Inspired future for religion journalism

I’m not going to pretend that getting up this morning wasn’t rough. As you may know, I was in Des Moines last Wednesday to cover the kick-off of the third Nuns on the Bus tour (and our U.S. sister liaison, Franciscan Sr. Jan Cebula, blogged from the bus on the Iowa leg of the tour).

What you may not know is that immediately after the rally, I hurriedly wrote my article in the airport from my phone as I hopped on a plane to Atlanta for my first Religion Newswriters Association conference – and I’ve been on the go ever since. I just got back to Kansas City yesterday, and I’m writing this blog post at 5 a.m.

I mention all this to say that I am exhausted but gloriously happy.

The Religion Newswriters Association is a professional group supporting the dwindling subset of journalists who cover religion and religious issues. The so-called God beat isn’t shrinking because there isn’t an interest in writing about religion and faith, it’s dwindling because, as news rooms across the country tighten their belts, the religion section is typically one of the first sections to go.

If you check your local paper, chances are that it used to have a full-time religion reporter and now it doesn’t.

I’ve been a member of the RNA for four years, but this is the first time I’ve gone to the annual conference, and, I have to say, it’s hard to lament the fate of your chosen field when you’re packed into a hotel ballroom with journalists who get passionately enthused about a panel discussion on the theology of death.

But perhaps the best part of the week for me was meeting other young women who also who also recognize the need for solid religion reporting. Journalism as a whole is decidedly male and any journalist under the age of 30 can tell you that someone has, at some point, tried to discourage her from going into journalism in any iteration because it’s a dying profession.

And yet, I spent the second half of last week meeting women like Corrie Mitchell, OnFaith’s assistant editor, who deliberately tailored her education to befit a career in religion journalism; and four women from the University of Missouri’s student RNA chapter who all aspire to have careers in religion reporting.

How can you not get excited about that?

I left Atlanta sleep-deprived and short a laptop but feeling great about the future of religion journalism. Yes, it may not be the mainstay of local newspapers they way it used to be – but neither are local newspapers the mainstay of media that they used to be. Talented and innovative people are still dedicated to producing quality journalism on topics of faith. And not only are those people doing it in new and interesting ways, their voices are diverse and bucking the demographic trends found in other fields of journalism.

I am thrilled to be a part of this future, and I love that the Global Sisters Report will be too. And now, this usually #coffeelessjournalist is going to get a latte.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report.]