It is almost impossible to open an American newspaper these days and not find an
article that mentions Islam or Muslims. And it’s not just stories from overseas.
Muslims can be found in even the smallest communities in the U.S.
For local reporters, that is both a challenge and an opportunity: A challenge, because
in this age of newsroom cutbacks, religion reporters – and other specialists – have
become an endangered species; an opportunity because within America’s Muslim communities
there is a plethora of untold stories.
And then there is the breaking news: Controversies over the construction of
local mosques; the growing anti-sharia (Islamic law) movement in states like Michigan
and Florida; court cases against Muslim charities and the arrests of would-be domestic
You don’t have to be an expert on Islam to report about Muslims in your backyard,
any more than you need to have an MBA to report about local unemployment issues.
But for any story, a little background is necessary. Armed with a basic understanding,
you are more likely to get a better story and less likely to make a mistake.
That’s why we created Islam for Journalists.
Led by veteran CBS News Middle East correspondent Lawrence Pintak, now founding
dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University,
and former Chicago Tribune Middle East correspondent Stephen Franklin, the project
brings together a dozen of the nation’s leading experts on Islam to present an overview
of American Muslims, their religion and their culture, in a way that is accessible
to busy reporters.
There are two versions of the course. Both are free, both are self-directed. You
can look at one specific topic in a few minutes or spend a few hours immersing yourself
in the topic. It’s up to you.
The NewsU Covering Islam in America course provides a quick overview on specific topics.
The WSU Islam on Main Street course is more in depth. It is aimed at those who want to
immerse themselves more deeply into the subject.
Either can be easily integrated into a newsroom seminar or college journalism course.
The project is funded by the Social Science Research Council with a grant from the
Carnegie Corporation of New York.