October 6, 2010

St. Petersburg, FL (Oct. 7, 2010) — Poynter’s e-learning project, News University, and the Knight Program in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, announced today the launch of a new e-learning course on religion coverage designed for general assignment reporters, independent journalists and others who do not primarily cover religion as a beat.

The course, “Religion, Culture and Society: Getting Beyond the Cliches,” is offered free of charge, thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation. The e-learning module addresses the need to integrate informed and intelligent writing about religion into all areas of news coverage, as demonstrated by recent hot-button topics such as Glenn Beck and the growth of the Tea Party movement, revisions to the social studies curriculum in Texas public schools, the debate over Park51 and renewed tensions around Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

As specialty beats such as religion are cut back in mainstream news media — and as online news and opinion websites grow — there is an increased need for savvy and sensitive treatment of religious ideas, trends and personalities by journalists across the board.

In addition to editors, producers and reporters, the self-directed e-learning course also will serve journalism educators seeking to integrate modules about religion into reporting and writing classes. The course includes interactive learning, best practices and online resources. It specifically addresses the intersection of religion with such subjects as politics, science, the environment and foreign affairs.

The need for enhanced understanding of religion’s role has never been greater, said Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. “The recent Pew Forum survey revealed that Americans’ religious knowledge is poor to middling,” Winston said. “The e-course is an effective way for reporters to enhance what they know and make an impact on listeners, viewers and readers.”

Howard Finberg, director of interactive learning at The Poynter Institute, said the course is an important addition to the curriculum of Poynter’s NewsU. “It’s imperative that all journalists and journalism students know something about religion in today’s world,” he said. “This course addresses a key need for continuing education.”

For more information, go to www.newsu.org/courses/religion-culture-society
About Poynter’s News University
Poynter’s News University (www.newsu.org) offers training to journalists, journalism students, teachers and the public through more than 150 interactive e-learning modules and links to other journalism education and training opportunities.

About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute trains journalism practitioners, media leaders, educators and citizens in the areas of online and multimedia, leadership and management, reporting, writing and editing, TV and radio, ethics and diversity, journalism education and visual journalism. Poynter’s website, (www.poynter.org) is the dominant provider of journalism news, with a focus on business analysis and the opportunities and implications of technology.

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school’s comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university located in the media capital of the world.

Howard Finberg, Director of Interactive Learning
The Poynter Institute

Diane Winston
Knight Chair in Media and Religion
USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

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Jessica brings to the Institute more than 20 years of experience in journalism and public relations. She began her career in broadcasting, working on-air in…
Jessica Blais

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