Washington Post religion reporter Julie Zauzmer shares stories with the DC chapter
By Richard Chung, Intern, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
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.
In addition to advice, Zauzmer regaled the group with memorable stories that she had the chance to write. The article that piqued her interest in religion reporting was an interview she did with the subject of the most popular image of the Pope’s 2015 visit to the United States: Michael Keating, the wheelchair-bound child whom the Pope blessed on his way out of the Philadelphia airport. Zauzmer also shared her experience writing about the Ramkumar family making a pilgrimage to a Hare Krishna shrine in West Virginia and the Potomac River Water Walk, a Native American prayer ritual.
Witty and at times poignant, Zauzmer gave the RCC a window into her day-to-day work as a religion reporter during the lively meeting, sharing about her daily schedule, how she chooses stories, and her conversations with individuals of various faith communities.