Why Does the Lilly Endowment Want Journalists to Get Religion?

Due to generous support from the Lilly Endowment, the Religion Newswriters Association is offering full-time journalists scholarships of up to $5,000 to take "any college religion courses at any accredited institution at any time."

Why is the Lilly Endowment giving their support for the religious education of journalists?

Because religious issues are often in the news, but these issues can be complex and biases can be strong. The Lilly Endowment believes it can improve coverage by getting behind efforts by the Religion Newswriters Association to educate working journalists on the intricacies of the ever-shifting world of religion and politics.

The two-year Lilly Scholarships in Religion program seeks to enhance religion reporting through education. And it has no axe to grind or ideology to promote. The scholarships are offered to full-time print and broadcast journalists in order to study any aspect of any religious issue they choose.

As RNA states in their guidelines, "Through education, reporters can build knowledge about religious history, trends, training, theology, doctrine and scriptures. By attending courses in their communities, journalists can expand their knowledge of religion, resulting in reporters who are more sensitive to the impact and nuances of faith or develop their personal spirituality."

That's a broad mandate. And it's right in line with Lilly's longstanding efforts to promote a more robust religious life in the United States through a range of strategies as the foundation world's top funder in this space. (Eli Lilly was deeply involved in the Christ Church, in case you're wondering where it all started.) 

CNN's Eric Marrapodi is an alumni of the program and has commented, saying, "The courses led to dozens of story ideas and new resources. I came out a sharper researcher and writer, two benefits I was not expecting going in."

Four scholarships of up to $5,000 each are available to each recipient within a two-year period and funds can go toward tuition, registration fees, books, and other incidental expenses at any accredited North American college, university, or seminary.

Funds must be used within three months of the award date and everyone, including reporters, editors, designers, copy editors, editorial writers, news directors, researchers,  and producers are eligible to apply as long they work in the "general circulation" news media.

The next application deadline for the Lilly Scholarships in Religion is July 1, 2014 (with notifications to follow within 3 weeks). For FAQs and more information on how to apply, click here.