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RNA e-Extra News: Jan. 20, 2011
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In This Issue


The abortion debate heats up: ReligionLink's resources and experts

The anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion always sparks discussions about this hot-button issue, and the annual March for Life in Washington is one focus of attention. But the Republican takeover of the House has also raised hopes -- and concerns -- that new legislation could limit abortion rights. Read more...

Also keep in mind these recent ReligionLink editions related to current events:

Tech Tools

KnowledgeWebb’s Trends to Watch for in 2011

KnowledgeWebb offers a quick trip to the future of media with its 2011 Trends Report. The report identifies the top 30 tech trends expected to impact clients and media consumers this year, including digital sea changes, innovations and products in development.

Some trends, like the shift from standard IP addresses supported by IVp4 to the new IVp6, could affect clients directly if they don’t take action and start migrating to the new system. KnowledgeWebb also forecasts a surge of digital news tablets, an end to the hyperlocal news trend, an increase in geoconferencing/digital check-ins and increased Facebook retail as companies launch stores inside the social-networking giant.

Other predictions, such as the mainstreaming of 3D Printing, are expected to change the way we all interact with media. Web apps, interactive advertising, e-book sharing, personal interest graphs and social browsers are expected to take over in the upcoming years. Interactivity and personalization to an almost science-fiction level will be the most notable characteristic of our media future.

A third category of KnowledgeWebb predictions addresses consumer trends that are already underway but only expected to get bigger in the upcoming months, such as Skype, Groupon, web doctor apps, mobile scanning and the end of privacy. If that last part sounds frightening, at least it can be said that KnowledgeWebb’s predictions take the unknown out of "fear of the unknown.” To read the entire trend report and for all the latest research, join KnowledgeWebb.


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RNA e-Extra News: January 20, 2011

From the President

When I recently asked 16 former RNA presidents if they would lend a hand and form a new advisory council, the answer was a resounding yes.

All of them said they’d be glad to be part of the new Council of Presidents.

I was impressed and encouraged at their willingness to help.

But it’s not a surprise that longtime members are eager to support the organization. They’re the ones who blazed trails in developing a community where colleagues turn to one another for tips, insight, encouragement and even job leads. This sense of camaraderie among religion reporters remains a defining quality of the Religion Newswriters Association.

(As an aside, I have been unable to reach the 17th living former president, Marjorie Hyer, who was a religion writer for The Washington Post. If you have a lead on her contact information, please forward it to me.)

One of these former presidents reiterated the long history of camaraderie among RNA members recently. Ben Kaufman, former religion writer at The Cincinnati Enquirer, looked me up over the holidays when he was in the Tacoma area to visit his daughter.

Ben covered the religion beat from the late 1960s until the early 1980s. While retired now, he still writes a column on the media for CityBeat, an alternative weekly newspaper in Cincinnati. He was president of RNA from 1981-82.

(I still have my first RNA membership card signed by him in 1982. It certified I was "a member in good standing of the first and only organization formed exclusively for men and women who cover the world’s religious events.”)

During our conversation, Ben recalled the camaraderie was good among religion reporters back when he reported on religion.

"We got more affirmation from each other than we did from our newsrooms, generally,” Ben said. "Back then, nobody heard of a Pulitzer being given for a religion story.”

I also bounced this issue of camaraderie off of Religion Newswriters executive director Debra Mason, who formerly was a religion writer for The Columbus Dispatch. Here’s what she said:"I think covering faith, you see the best and worst of what humanity (and God) are capable of and it gives us, I think, a different view of being a journalist. I think some amongst us never see it that way, but most of us do.

"I think we all know we’re a little weird in our newsrooms for not dismissing faith and for finding in it some of the very best that journalism has to offer,” Debra said. "So we stick together, as a clan.”

I have found a sense of collegiality – even while we compete - among religion writers over the years that I haven’t experienced on other beats.

I think there’s a sense of isolation – even loneliness – when taking on the religion beat in a newsroom. A lot of reporters don’t want to touch the topic because they’re uncomfortable with it.

The subject may bring up conflicts or negative experiences they’ve had with religion. Some may be afraid of making a mistake (Do I say Father, Rev. or Pastor? Do you really need to use "the” in front of Rev.?).

Many years ago at one of the papers I’ve worked for, a reporter at a planning meeting discounted any possibility that he, as the Saturday general assignment reporter, could cover a meeting with thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses. His stated reason was that he didn’t know anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses.

His comment went unchecked. I know that kind of excuse would never be accepted for virtually any other assignment handed to a general assignment reporter.

At The News Tribune, many in the newsroom have spoken up in support of religion coverage. At one point during a restructuring and before later downsizing, they successfully advocated for religion, ethics and values to become a full-time beat.

Likewise, my colleagues in RNA have supported and encouraged me over the years, whether by phone, e-mail or meeting on the beat or at annual conferences. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that encouragement.

There’s a bond we share as religion writers that is hard to explain. But it’s a connection that continues to unite us and drive the core purpose of RNA.

Board Activities

Enterprise Award named for Gerald Renner

This past December the RNA Board voted to name the Enterprise award after religion journalist Gerald Renner, who uncovered sex abuse in the Legionaries of Christ, a Catholic order.

Renner was a longtime reporter at the Hartford Courant before retiring to write the book "Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II” (Free Press, 2004) with freelance writer Jason Berry. The book drew attention to Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, leader of the secretive Catholic order, and the Church’s efforts to cover up Maciel’s alleged sex abuses.

Although the book’s allegations drew heat, ultimately it played a large part in Maciel’s removal from public ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Renner died in 2007 of stomach cancer at age 75.


Now accepting contest entries

Are you particularly proud of an article or blog that you have written about religious news? Is there a graphic or illustration you have completed that you'd like to get recognized?

Be sure to enter one or several of our 19 contests. We have more than doubled the number of contests we offer this year in an effort to shine the light on those journalistic accomplishments that seldom get recognition.

The deadline for the members-only, early bird entries is fast approaching. These entries must be submitted by Jan. 24. All other submissions, except the student contest, must be received by Feb. 1. The student contest has a May 1 deadline.

Here is a summary of the contest changes:
• A new members-only early bird entry fee for entries submitted by Jan. 15.
• No anonymous entries
• All entries submitted electronically except for books, documentaries and overall magazine excellence
• New contests for large newspapers and wire services with circulations exceeding 300,000 average daily circulation
• Reconfiguring the Supple contest as a feature writing multiple media award
• Enterprise and series multiple media award
• New commentary (blogging, column writing, analysis, etc) contest
• Expanding online religion sections to include online only sites
• New magazine news reporting contest
• New magazine graphic or illustration contest
• New magazine layout and design contest
• New magazine overall excellence award
• New television news magazine contest
• Revived local television news contest
• New documentary contest
• Expansion of radio contest to include podcasts
• New non-fiction book contest

To see complete rules and eligibility requirements, please visit the 2011 Contest Pages here:
On Twitter, use hashtag #RNA2011Contests. We look forward to receiving your work and welcome any questions.


10 Things to do in Durham, N.C.

Iceland, Singapore, London, Milan and Durham, N.C.—what do these destinations have in common? All five were selected by the New York Times for inclusion in The 41 Places to Go in 2011.

Don’t let the inclusion of Durham fool you—the site of this year’s RNA annual conference has plenty of revitalized sites and restaurants to keep visitors entertained downtown.

New York Times suggests Scratch Bakery for fresh farmers’ market baked goods and Revolution for seasonal fine dining. Here’s a list of additional sites and activities to take in on your next trip to Durham:

  • Enjoy a picnic at Bennett Place, the historical farmhouse site where Generals Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman met to reach the agreement that ended the Civil War.
  • Experience a simulated tornado or build a sand dune at the ABC News Channel 11 exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science. Or meet gators and bats up close in the Carolina Wildlife section.
  • Take in a Blue Devils game at the Cameron Indoor Stadium. Just remember to get tickets far in advance!
  • Sign up for a campus tour at Duke University. On-campus sites include Duke Chapel, Nasher Museum of Art and Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
  • Shop for used books, music and more at the artsy shopping district on Ninth Street.
  • Enjoy coffee and a sandwich on fresh-baked bread at the Parker and Otis restaurant and specialty-food store.
  • Get away from the city at Eno River State Park, where you can hike, fish or rent canoes. It’s a great place to stay if you prefer to camp out.
  • Take a tour of 19th century tobacco-farm life at Duke Homestead, where you can learn more about the tobacco industry and how agricultural methods have changed over time.
  • Buy a souvenir and support the work of low-income artisans and crafters from around the world at the One World Market.
  • Try a cup of Counter Culture coffee, noted by the New York Times and locals as one of the most highly regarded roasters in the country. The company consistently outranks the competition in terms of taste and sustainability.

Professional Development

Knowledgewebb discount

Digital training site Knowledgewebb is extending a special discount to RNA members. Type the code RNA2011 into the coupon box on the sign-up page to receive a 30% discount off the annual price of $129. The site offers resources, classes, webinars and more for users interested in improving and learning new tech skills.

Julie Sturgeon
Webbmedia Group, LLC
Main Office: 267-342-4300
International: +00 (1) 267-342-4300

Commission investigates tax issues for religious organizations and nonprofits

A recent investigation led by Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley brought attention and reform to tax issues and executive compensation by charitable ministries, according to an article on The commission created by The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability began its three-year investigation of six ministries in 2007, and the resulting report suggests reforming rules on nonprofit executive salaries and involvement in political campaigns.

The investigation was held back when only two of the six ministries responded to the senator’s inquiry, but a new panel—the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations—has been set up by the evangelical council to expand the research to more religious organizations and nonprofits.

Questions and issues investigated by the commission include:

  • Should churches be required to file Form 990 tax returns like other charities?
  • Should restrictions on IRS audits of church leaders be relaxed?
  • Is legislation is needed to monitor the clergy housing allowance exclusion?
  • Should the prohibition against political campaign intervention by churches and other nonprofits be modified?
  • Is legislation is needed to clarify tax rules covering "love offerings” received by some clergy?

Michael Batts, who serves on the council's board, will head the organization and gave no indication of when the commission’s work will be completed.

Join the team at Silent Heroes, Invisible Bridges

Silent Heroes, Invisible Bridges - an Istanbul-based not-for-profit media organization - welcomes creative minds to help promote peaceful co-existence amongst nations, cultures and religions of the world. For our global outreach, we seek digital media journalists, editors, translators and broadcasters worldwide to work with us in cyberspace.

With at least five years of experience in active field reporting and feature writing with good knack of photography.

With excellent editing and re-writing skills in English, Turkish, Malay, French, German, Spanish, Noshk and Portuguese are needed.

With skills to transliterate stories from English and Arabic to Turkish, Malay, French, German, Spanish, Noshk and Portuguese languages.

With skills to produce Internet radio shows and debates on cross-cultural and cross-religious issues in English, Turkish, Malay, French, German, Spanish, Noshk and Portuguese.

With zeal to work in digital media and readiness to explore beyond the obvious, you can join the Silent Heroes, Invisible Bridges wherever you are.

Member News and Views

Welcome to our newest RNA members

Kelly L. Boyce, Student - Columbia University
Zeinab Saiwalla, Student - New York University
Heather Higgins, Student - Columbia University
Zohreen Adamjee, Student - Columbia University
Ruben Sanchez, Student - New York University
Dale Kuehne, Professor - Saint Anslem College

Sponsored Press Releases

Note: The following press releases are paid advertisements, and the groups or individuals who submit them to RNA are solely responsible for their accuracy.

A book. A major motion picture. A Catholic tradition.
And a phenomenon of interest to all…

The Rite — the book that is the inspiration for the January 28, 2011 major motion picture release starring Anthony Hopkins — by journalist Matt Baglio is a uniquely intimate glimpse into the chilling world of a real-life Roman Catholic exorcist. Baglio masterfully depicts the unearthly scenes of modern exorcism, while unveiling the ancient rituals, tenets, and history of the practice. Culminating with a personal confrontation of demonic possession and written with an investigative eye that will captivate both skeptics and believers alike, it reveals the truth about demonic possession — it’s not only stranger than fiction, but also far more chilling.

With full cooperation, Baglio follows Father Gary Thomas’ fascinating training as an agent against evil in The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, leading the reader on a journey into a largely unseen world where the battle between good and evil is fierce and real. Beginning with his appointment to the course and following him through his grueling apprenticeship with a renowned and elusive Italian exorcist, Baglio reveals how this courageous priest is transformed from skeptic into practitioner. Father Gary participated in more than eighty exorcisms on the road to becoming one of the few Vatican-approved exorcists in America today.

The ongoing interest in exorcisms as seen in recent coverage by the New York Times, New York Post, ABC News, CNN, The Washington Times and others — as well the Vatican and Catholic Church leaders giving it more attention — lends evidence to this evergreen topic of spiritual intrigue. The Discovery Channel also recently announced a new series to launch in the spring called The Exorcist Files. With the assistance of the Vatican and access to their private case files, something that has never been permitted before, the Discovery Channel will recreate stories of demonic possession as investigated by the Catholic Church.

Baglio and Father Gary were involved in the film production for the upcoming movie, which is a fictionalized version of the book. Baglio’s The Rite is referenced as the inspiration for the film. The movie trailer and other information can be viewed at

MATT BAGLIO, a reporter living in Rome, has written for the Associated Press and the International Herald Tribune. Visit his website at

What Others are Saying about Matt Baglio’s The Rite

"There are chilling descriptions of exorcists battling demons in The Rite … Baglio has strong storytelling skills, and constructs a narrative that travels a long distance quickly." – LA Times

"The story Matt Baglio tells in this book is an important one.” – Rod Dreher, Beliefnet

"For anyone seeking a serious and very human examination of this fascinating subject, one that surpasses the sensational, The Rite is absorbing and enlightening reading." – Publishers Weekly

By Matt Baglio

ISBN: 9780385522717, Trade Paperback, $15.00
Published by Doubleday Religion, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Random House Inc.

For more information about the book, or to schedule an interview with Matt Baglio,Contact Johanna Inwood at: or 719-264-5696.



Louisville, KY – St. Boniface Catholic Church will celebrate 175 years of continuous worship with a lineup of activities, highlighted by a reunion of former parishioners, students and teachers capped off by a commemorative Mass celebrated by Archibishop Joseph Kurtz.

According to Deacon J. Patrick Wright, pastoral administrator of St. Boniface. A nationwide outreach will be made in the coming weeks to "alert anyone connected to the church in the past to come home to St. Boniface.”

Deacon Wright also notes that his church holds a special place in the history of the Catholic Church in Louisville.

"Through the years,” says Deacon Wright, "St. Boniface has been a vibrant urban church that was the mother parish for several churches in Louisville - including St. Martin of Tours and St. Joseph. St. Boniface was home to one of the first radio broadcasts of a Mass in Louisville. St. Boniface School provided shelter for 80 Louisville residents fleeing the flood of 1937.”

Apart from the reunion and a special, feast-day Mass, St. Boniface will be producing a documentary video that will feature recollections of long-time parishioners who will provide singular perspectives about the history of the church in the past 75 years. A historical marker to spotlight St. Boniface as Louisville’s oldest Catholic parish existing under its original name is scheduled to be dedicated in the summer of 2011.

Founded in 1836 to serve Louisville’s rising German immigrant population, St. Boniface is the oldest church named in honor of the patron saint of Germany in the U.S. The current Gothic-influenced church building was dedicated in 1900 with its latest renovation taking place last spring.

While celebrating the past, St. Boniface has never stopped living in the present. Among the specific ministries of the church is Nativity Academy, which operates as a middle school for children of low-income urban families. Nativity is co-sponsored by Ursuline Sisters of Louisville and the Xaverian Brothers.

For more information, contact John Lannert at 502.641.9767.


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