America’s religious landscape is shifting, and, as a result, news coverage of religion has never been more important.

“Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life” will give journalists and the general public an opportunity to explore one of the most important, sensitive, and controversial topics in contemporary America.

The one-day conference will feature journalists and scholars who will help participants gain a deeper understanding of the role religion plays in public life and how religion is — and isn’t — represented well in the news media today.

David GregoryThe conference will culminate in a keynote address, free and open to the public, by television journalist David Gregory, former White House correspondent and moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, and the author of How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey.

Registration is required for the day-long conference. No registration is necessary for David Gregory’s evening keynote presentation.

Program Schedule

  All events at Upper|House, UW–Madison
  • America’s Changing Religious Landscape

    The Pew Research Center has done groundbreaking work documenting shifts in religious beliefs, affiliations, and practices in the United States. The Center’s two recent studies of the “U.S. Religious Landscape,” each aggregating some 35,000 responses, provide an in-depth look at how American religious life is changing. The results pose interesting challenges and opportunities for journalists covering religion, for public policy and for practitioners of religion. Besheer Mohamed will provide an overview of the current landscape and what it means now.

    As a veteran journalist who specializes both in the coverage of religion and of survey research, Cathy Lynn Grossman will help connect Besheer Mohamed’s presentation with the issues this changing landscape raises for journalists covering religion.

  • How the Press Covers Religion and Spirituality

    Religious faith plays a big part in the lives of most Americans, and issues involving religious beliefs and practice crop up constantly in public life. Nevertheless, media generally cover religious issues poorly, often failing to inform audiences about the complexity of religious beliefs or the full contexts in which faith informs individuals’ decisions. Four veteran reporters provide an inside look at how they report religious news and offer critiques of how the media covers it.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm LUNCH BREAK

During the lunch break, there will be an opportunity for attendees to gather in small groups with presenters for informal conversations. There will be limited capacity for each of these gatherings, so once a space is filled, people will make a second choice.

Attendees who registered before Thursday, March 10, will receive a boxed lunch. Meal choices, including a kosher option, are given during the Eventbrite registration process. Others may bring in lunch. Upper|House’s building has a Milio’s Subs shop, CoffeeBytes sandwiches, and a full-service Fresh Madison Market grocery store with salad bar, hot food buffet, sushi station, etc.

People are also free to take their lunches and eat in groups of their own choosing in various spaces at Upper|House.

Changing religious landscape | Besheer Mohammed, John Terrill

Trends in religion journalism | Jaweed Kaleem, Bob Smietana

Religion in the city, on the campus | Tony Carnes, Christopher Smith, Greg Jao, Gordon Govier

Covering local communities | Doug Erickson, Chuck Stokes

A critique of journalism | Jim Davis, John Smalley

Religious liberty | Donald Downs, Charles Cohen

Islam in America | Dilshad Ali, Phil Haslanger

Challenges of religion reporting | Cathy Lynn Grossman, Mark Pitsch

  • Too Hot to Handle? Journalists at Work

    As with many topics in journalism, religion is an area that can evoke strong emotions in the midst of controversy. Differing understandings of religious tenets and structures add to the difficulties. Three journalists will talk about how they managed to keep both their professional and personal balance in the midst of particularly hot religious topics that they have covered.

  • Faith on the Street

    Tony Carnes and Christopher Smith will present their work covering religion at the street level in New York City. Over the past five years, “A Journey Through NYC Religions” has explored, documented, and explained the great religious changes in New York City. Using videos from the project’s web site, Carnes and Smith will demonstrate how journalists might use this approach to cover religion in their regions.

  • Religious Freedom and Freedom of Conscience

    This panel exposes and explores the tension between competing goods: the value Americans place on religious freedom, and the value Americans place on equality among citizens. How do we as a society negotiate this conflict? How can people covering this issue in the media appreciate all the points at stake?

  • KEYNOTE: A Journalist’s Unlikely Spiritual Journey

    David Gregory, author of How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey, understands the demands of journalism at the highest levels and, more recently, has grappled with the role faith plays in his own life. He brings a perspective to the covering of religious issues from someone who understands how journalism works and from someone who has thought deeply about religious questions. Introduction by Kathleen Bartzen Culver.

    Gregory’s keynote talk is free and open to the public. No registration necessary.


Patron Sponsors

  • Wisconsin Newspapers AssociationWisconsin Newspapers AssociationWisconsin State Journal WKOW-TV in Madison

Supporting Sponsor

  • Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism


365 East Campus Mall
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