Seven resources for covering religion

byInternational Center for Journalists
Nov 24, 2011 in Specialized Topics

The Internet has provided a tremendous number of resources for religion coverage. The challenge is how to use them effectively.

The first priority is to judge the value and reliability of information on any web site. Many have names that indicate an unbiased pursuit of truth, but soon show a political and cultural agenda that needs to be taken into consideration. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) both profess to advocate free speech and religious freedom, but they are at different ends of the liberal-conservative spectrum on how those rights should apply in practice. Islamonline.net and Islamonline.com have similar goals, but different sponsors and approaches.

To understand the potential bias of web sites, read their mission statements, look at their officers and board of directors, determine their funding sources and read a representative amount of content. That should give you some idea of where the information is coming from. Don’t reject partisan sites out of hand. The information can still be useful – and with the Internet, can come from anywhere and any political spectrum on the planet – as long as you understand the biases going in, then do further reporting as needed for balanced reporting.

Here are some general web sites you will find helpful in your own religion writing:

The Association of Religion Data Archives:
This is an excellent source for academic research on religion, this site allows you to explore research data on nearly any topic, and make international comparisons. As with all research, you need to evaluate who did the study and how, and ideally compare findings with similar studies. This site lets you do all those things.

ReligionSource
This service is offered by the American Academy of Religion, providing professional journalists with experts in more than 1,000 categories relating to religion. The site also gives background on its experts and a list of their relevant publications.

International newspapers: www.onlinenewspapers.com, www.thepaperboy.com
Reading newspapers from around the world helps us evaluate our own biases, gives us new reporting resources and helps us inform our own citizens on how issues are understood in other parts of the world.

Hartford Institute for Religion Research
In addition to its own excellent research, this site offers links to a superb range of resources from official homepages of different religious groups to the best statistical data available.

Religion Newswriters Association, http://www.rna.org
This professional group also offers an extensive online reference library.

Internet Sacred Text Archive
Interpretations of sacred texts are critical in shaping religious influence in everything from war to economics to sexuality. This site offers translations of various texts to enable you to put in context the claims made by various religious leaders. There are also sites on individual texts that offer in-depth comparative translations and concordances.

Society of Biblical Literature
This site has excellent links for research resources, including translations.

This post was originally part of an online course by ICFJ Anywhere, which supports journalists worldwide with free training on a range of topics. Courses are offered in a variety of languages including English, Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish and French. For the latest ICFJ Anywhere course offerings, click here.