2018 Convention: April 5-8 in Atlanta, Georgia — Realizing the Dream: Peace and Justice Through Communication
Webinar: How to Use Data and Research in Religious Storytelling
J. Tobin Grant, will offer a webinar for RCC on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. ET on how we can and should use data and statistical research better in our religious storytelling.
To join the webinar, logon to: https://zoom.us/j/6913454656 (preferred) or call-in to: +1-408-638-0968 or +1-646-558-8656 using 6913454656#.
REPORT: Religion Communicators Convention Dives Deep
By Paul Chaffee
A largely unknown treasure for interfaith activists is the convention held each year by the Religion Communicators Council (RCC). Founded in 1929, the RCC has given annual awards to religious communicators and to secular communicators working on religious subjects since 1949. About 70 Derose-Hinkhouse Memorial awards go to religious communicators from ten “classes” of communication; Class E-Specialized Writing, for instance, includes Book, Adult; Writing for Web; Miscellaneous; and Best of Class.
At a banquet on the night following a Derose-Hinkson banquet, 27 Wilbur Awards were given, “recognizing excellence in communicating religious issues, values and themes in the public media.”
Read full article in The Interfaith Observer
Re-writing the script: analyzing gender and religion in the media
By Blake Meller
In a workshop held during the 2017 Religion Communicators Council conference, Glory Dharmaraj, the U.S coordinator for the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), and media specialist, writer, and activist, Karri Whipple, presented the workshop, Re-Writing the Script: Analyzing Gender and Religion in the Media. This workshop focused on assessing the current state of gender and religion in media and provided ways to promote greater equity.
The workshop began with Dharmaraj presenting data on the disproportionally small voice of female reporters and presenters in the world of media and news. Dharmaraj said that according to the 2015 GMMP, only 38% of reporters are women in the U.S. Even more strikingly, “0% of these reporters covered religion.” Within the U.S., women are more favorably seen in positions where they talk about the values and responsibilities in the household, rather than talking about dimensions of their religious affiliation. Data does show that “5% of reporters report on religion globally.” This is a higher percentage than the U.S, but still shows a huge dilemma within cultures around the world, and how they motivate and accept women within the field of religious reporting.
Ali to communicators: We have to tell our own stories
By Nadine Hasenecz
Wajahat Ali received a standing ovation for his dry humor-infused pre-luncheon keynote “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to be a Moderate Muslim” Saturday at the Religion Communicators Council’s 2017 annual convention in Chicago.
As creative director of Affinis Labs, Ali creates social entrepreneurship initiatives for marginalized communities. In addition, he’s a TV host, consultant to the U.S. State Department and lead author of the Center for American Progress’ “Fear, Inc.” investigative report.
“I am an American Muslim of Pakistani descent – nothing helps one’s popularity more than saying that,” quipped the California-born son of immigrants, referring to the U.S.’ post-9/11 climate of Islamophobia.
“In all seriousness,” he added, “if you remember one thing from my talk today, it’s that if you aren’t writing your story, your story is always being written for you or told to you by others.”
URI members attend Religion Communicators Council in Chicago
Two United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circles members recently received scholarships to attend the annual Religion Communicators Council Convention in Chicago.
Blake Meller is an undergraduate studying communications and a member of Sun Devils Are Better Together, a URI Cooperation Circle and university campus club dedicated to interfaith work and dialogue.
Patrick Horn, a friend of the Unity-and-Diversity World Council, a URI Cooperation Circle in southern California, and former graduate student in Interfaith Action at Claremont Lincoln University. Both were introduced to the opportunity by URI North America Regional Coordinator Sari Heidenreich.
Religion Communicators explore faith communications and presence at convention
CHICAGO — The omnipresence of faith communications “here, there and everywhere” and mastering the channels for communicating those messages served as the theme of the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC) annual convention, March 30-April 1.
The three-day event, “Virtually Here, There and Everywhere: Faith Communications and Presence,” was a multi-faith forum designed to enrich, engage, educate and empower professional communicators of religion and faith-based issues.
The conference provided an array of offerings for participants and online viewers of the livecasts and recorded sessions including skills-building workshops, thought-provoking plenaries, affirming peer groups and networking, improv and comedy options, interesting religious site visits, and dramatic presentations of awards for excellence in the profession.
The conference tackled the tough social issues of gun violence with films, a plenary and discussions. It also offered workshops on gender analysis, media engagement, social media methods, making podcasts, getting accreditation, seeing theater as communication, creating material specific to young people, building a blog, handling a crisis, and countering hate movements.
For a full of list of presenters, visit the RCC Convention web page.
Creating podcasts with sustaining power requires research, thought
By Katherine Kerr, APR
CHICAGO (March 31, 2017) — If you’re envisioning a podcast as one of your communications tools, it is important to think about what your fourth podcast will be, said David Dault, executive director of Things Not Seen, and the Rev. Steven D. Martin, director of communications for the National Council of Churches of Christ.
Working off of the session title, Podcasts that are Addictive, Dault said podcasters should develop structure and content to create an experience that will make people want to come back and listen to the next podcast.
He stressed coherence, content that is compelling and structured, whether the podcaster chooses a monologue, a dialogue, a panel or a magazine montage format.
“Treat listeners as if they’re guests,” Dault said.
Theater as communicator? Silk Road Rising shows how it can be done
By Deb Christian
CHICAGO (March 31, 2017) — A special feature at RCC’s 2017 convention was a workshop that tells the story of how the arts, theater specifically, functions as a communicator. Silk Road Rising is a theater group using live performance and online videos through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American playwrights, authors and actors to reveal universal human stories.
Co-founders Malik Gillani, a Muslim of Pakistani heritage and Jamil Khoury, a Christian with Syrian ancestry, showed two documentaries. One, Sacred Stages: A Church, A Theatre and A Story, shares with viewers the unique relationship between Silk Road Rising and the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, one of the city’s oldest Christian churches. The need of the acting troop for a place to be and of the congregation to better utilize space in their historic building is seen is this 28-minute film. It is a shared commitment that established this partnership.
The many lessons learned when hosting the Pope
By Deb Christian
CHICAGO (April 1, 2017) — Fr. Manuel Dorantes (Fr. Manny) has been a student of philosophy, a seminarian, a journalist-in-training, a graduate student (MBA), and is now a Catholic priest serving the Archdiocese of Chicago. He speaks at least three languages fluently. In 2015 he was tapped to be liaison and translator to the Spanish-speaking media when Pope Francis visited the U.S.
Amid a communication and media storm, Fr. Dorantes accomplished his tasks and learned some lessons about how to be an effective faith communicator. He shared those with RCC members during a workshop at the 2017 RCC convention. Is there a formula to follow for efficient, effective communications? Faith + Action = Results.
The workshop was titled: Communication Lessons Learned from Hosting the Pope in the U.S. The seven lessons he cites are both media strategy and how to live. He also noted that he sees all these in Pope Francis and gave examples and anecdotes from his visit to explain each item.
Podcasters give tips to RCC convention goers
By Kelly Fanning
CHICAGO (March 31, 2017) — David Dault (@DaultRadio), host of the radio program Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith, and Rev. Steven D. Martin of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. presented a lively and tip-rich workshop, Podcasts that are Addictive, during the 2017 Annual Convention of the Religion Communicators Council.
Dault began with a brief look at the mechanics of addiction, concluding that our goal is not so much an “unhealthy dependence,” but to keep people listening, coming back, and telling others to listen to our podcasts.
Compelling content, quality, and consistency are the watchwords for anyone wanting to create a podcast, according to Dault. He outlined five podcast structures (monologue, dialogue, panel, montage, and magazine) and advised attendees to know them, pick one and stick with it.
Meaning-making among the disenfranchised
By Paul Chaffee
CHICAGO (April 1, 2017) — Jessica Mesman Griffith and Jonathan Ryan admitted at the top that they knew very little about blogging when they began. They were quite clear, though, about what they wanted to offer their readers and contributors: an open, non-judgmental spiritual context where the religiously alienated, the marginalized for whatever reason, might feel at home.
Here the disappointed and depressed, the doubtful and divorced, gay and transgendered, spiritual but not religious, indeed where all manner of lonely people could share their troubles in a safe, affirming spiritual environment. Yes, this workshop was about creating a blog. What made it valuable, though, was hearing about assembling an extended community of the disenfranchised, people from all walks of life who have found a home, a familial meaning-making space for Catholics and non-Catholics hungry for such an opportunity.
RCC elects new leaders at annual business meeting
By Deb Christian
Chicago (March 31, 2017) — The Rev. Bud Heckman, convener of the Interfaith Funders Group and a specialist in interfaith relations, philanthropy and communications from New York was elected president of the Religion Communicators Council during the organization’s annual business meeting on March 31.
He is joined on the RCC Executive Committee of the Board of Governors by Jackie Fuller, vice president, executive producer and host of Interfaith Connections TV Show from Washington, D.C.; Danny Hall, secretary, director of public affairs for Soka Gokkai International-USA, also based in Washington, D.C.; Katherine Kerr, APR, treasurer, president of Polaris Non-Profit Solutions of Georgetown, Texas; and Casey Tom, past president, general manager of Faith for Today of the Seventh Day Adventist Church from Riverside, California.
Religion communicators trained for crisis scenarios
By Patrick Horn
CHICAGO (April 1, 2017) — Katherine Kerr, a self-described “recovering journalist” and co-founder of Polaris Non-Profit Solutions LLC, offered a strategy for crisis communications in a workshop held during the annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council.
“A crisis is anything that threatens the operations or the reputation of an organization,” said Kerr, who gave examples of crises ranging from illegal activities to vandalism, arson, assaults, murder and natural disasters.
Warning that the question of crisis is not “if” but “when,” Kerr offered a six-step communication plan that begins with assembling a response team, gathering information, developing talking points, designating a spokesperson, engaging with stakeholders and sharing information.
The first step is assigning roles and responsibilities to the appropriate team members. Next, required information includes knowing who is involved and impacted, what happened and who bears responsibility, when the crisis happened and when informed, where the crisis happened, why it happened, how it happened, and whether it could have been prevented.
Workshop tackles anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim movements
By Carolyn Lewis
CHICAGO (April 1, 2017) — “There is no magic solution,” a group of RCC convention participants learned Saturday during a session to discuss “News from the Frontlines, Defeating Anti-Muslim and Anti-Immigrant Movements.”
“There has been a lot of grassroots organizing by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups over the years,” continued Kalia Abiade of the Pillars Fund at the Chicago Community Trust, and these anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim groups are well-organized and well-funded and have access to lawmakers.
Recently, “the rhetoric has gotten much worse” and anti-immigration and anti-Muslim activists have become emboldened with increased criminal acts.
People have fears that are being exploited. “There is a stereotyping of a minority that blames everyone for the acts of a few,” she said.
Going viral with Father Rocky and Facebook
By Linda Bloom
CHICAGO (March 31, 2017) — When the Rev. Francis J. Hoffman decided to boost the reach of Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network broadcasting in 29 states, via Facebook, he was pleased to have 6,000 followers after three years.
Then, in September 2013, Father Rocky – as he is better known – posted a “prayer for safety” after Boulder, Colo., was inundated with rain, leading to what experts eventually called a 100-year flood. The post, which went viral, was the start of something big for the Father Rocky Facebook page.
Now, with 3.5 million likes, “I've got more people engaged in that page regularly than the Wall Street Journal and New York Times combined,” he said during his workshop, "Three Keys to Reaching People Through Facebook: Beautiful, Now and Personal," at the 2017 RCC Annual Convention in Chicago.
His personal strategy? Be positive and inspiring and make viewers feel they can be part of a solution.
Film tries to answer pressing question for those who remain after Newtown tragedy
By Deb Christian
CHICAGO (March 30, 2017) — NEWTOWN, a documentary produced by Odyssey Networks, about the December 2012 killings of 26 people – 20 children and 6 adults – at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shows the tragedy’s impact on the lives of victims’ families, friends and larger communities. The film was screened for attendees just prior to the opening of RCC’s national convention in Chicago.
Carefully nuanced and distilled from more than 400 hours of interviews occurring over a period of nearly three years and recording the lives of some of those who were most directly touched on that terrible day, the film tries to answer the question, “What remains after all is lost?” and touches the heart of the viewer and explores the sorrow and responses to this individual act of gun violence.
Interviews with parents, siblings, teachers, first responders, medical personnel reveal the trauma to the community and the deep grief, but also a developing sense of purpose to keep their loved ones alive in memory and to stem the easy access to firearms.
Seasoned religious communicator offers tips for connecting with secular media
By Eron Henry
CHICAGO (March 30) — Religious media professionals were reminded Thursday of some of the basics of dealing with their secular media counterparts.
In a workshop held during the annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council, Anuttama Dasa, head of communications for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in Rockville, Md., told attendees to “understand that reporters are people with a job to do” and that they “are often overworked and very busy.”
It is imperative that religion communicators “don’t take anything personally” in response to what a journalist does or says. In particular, “don’t be discouraged if they ignore you or write a critical article.” Religion communicators should rather focus on building long term relationships, being “a dependable and reliable resource” and never lying to or misleading the media.
Religion communicators should be professional when dealing with secular media colleagues. “Know your news angle when you contact them,” Dasa said. “Learn the individual reporter’s needs, interests and deadlines.”
National interfaith leader to head Religion Communicators Council
New president of the Board of Governors brings decades of religious leadership and networking to role
CHICAGO (March 31, 2017) — The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) today elected The Reverend Bud Heckman to serve as president of the Board of Governors at RCC’s annual convention in Chicago. Heckman serves as the convener of the Interfaith Funders Group and, presently, as a transitional executive director of Religions for Peace USA.
The RCC is an 89-year-old professional development association for communicators who work for a wide array of faith and interfaith organizations. RCC provides an annual convention, trainings and webinars, local meet-ups and chapters, and resources and networking for its members. The election occurred amidst RCC’s annual convention in Chicago.
Heckman succeeds Mrs. Casey Tom of Faith for Today Ministries, a ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a distinguished line of faith leaders. RCC executive director Shirley Struchen said, “We welcome Bud’s leadership for RCC, as he brings respected fundraising and organizing expertise, a record of developing non-profits, and unique insights into diverse religious networks.”
RCC awards excellence in religion communication at Chicago ceremony
By Jeff Huett, APR
CHICAGO (March 30) — The Religion Communicators Council handed out awards recognizing excellence in about 60 categories of communications and public relations Thursday at its annual conference in Chicago.
The annual DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards, given to active members of RCC, are named in honor of the late Victor DeRose and the late Paul M. Hinkhouse, leading lithographers in New York City, and longtime friends of the RCC. Both men shared a strong interest in, and concern for, excellence in communications.
This year RCC received 231 entries. Each entry was judged on overall quality, including concept, writing, design, creativity, style, use of color, appropriateness of material for intended audience, creative use of resources, and effectiveness in achieving its purpose.
This year’s panel of judges included faculty members from Chicago’s Roosevelt University, Evanston’s Northwestern University, and New York’s St. John’s University, as well as individual communications professionals from both secular and religious organizations.
2017 RCC convention opens with film, discussion about issue(s) of violence
By Deb Christian
CHICAGO, March 30, 2017 — The 2017 Religion Communicators Council annual convention kicked off Wednesday with a screening and discussion of a documentary film about responding with faith to violence in the city of Chicago.
The nearly one-hour long documentary, Violence in Chicago: Responding with Faith, was produced by the Chicago Sunday Evening Club (CSEC).
The story told in the film is to reveal both the myths and realities of violence all across Chicago and its suburbs and discuss faith communities that are making an impact. Experts on all parts of this complex issue are also featured.
The damages of violence come not only from bullets, but also from the fear and hopelessness that accompany it. The relationship between immediate, acute violence and that which is long-term and chronic is examined as well as some of the causes of both types.
Four productions about black Americans win 2017 Wilbur Awards
Religion Communicators Council honors 26 for work during 2016
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.
Tips when covering Islam and Muslims
Top 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:
51 things I’ve learned after 50 years in the editor’s chair
By Rich Peck
Academics and Journalists Unite Against Fake News - America: The National Catholic Review
Promoting Religious Literacy
Convention news from elsewhere
U.S. religion communicators address violence and Islamophobia from WACC Global