e-Counselor: The Newsletter for the Religion Communicators Council

Newsletter #7 | December 2005

In This Issue

  • Feature story: Blogging
  • Anatomy of a Best of Class Winner
  • It's awards time
  • Convention 2006 – Dallas/Ft. Worth
  • Member news
  • RCC Fund news
  • Chapter news
  • Media news

Feature Story: How to be a blogger

by Marita Eddy

By day he is mild-mannered online reporter and producer for Government Executive Online. But, in his spare time, Daniel Pulliam is one of a group of avenging angels making right what the jaded, corrupt, secular (redundant?) world of journalism gets wrong when translating religious language and issues into news copy for public consumption. He's a blogger for Get Religion, which reviews media's religion coverage.

Daniel PulliamStarted by Terry Mattingly, who covers religion news and writes the nationally syndicated "On Religion" column for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., and edited by Douglas LaBlanc, associate editor of Christianity Today, Get Religion critiques news articles for accuracy in covering religion. They write commentaries with links to the original news stories. People can submit comments and add to the discussion. It is a cyber salon for those who care about religion and have an interest in the news media "getting it right."

Daniel spoke to the RCC Washington DC Chapter in October about the blogging phenomenon. With him as their guide, Chapter members entered this alternative universe, a place where anyone can be "an instant pundit." Many of those over 35 grew up in a structured, hierarchical newspaper environment. The path to being a reporter often began with first working as an intern, assistant, obituary writer, and junior reporter. Finally entrusted with the title, the reporter covered a beat. Two or three levels of editors meticulously reviewed the journalist's work before the words were worthy of being typeset, printed and read. Now, in this brave new world of bloggers, people feel free to say anything they want. "It's similar to what Thomas Paine did, writing as public announcement. Many bloggers consider themselves to be citizen journalists," Daniel explained. "But what if the blogger spreads lies? He was asked. "There does seem to be a self-correcting mechanism at work. If someone writes something blatantly false, other bloggers expose the lie immediately," he assured the group.

Blog comes from smashing together "Web log." It is a form of personal diary open to the public. It's inexpensive to start one. You just need a computer, an Internet connection and a URL. A blog takes a niche issue and forms a community around it," Daniel explained. Some blogs even make money by running ads. "There is some kind of blog etiquette," he continued. "Linking to other organizations is one way to help others capture more readers."

When asked where he gets his ideas, Daniel said that he never runs out of material to write about. "It wouldn't be much fun without the mainstream media."

Anatomy of a Best of Class Winner Catholic Communication Campaign's "It all starts with faith"

by Pat Ryan Garcia

How do you generate awareness of the good work of ordinary Catholics in the face of the clergy sexual abuse crisis of 2002-2003? The Catholic Communication Campaign, at the request of U.S. bishops, came up with a plan to introduce viewers to ordinary Catholic Americans inspired by their faith to serve others. This represented a real departure from the highly-produced and expensive campaigns we had been doing.

Pat Ryan Garcia accepts the Best of Class Award at the 2005 DeRose Hinkhouse Awards.

We canvassed Catholic dioceses and social service organizations to identify a mix of candidates. The initial list was narrowed down to about ten, and a crew of two with a digital camera set out to tape their stories. We found that each person's "audition" tape was their best take, even if the production values weren't perfect. Even though we went back to re-interview the chosen subjects, we ended up using much of their initial interviews in the final edits.

We wanted these engaging individuals to tell their own stories in their own words, so we didn't work from scripts but instead asked questions to get them talking about themselves. To produce spots that would be spontaneous, we used hand-held cameras and natural light and sound. Rough versions of the spots were tested on focus groups of Catholics and non-Catholics from the New York City and Pittsburgh markets. The initial tag line, "this is the Catholic Church," was not well-received by any of the groups. Instead, they preferred something that mentioned that the spots were showing "faith at work in America." I came up with the final tag line for the campaign, "It all starts with faith," during a brainstorming session. That line seemed to capture the essence of what the focus groups liked, and connected the good works highlighted in the spots to the faith motivation behind them.

We also created a Web site, www.startswithfaith.org, with more information about the ministries and people featured in the spots along with statistics and information about Catholic service in America.

Feedback on the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. The DeRose-Hinkhouse award was a wonderful recognition to receive, but we also heard from many individuals who visited the Web site. Catholics in particular told us that the spots inspired pride in their faith and made them think about how they might be of service to their communities. The campaign has longevity because there are no associated talent or music rights fees and we plan to continue it for at least the next year.

It's Awards Time

Victoria GoffIt's time to gather your best work of 2005 to enter into RCC's DeRose Hinkhouse Memorial Award competition. This year's entry deadline is January 19, 2006. The award presentation will take place on March 30, 2006 as part of the RCC 2006 convention. Awards chair Victoria Goff says, "If you are a member of the RCC and played a major role in producing the communication material, I encourage you to submit the material for a DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Award. Each entry is judged on overall quality, including aspects such as concept, writing, design, creativity, communication value, and effectiveness in achieving its purpose. Entries are compared with the best communication projects of religion communication professionals across the country. A panel of professional religion and secular communicators select the winning entries." Entry forms and more information is available on the RCC web site.

Mindy MarchalThe new chair of the Wilbur Awards, Mindy Marchal, encourages RCC members to contact their local newspapers, television, and radio stations to enter programs that treat faith in a respectful and in-depth manner. You can e-mail or handwrite a note. Your message could include some of the following:

For more than 50 years, the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) an interfaith organization of professional religion communicators, has presented the Wilbur Awards, which recognize excellence in the communication of religious issues, values, and themes in the secular media. I recently (watched, read, listened, saw) (name of media) and believe it is worth of consideration of a Wilbur Award. I encourage you to submit it as an entry. To find more information, visit the Wilbur Awards web page.

Send entries to: Mindy Marchal, Wilbur Award Chair, PC (USA), 100 Witherspoon St., Room 2218, Louisville, KY 40202.

If you have any questions, please call 888-728-7228, ext. 5212 or e-mail: [email protected]

The deadline for entry is February 1, 2006. Forms are available on the RCC web site.

Convention 2006 to focus on integration of arts and media

The 2006 convention registration material – in tabloid newspaper form – will arrive in your mailbox this month. It will have all details you need of the not-to-be-missed program, workshop updates and hotel information. Bobby Ross, former AP reporter will offer a keynote presentation addressing what makes news and why clergy sexual abuse, debates over ordaining gay bishops or contemporary versus traditional worship wars often have a better chance of making headlines that the deep faith in God, the daily study of a sacred text to improve one's life, or the ways in which religion helps people overcome obstacles. There will also be workshops on reaching out to a digital culture and improving your media relations.

The RCC convention 2006 runs March 30 to April 1. Registration deadline is March 1. Note that there are three hotels convenient to the RCC convention site. RCC room blocks have been reserved at all three hotels so that you can select the price and amenities that are right for you. For more details on lodging and information on the convention, go to the RCC Convention page or visit the convention website www.rcc-dfw.org.

Member News

  • Ken Bedell has been elected associate general secretary of the United Methodist Church's Division of Higher Education.
  • Burton Buller from Mennonite Media has produced for the National Council of Churches a one-hour documentary for ABC-TV, "Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness." The program begins airing December 4. You can check local listing and find more information at www.interfaithbroadcasting.com.
  • Ava Martin and the ELCA staff have also produced a liturgical program for NCC to air on ABC December 24 and 25. You will also find information on "Joy to the World" at www.interfaithbroadcasting.com.
  • Connie Coddington, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Wisconsin, has a weekly Internet radio talk show featuring guests from across the country who have experienced the power of prayer.
  • J. Ron Byler is on a three-month study leave, volunteering with the Mennonite World Conference in Strasbourg. Ron is the associate executive director of the Mennonite Church USA.
  • Dana Jones was named United Methodist Communicator of the Year at the communicator's association meeting October 14. Dana is a United Methodist deaconess and editor of Response, the official magazine of United Methodist Women.
  • Also honored at the ceremony was Tom McAnally, who was inducted into the United Methodist Association of Communicators Hall of Fame. Tom was director of United Methodist News Service from 1983 until his retirement in 2002.
  • Brad Pokorny shares that the publication he edits, One Country, has won a "Grand Award" in the APEX 2005 Awards for Publication Excellence in the "nonprofit, small office" category. One Country is the newsletter of the Bahá’í International Community.
  • Congratulations to George Conklin, project director, on the 10th anniversary of Worldwide Faith News, a searchable database of official full text news releases and other documents form the offices of national and world faith groups. It is a project of the National Council of Churches USA on behalf of all faith groups. Visit WFN at http://www.wfn.org/.
  • Rev. Dr. John Crossin, OSFS, executive director of the Washington Theological Consortium, is one of a six-member team that wrote "Love for the Poor: God's Love for the Poor and the Church's Witness to It," a study by the National Council of Church's Poverty Study Group.
  • Dr. Donald Charles Lacy, a Methodist minister, has been publishing books and articles since 1960 on topics as varied as the fine arts, St. Paul, and "Fast Food for the Soul." He appeared in Time magazine in March 2005, where he was interviewed about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Providence House Publishers has now released Collected Works of Donald Charles Lacy.
  • Three RCC members have died in the last few months: Raleigh Foss, Twin Cities Chapter president; Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Life Member; and Winston Taylor, national president 1967-69, Washington DC Chapter member.

RCC Fund News

RCC Board member Mohamed ElSanousi, director of communications and community outreach for the Islamic Society of North America, is RCC's first "sustaining member." Sustaining members pay $1,500 and receive lifetime membership in the Religion Communicators Council. It is a way of honoring RCC's interfaith communications work.

RCC charter member Helen T. McMillan-Green died January 25, 2005 at age 94. In her will, she left a bequest of $1,000 to the Religion Public Relations Council (now RCC). Helen was active in ecumenical and interfaith communications. She had lived in Colorado Springs since 1962, where she served as executive director of the Pikes Peak Association of Churches. She founded and produced a "Church Game" on KKTV for 15 years. She produced an annual directory of cathedrals, chapels, churches, and synagogues of the area.

Your gift to the RCC annual fund can ensure that the interfaith communications work of the Religion Communicators Council will continue in programs, such as the student scholarships, expanding RCC convention offerings, and updating the handbook for religion communicators. The RCC minimal annual membership fee makes it possible for many people to join the association, but it does not provide extra funds for RCC initiatives. We encourage you to consider a gift to the RCC annual fund.

Chapter News

Fourteen people attended a November 17 meeting in Indianapolis to organize a new RCC Chapter for Central Indiana. For more information or to be put on a Chapter e-mail list, contact Dan Gangler, [email protected].

Gail Sussman-Miller (right) discusses the art of networking With new Chicago Chapter member Debbie Wood at the November meeting.

The Greater Chicago Chapter is participating in the 42nd Greater Chicago Leadership Prayer Breakfast, December 2 at 7:30 a.m. at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. The keynote speaker for the breakfast, Mike Ivers, will offer a session for RCC members following the breakfast on how to get good public relations, publicity, advertising and promotion on nonprofit budgets. The content is from a course he offers his "Good City" not-for-profit organizations.

The Dallas Chapter hosted Paul Johnson, owner of Arts Mail, for updates on direct mail, postal regulations, etc. The chapter is in planning mode for the 2006 convention.

Thirty-three members of the New York Chapter met with the new religion editor for CNN, Delia Gallagher, on November 15.

Salma Kazmi, director of communications for the Islamic Society of Boston was the speaker at the November 9 meeting of the Boston Chapter.

The Nashville Chapter elected new officers at its November meeting: Amelia Tucker-Shaw, President; Cindy Politte, Co-VP, Programs; Jane Hines, Co-VP Programs; Carolyn Dandridge, VP Membership; Judy Saks, Treasurer; Deborah Jarrett, Communications. The meeting program at the Veterans Affairs hospital featured Chaplain Thom Phillips, who presented an insightful talk on "How chaplains address faith diversity in health care." The focus was on how to address the diversity of faith and spiritual healing in a Veterans hospital setting.

Go to the Events calendar at www.religioncommunicators.org for meeting dates and topics.

Media News

Many RCC members have been called into extra service on the front lines of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes. Our prayers are with them as they continue to tell the stories of hope. One website, www.disasternews.net, offers releases from multiple faith groups. Members Susan Kim is the editor: [email protected].

The Education and Ecumenical Formation program of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Hartford Seminary, USA have launched an interactive survey on interfaith education to catalogue such endeavours currently taking place in communities around the world. Resource material using good examples revealed by the survey will be produced to assist educators in faith communities and education systems to develop interfaith education appropriate to their contexts. The survey is part of the larger Interfaith Education Project (IEP) being sponsored by the two organizations. The project aims to take seriously the diversity of religious faith and practice to build positive understanding and attitudes.

RCC is a designated 501(c)3. Any gifts made to RCC are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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