Winners of Knight Grants for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life named

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Nine projects were chosen to receive grants between $5,000 and $20,000. The recipients are: Matt Ozug, Julia Elliott, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Christopher Johnson, Nicole Greenfield, Nathan Schneider, Monique Parsons, Andre Tartar, Ann Neumann, and Matt O’Brien.


Press release

Monday, Aug. 15, Los Angeles — The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism has announced the recipients of the 2011 Knight Grants for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life. Among many outstanding applications, nine projects were chosen to receive grants between $5,000 and $20,000.

“We are very excited to support reporting on topics that include the influence of William Lane Craig, one of the leading thinkers of the Christian right; post-prison life for Latino and African-American Muslim converts; and sexual teachings in ‘hip’ evangelical churches,” said Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC Annenberg. “These projects illustrate the impact of religion on major issues facing the nation.”

Knight Grants will support the following projects:

* Reporter/producer Matt Ozug and writer and documentary filmmaker Julia Elliott will produce “The Sacred in the City,” a website that will document how religious communities help immigrants maintain an ethnic identity while acclimating to life in New York City. Ozug is best known for his work on NPR’s StoryCorps. Elliott was the co-producer of “The Old Man and the Storm,” a one-hour documentary about an African American family’s struggle in post-Katrina New Orleans.

* More than 100,000 kids who have incarcerated parents also have a volunteer mentor through a federally funded program called Mentoring Children of Prisoners. G. Jeffrey MacDonald will report on what happens to the relationships between these children and their mentors – many of whom entered the program through faith-based organizations — when funding expires in September. MacDonald is a senior correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

* Christopher Johnson will produce a series of radio stories on Ifa, an ancient Nigeria-based religion, that’s been adopted by an estimated 3 million black Americans. Johnson will trace Ifa’s evolution in the US from secret societies founded amid the late 60s Afrocentric movements to recent public clashes among Ifa, Santeria and Lukumi practitioners that may be racially-motivated. Johnson’s work has been featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “Day to Day” and “All Things Considered.”

* Nicole Greenfield will examine changing attitudes on LGBT rights and marriage equality among influential urban evangelical churches – among them Revolution NYC led by “punk preacher” Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye. Greenfield is a freelance journalist and contributing editor for The Revealer.

* Nathan Schneider will profile scholar William Lane Craig who is leading a movement to win over philosophy departments for conservative Christianity and from there, American politics and society. Schneider is an editor and journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Religion Dispatches, and Tricycle.

* Monique Parsons will look at the new generation of American-born, highly educated, Daily Show-watching, social media-savvy mosque-builders in the United States. Parsons is an independent producer and freelance reporter based in Chicago whose work has been featured on Beliefnet, NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”

* Andre Tartar, a freelance reporter for New York Magazine, will report on Brazilian Pentecostals in Queens, New York, whose churches are instrumental in their assimilation to American life.

* Ann Neumann will investigate “Dying in America” with stories on the ongoing controversy surrounding “Death with Dignity” bills, prison inmates who are dying behind bars, and debates between Catholic health providers and hospital staff over end-of-life issues. Neumann has written for The Nation, AlterNet, Religion Dispatches, and KillingtheBuddha.

* Conversions, primarily among African Americans but also Latinos, make Muslims the fastest-growing faith group in California prisons. Matt O’Brien will explore the faith component of their readjustment to life outside the penal system — including the challenge of finding welcoming Muslim communities. O’Brien is a regional staff writer for the Oakland Tribune.

During the nine-month period of their award, fellows will report and develop stories for delivery on multiple platforms. Several fellows will be selected to present their work at USC, hold master classes for journalism students and give public lectures for the community.

The Knight Chair in Media and Religion, established in 2002 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, participates in a wide range of activities, including the organization of conferences for working journalists and the sponsorship of events for the local community.

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  • Anonymous

    Terrific- I hope some of these kids will learn what too many in the profession seem to ignore… the prevalence of religious fundamentalists who programmed voting machines for Diebold and ES&S.  Google: Spoonamore, evangelists, voting machines.