4 questions to help you go beyond religious cliches in your reporting

The nagging suspicion that there is more to a story than appears on the surface makes any good journalist keep digging. Here are some guiding questions to help you unearth the religious angle that will enhance and add depth to the coverage of any story, regardless of topic.

Cultural influences: Religious partisans, like participants in political or social movements, often either integrate elements of the broader cultural medium around them or reject those outside influences as hostile to their faith. Do you see one (or both) of those tendencies at work in the story?

Individual vs. community: What are the tensions around individual identity, meaning and/or community in the story?

Literal or spiritual: Do the sources in the story use foundational ideas, texts or beliefs to justify what they're doing or to make sense of what's happening to them? Or do they talk more about the spirit of the text or sacred teaching?

Everyday perspective: The engine for change in religious movements is often found in the neighborhoods, prisons, kitchens or bedrooms where religion is lived rather than the institutions where it is officially practiced. What do sources say about the issues at stake in the story when they're away from the church, temple or synagogue?

Taken from Religion, Culture and Society: Getting Beyond the Cliches, a self-directed course by Diane Winston and Nick Street at Poynter NewsU.

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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.


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