4. Books
  4. A roundup of religions
    1. The Big Three: Christianity, Judaism and Islam
      1. Christianity
        1. Evangelicals
        2. Mainline Protestants
        3. Orthodox Christianity
        4. Pentecostals
        5. Roman Catholics
        6. African-American
        7. Asian
        8. Hispanic
      2. Judaism
      3. Islam
    2. Beyond the big three
      1. Buddhism
      2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
      3. Hinduism
      4. Sikhism
    3. New religious movements
    4. Visiting places of worship
  5. Religion outside the box
    1. Ethics & values
    2. Interfaith efforts
    3. Religion in the public square
    4. Spirituality
  6. Issues for reporters and editors
    1. Revealing personal beliefs
    2. Reporting on people you disagree with
    3. Conflicts of interest
    4. Ethics
  7. About Religion Newswriters
    1. Sources
    2. Credits