Scripps Howard Foundation and Columbia University Create Scripps Program in Religion, Journalism, and the Spiritual Life

Tue, August 26, 1997 by Tim King

CINCINNATI, Ohio – A new program created by Columbia University's graduate school and funded by the Scripps Howard Foundation will help prepare journalism students to close the wide gap between the small share of news coverage dedicated to religion and the much larger share of time actually devoted to spiritual activities by the typical American.The Scripps Program in Religion, Journalism, and the Spiritual Life will be launched this fall on Columbia's New York City campus.A $150,000 grant from the foundation represents a three-year commitment to the new program, which will build on the Graduate School of Journalism’s current efforts to improve the quality of the media’s religion coverage."This will be a unique project found at present in no other journalism school," said Bruce Kaufmann, director of development and alumni relations at the Graduate School.The Scripps program has three main goals:1. To educate a new corps of professional journalists to cover religious subjects;2. To increase the stature among news organizations of religion as an important "news beat" and to improve the accuracy of reporting on religious and spiritual issues; and3. To bring together religious newswriters and representatives of different religious traditions."It is alarming that editors and reporters, who view themselves as chroniclers of their communities, pay so little attention to the religious issues that are of paramount importance to many in their audience," said Judith G. Clabes, president and chief executive officer of the Scripps Howard Foundation. "The entire journalism profession will benefit from an academic focus on this issue, and the Scripps Howard Foundation is proud to partner with an institution as prestigious as Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism to conduct such a project."The Scripps Program will approach its mission with three specific activities – the offering of journalism courses designed to expose students to the many facets of this issue; scholarships for master’s-level students; and seminars that will mix journalism professionals with religious leaders in a focused discussion of the gulf between religious activity and religious coverage.Clabes said there is no journalism school in the country that is better suited to the mission of the Scripps Program than Columbia. It already offers two graduate-level courses in the field – Covering Religion: Beliefs Values and Issues, taught by Ari Goldman, former religion columnist for The New York Times, and Journalism in the Media, taught by Dr. Rev. Donald W. Shriver, Jr., president emeritus of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, and James W. Carey, former dean of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois. Columbia’s campus is adjacent to both Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary, affording the graduate school additional resources and opportunities for joint activities such as a dual-degree program, exchange of students and faculty, and conferences and workshops.Dedicated to excellence in journalism, the Scripps Howard Foundation is a leader in industry efforts in journalism education and scholarships, literacy, minority recruitment and development, and First Amendment causes.