Today, discussions of religion in America are often heated and explosively controversial; religion is a topic to be avoided at the dinner table rather than seen as something enriching. Fewer newspapers facilitate constructive conversation about religion or employ religion reporters to thoroughly cover religion news and religious people. In contrast to this trend, ReligionUnplugged is a new, nonprofit journalism platform that provides timely and thoughtful coverage of global religion news.
Directed by Paul Glader, associate professor of journalism, media, and entrepreneurship at The King’s College, ReligionUnplugged.com (RUP) was designed to develop a new ecosystem for religion reporting in the United States and around the world. The digital magazine publishes at least one story on the site daily and distributes its content via social media and email newsletters. RUP publishes content by journalists of all faiths and experiences—Christians and non-Christians, students and seasoned veterans—including author Ira Rifkin and retired AP religion reporter Richard Ostling.
RUP complements the reporting of other news organizations such as the Associated Press, Religion News Service, and Catholic news outlets by providing breaking news stories and cultural commentary through a variety of media. In addition to magazine-style articles, interviews, profiles, in-depth pieces, data journalism investigations, mini-documentaries, and podcasts can all be found on RUP.
On the website, King’s graduate Zsuzsa Williford (PPE ’19) offers a commentary on virtual churches and loneliness in America, while other writers discuss United States policy toward Iranian violations of religious freedom and the persecution of Christians in China. RUP also publishes cultural stories like Meagan Clark’s Lenten piece describing traditional Easter dishes from around the world, and RUP’s series called “Pilgrimages” features travel destinations such as Dublin’s Trinity College, which is home to the Book of Kells. Additionally, RUP offers commentary on the ways that film, television, music, art, and literature engage with religion. Other stories, including a reflection on the Notre Dame inferno and a publication about Stan Lee’s views on God, coexist on the site to create an international database of comprehensive, contemporary religion articles.
The site also fosters the talents and ideas of many King’s associates. Clemente Lisi, affiliate assistant professor of journalism at King’s, regularly contributes thought pieces on religious events like last November’s panel on William F. Buckley’s Catholic faith and conservative legacy. Recent alumni Rachel Cline (HUM ’19) published an article on RUP about an Israeli kibbutz on the West Bank, which she originally wrote for Lisi’s opinion journalism class based on her visit with Passages: Israel. To date, a dozen other students and alumni from The King’s College have posted articles on RUP, extending the conversation about politics, culture, faith, and truth beyond the classroom.
ReligionUnplugged was created and funded by The Media Project (TMP), a nonprofit journalism training organization with offices in New York City and Irvine, Calif. TMP conducts training programs for hundreds of journalists on five continents to promote a more profound understanding of the role of religion in public life through accurate, thorough, and intellectually honest reporting. Many of TMP’s 1,400 members around the world often contribute stories about their respective countries for publication on ReligionUnplugged, and they participate in TMP conferences in international metropolises like Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Mexico City. The Media Project has more than 40,000 fans on Facebook, more than 2,000 on Twitter, and has seen dramatic growth in its ReligionUnplugged website in the past year.
The Media Project encourages people of all faiths to participate in religious discussions, conferences, and reporting. After all, as the content on RUP reveals, the hunger for spiritual meaning and the search for significance are universal. By examining the universal human condition—the desire for transcendent experiences—TMP and RUP’s journalists have created a unique, cross-cultural community dedicated to reporting on the role of religion in society and in people’s lives.
Unlike many other news services, ReligionUnplugged does not require a paid membership to access content; newsletter subscriptions are free, and any stories published on ReligionUnplugged can be republished by other news outlets as long as they acknowledge RUP as the original publisher. To follow more religion stories from across the globe, visit ReligionUnplugged.com and @mediaprojectorg on Twitter.