2017 Convention: March 30 - April 1 in Chicago, Illinois

RCC 2017 Convention news

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Women face double challenge of gender roles in religion and media

Three RCC members – Yvette Moore (left), Karri Whipple (third from left), and Shirley Struchen (far right) – participated in the WACC-organized public forum on “Rewriting the Script.”

Glory Dharmaraj (second from left) and Karri Whipple will lead “Rewriting the Script” at the RCC 2017 Convention in Chicago.

Photo: WACC North America.

Women of faith involved in the battle for gender equality in the media world too often confront a double challenge, members of a WACC-organized panel, “Rewriting the Script” told an attentive and engaged audience in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

Organized as one in a series of sessions in conjunction with the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations, the panel discussed the ways in which questions of faith could aid in the empowerment of women and more specifically in their representation in media.

Ironically, both the religious universe and the media world share an important characteristic, Dr. Glory Dharmaraj, a consultant for United Methodist Women and a coordinator for U.S. media monitoring at WACC, told seminar attendees.

Read more on WACC website...

Top 10 Reasons to Attend RCC Chicago 2017

Registration deadline is Monday, March 27

By Bud Heckman, RCC Vice President

2017 Convention: March 30 - April 1 in Chicago

10. Professional Development — RCC is a professional development association for faith communicators. We provide opportunities for you to keep growing and learning in your work and even seek accreditation for it.

9. Networking — Get out of your box, denomination, and usual circles and meet other communicators who do what you do. How do they see things differently? You will make lifelong friends and develop insights into your work. Register today!

8. Diversity — We have everything from Bahá’ís and Buddhists to Sikhs and Zoroastrians who attend RCC events and are members. While still having a majority of Christian members, just about every faith tradition is present and has a voice in the RCC family. Presenters include folks who are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and secular, among others. We are committed to inclusive practices.

7. Laughter — You deserve a good laugh. We all need it. We enjoy having fun with our work in RCC. The RCC 2017 schedule features an optional night out to the famous Second City Improv, as well as a new after-hours improv “playshop” to see how the humor of seeking human truth-telling can give a little lift to how we do our faith communications work.

6. Theater — There is an interfaith theater company in the famous Chicago Temple that has gotten some serious press for its ground-breaking work. We will hear from their principals about why a theater outfit in the basement of a church has made front page news more than once. Theater is communication.

5. Competitiveness — Our industry is morphing. Jobs are shifting. It can be unsettling. Participating in RCC puts you in-the-know about trends, jobs, and opportunities. It gives you a feel for the landscape, so you can stay ahead of the next shift.

4. Chicago — It's Chi Town, people. Soul and blues music. Deep dish pizza. Billy Goat Tavern. The Blue Brothers. America's friendliest big city. Architecture like you have never seen. Willis Tower. The Chicago Cubs / Bears / Bulls / Blackhawks. A sociological wonder. A restaurant mecca (they hold the James Beard Awards here for a reason!).

3. History — RCC has been around longer than you have been alive and maybe since before your parents, too. We carry forward a rich tradition, including widely recognized awards – the DeRose-Hinkhouse (for faith-based orgs) and the Wilburs (for secular media) – that advance excellence in storytelling about faith and values.

2. Talent — It's actually pretty exciting to see some of the talent who shows up at an RCC meeting to present, receive an award, or even come to belong. Some of the best in our business have cut their teeth here to learn, grown, and connect. We can name drop like nobody's business. The religion nerd in us says, “bring it.”

1. You — Yes, you, silly. You deserve this. Gosh darn it. You deserve to connect, be affirmed, be challenged, be recognized, share, laugh, travel, learn, grow, and succeed in your work. Do this for you. And to save a religiously illiterate world.

Learn more about the convention and register today!

Four productions about black Americans win 2017 Wilbur Awards

Religion Communicators Council honors 26 for work during 2016

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

NEW YORK — A motion picture, two television productions and a non-fiction book that tell stories of black Americans lead the list of 2017 Wilbur Award winners.

The Religion Communicators Council announced 26 Wilbur Award winners March 7. The awards honor excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – in communicating religious issues, values and themes during 2016.

Hidden Figures, the 20th Century Fox production about African-American women behind astronaut John Glenn’s historic space launch; Roots, the History Channel’s remake of Alex Haley’s portrait of American slavery; black-ish, ABC-TV’s comedy about a black family’s search for cultural identity; and New York University Press book, Black Women’s Christian Activism: Seeking Social Justice in a Northern Suburb, are to receive individually crafted stained-glass Wilbur trophies at an awards ceremony in Chicago next month.

The 2017 awards are to be presented April 1 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago O’Hare during the council’s 88th annual national convention.

Other Wilbur winners include The Associated Press, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBS News, National Geographic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), and WAND-TV 17, Decatur, Illinois.


Washington Post religion reporter Julie Zauzmer shares stories with the DC chapter

By Richard Chung, Intern, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Julie Zauzmer, religion reporter for The Washington Post

The Pope’s 2015 visit to the U.S. was one of the biggest religion stories of the year. Little did Julie Zauzmer know that it would also serve as the gateway to her role as religion reporter for The Washington Post. Addressing the D.C. chapter of the Religion Communicators Council on February 15, 2017, Zauzmer offered advice for more effective public relations with the media and shared her personal experience and perspective as a religion reporter.

Though relatively new to the realm of religion reporting, Zauzmer served as the managing editor of the Harvard Crimson and had a brief stint at the Philadelphia Inquirer before joining The Washington Post staff in January 2014. She spent her first two years on the local beat before taking on her current position.

Zauzmer praised the public relations of religious organizations as some of the best she’s ever encountered, and she especially appreciated their relevant pitches and connection to communities. Her biggest advice for religion communicators is that they should emphasize to reporters what makes a story distinctive, perhaps because it is the “first,” “only” or “new.” Zauzmer expressed openness to all kinds of religion stories, but advised against pitching a story by manufacturing a connection to an unrelated current event. She also discouraged communicators from trying to make deals with reporters to provide access to an exclusive scoop.


New York Chapter discusses religious literacy with Ariel Ennis

Social media on the cheap. Using an android phone (with a soda can as a tripod), Brian Finnerty livestreamed the RCC meeting using Facebook Live.

Working with the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at NYU has given Ariel Ennis unique insights into the role of interfaith dialogue among today’s student population. During his presentation to the RCC New York Chapter in February 2017, Ariel addressed his organization's mission and the role of spirituality in the lives of today's Millennials. He also discussed methods of teaching religious literacy.

The Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership falls under Global Spiritual Life at NYU. An open, authentic, and vibrant community at the forefront of international conversations on religion and spirituality, their mission is to offer environments and tools for transformative multifaith and spiritual encounters at NYU and beyond.

The Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership was featured in a 2015 Wilbur Award winning documentary, Of Many.

Religion communicators to address religious freedom, current issues at national convention

Religion communicators will meet March 30-April 1, 2017 in Chicago

CHICAGO — Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein, and journalist, playwright, and commentator, Wajahat Ali, join an impressive line-up of speakers at the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) Annual Convention. Addressing topics headlining our nightly news such as Islamophobia and religious freedom, these speakers will address the roles of faith communities in our present political climate.

Weaving current issues and hot topics with hands-on skills training and professional development, the convention will provide a rich exploration of the theme, “Virtually Here, There and Everywhere: Faith Communications and Presence.” Held March 30 - April 1 in Chicago, IL, this multi-faith forum is designed to enrich, engage, educate, and empower professional communicators of religion and faith-based issues. All who are interested are welcome to attend.


New workshops announced for Chicago RCC Convention

Religion communicators to gather March 30-April 1, 2017 in Chicago

CHICAGO — “Virtually Here, There and Everywhere: Faith Communications and Presence” is theme of Religion Communicators Council’s three-day convention, March 30-April 1, 2017. Everyone is welcome!

“We are anticipating more than 150 faith communicators in Chicago to network and examine violence and faith, the latest advancements in communications technology, and advancing religious literacy,” said Casey Tom, national RCC President. “RCC continues to foster faith communicators in their professional development.”

Among the workshops with leaders are:

  • Re-writing the script: analyzing gender and religion in the media with Dr. Glory Dharmaraj and Karri Whipple
  • Five (or more) ways to make one sick blog with Jessica Mesman Griffith
  • News from the frontlines: defeating anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements with Kalia Abiade
  • Theater as a communicator: the Silk Road Rising story with co-founders Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury
  • Crisis communications: not “if,” but “when” with Katherine Kerr, APR
  • Three keys to reaching people through Facebook – beautiful, now, and personal with Rev. Francis J. Hoffman (“Father Rocky”)
  • Advancing ministry through Accreditation in Public Relations with Douglas F. Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA

A full list of plenaries and workshop presenters is available at RCC convention web page.


Players of the Moment: Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani of Silk Road Rising

Silk Road Rising featured in NewCity will be at the RCC in Chicago 2017

By Kevin Greene

Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani

Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

The Silk Road refers to the region spanning from the Mediterranean to East Asia. While its historical usage refers to goods, its contemporary coinage is a blanket term for a diverse group of rich and vibrant cultures that have nevertheless been largely ignored or reduced to stereotypical representations in Western art and entertainment.

Founded in 2002 in the wake of September 11 by life partners Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani, Silk Road Rising’s ongoing mission is to counter Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism by addressing the dearth of representation of Silk Road peoples on Chicago stages.

Over the course of fifteen years, the company has spawned numerous initiatives and expanded their artistic endeavors to include film and video. With the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump, the very existence of Silk Road Rising has become as imperative as its mission.

Read more... (PDF)

Academics and Journalists Unite Against Fake News

How bad journalism is hurting people of faith.

"Journalists don't know the difference between an archbishop and a cardinal; they think Catholics worship Mary; they think the pope controls what every bishop and priest says and does" said New York Times religion correspondent Laurie Goodstein in drawing attention to misunderstandings that highlight the need for better religious literacy during the Religious Literacy in Journalism Symposium at Harvard Divinity School.

Read more on America: The National Catholic Review web site...

Newtown movie highly recommended

By Bud Heckman

Make your way to a showing of the new documentary Newtown or host one in your community, if there isn't one nearby. See http://newtownfilm.com.

I was privileged to see on Nov. 2 the nationwide early screening and post show conversation with Chris Cuomo, director, & producers.

A very moving conversation about gun violence and our communities. Comes to PBS' Independent Lens in Spring 2017.

A few ditties:

  • 40% of gun sales are *still* done without background checks.
  • 90% of Americans support common sense restrictions, like a waiting period.
  • At least 7 children die every day as a result of gun violence, and 40 are shot and survive.
  • Every day 90 people die from gun violence: 31 are murdered & 56 kill themselves.
  • For every one justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 44 criminal homicides.

There has been a more than 20-year Congressional restriction on funding firearms studies (until last week when National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded more than $3.3 million to five private institutions for firearms research.

It's hard to craft common sense mental health provisions which still honor full parameters of personal and privacy rights granted every person, sane or not.

RCC members Nick Stuart and CarolAnne Dolan are executive producers.

Religion Communicators Convention to explore faith communications and presence

Religion communicators to gather March 30-April 1, 2017 in Chicago

CHICAGO, Ill. — The omnipresence of faith communications “here, there and everywhere” and mastering the channels for communicating those messages will serve as the theme of the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC) annual convention, March 30-April 1, 2017 in Chicago.

The three-day event, “Virtually Here, There and Everywhere: Faith Communications and Presence,” will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago O’Hare. The convention is a multi-faith forum intended to enrich, engage, educate and empower professional communicators of religion and faith-based issues.

Plenary presentations will include a discussion of violence and the role of faith communities; tips for covering Christianity and using theatre as a communicator. Workshops include podcast and Facebook techniques; creating materials by and for children and adolescents; communications lessons from hosting the Pope in the U.S.; crisis communications; and advancing ministry through Accreditation in Public Relations.

Among the featured speakers, panelists and workshop leaders confirmed:


Tips when covering Islam and Muslims

Wajahat AliTop 30 do's and don'ts when covering Islam and Muslims — Tips from Wajahat Ali, co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream to the 2015 RCC National Convention.

The first three are:

  • Do diversify your portfolio of token Muslims. Different Muslim super heroes have different superpowers.
  • Do not assume Arabs = Muslims and Muslims = Arab. Do not use them interchangeably.
  • Do seek out Muslims who are black and/or white and or other colors. They exist, not all are brown.


51 things I’ve learned after 50 years in the editor’s chair

By Rich Peck

Photo of Rich Peck and cover of Speaking Faith

Rick Peck is editor of the 7th edition of RCC handbook, Speaking Faith: the Essential Handbook for Religion Communicators.

Photo of Rich Peck: A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.

  • Avoid unnecessary alphabet gumbo.
  • The use of a dateline saves space and adds clarity. Some editors say the use of a dateline misleads readers to believe the author was in that city. Readers are smart enough to know by the context whether the author was actually in the city or only writing about an event in that city. There is no need to repeat the name of the city in the article.
  • Adding adjectives frequently clutters sentences and they are often subjective; use sparingly.
  • Use precise descriptions: Avoid: “The young child.” Instead: “The five-year-old boy.”
  • Avoid using the same words in a single paragraph but don’t search the Thesaurus for a seldom used word.



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