Islam for Journalists

The confluence of American politics and the rise of the Islamic state means it is almost impossible to open an American newspaper, turn on a television or log onto a web page these days without reading about Islam or Muslims. But long after the election, America’s 3.3 million Muslims will remain an important story.

Controversies over the construction of local mosques; the arrests of would-be domestic terrorists; the growing anti-sharia (Islamic law) movement; court cases against Muslim charities. The topics are many and complex.

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.

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 this free e-book.

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Led by former CBS News Middle East correspondent Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, and Pulitzer Prize finalist, former Chicago Tribune Middle East correspondent Stephen Franklin, the project brings together a dozen of the nation’s leading experts on Islam — journalists and academics alike — to present an overview of the religion and culture of Islam and the community of American Muslims, in a way that is accessible to busy reporters.

The project was funded by the Social Science Research Council, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of NY, through its “Islam in the Public Sphere” initiative.

Islam for Journalists is a free Digital Newsbook, designed and produced by Roger Fidler at the University of Missouri’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). It joins a growing collection of notable e-books produced at the RJI for the Center for Public Integrity for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Tampa Bay Times, and a variety of other news organizations

The companion project, Covering Islam, is a free course offered through the Poynter Institute’s News University.

What the Pros Say:

An invaluable resource for journalists covering Islam, whether in their local community, nationally or overseas. Frankly, this book is of value to anyone, given the still prevalent misunderstanding in this country of Muslims and their faith.

—Peter Bhatia, editor and vice president, The Cincinnati Enquirer/Enquirer Media

Understanding the basics of Islam is a must for all reporters, not just foreign correspondents or world affairs pundits. This book is an invaluable starting point for journalists who want to understand one of America’s fastest-growing religions.

—Doyle McManus, Washington, DC, columnist, The Los Angeles Times

As information about Islam and Muslims increasingly ties into local news coverage in many markets, having a better understanding about the culture and access to important background information is essential to ensure accurate and objective reporting. This book is a must read for journalists who need to get up to speed and feel confident that they can tell the right story about a growing interest in many communities.

—Mike Gugliotto, President and CEO, Pioneer News Group Co.