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Lilly Endowment grants $4.9 million to the Religion News Foundation (RNF) for an 18-month initial startup phase of its Global Religion Journalism Initiative, a collaborative effort involving the Associated Press (AP), Religion News Service (RNS), and The Conversation US (TCUS). The initiative will establish a coordinated strategy for reporting on religion and increase significantly the number and reach of high-quality stories about religious faith and practice and the impact of religion in the United States and around the globe.

This groundbreaking initiative aims to develop and test new ways to increase the volume and quality of religion reporting. The three collaborating news organizations will create coordinated content and distribution strategies. The content strategy will include: the establishment of a collaborative religion editorial desk based at the AP; an increase in the number of reporters dedicated to religion; the enhancement of capacities to produce video stories for distribution through digital and social media channels; and the planning for a new weekly news series focused on religion and faith. The distribution strategy will include the creation of a Web-based news channel focused on religion and the enhancement of the AP and RNS wire services for distributing religious content to news organizations. The three news organizations also will test market strategies to generate the revenue streams needed to make these efforts self-sustaining.

About these news organizations

The three news organizations participating in this project are highly respected for the quality of their reporting. The initiative will draw on the unique strengths of each to strengthen both the volume and quality of religion news reporting in public media and to increase the public’s understanding about religion and the role that religious faith plays in shaping American culture and the wider world.

Associated Press has a 170-year tradition of impartial and accurate news coverage and is the oldest and largest news gathering organization in the world. It employs roughly 2,000 journalists in more than 250 locations around the world, and its news stories reach a daily audience of more than 1 billion people through its distribution to a network of more than 5,000 newspapers, broadcast news and other media outlets. Read the related AP news release here.

Religion News Service was founded in 1934 and is recognized as the nation’s most authoritative source for news and commentary on religion. It produces more than 4,000 articles and news reports per year on religion that appear worldwide in newspapers and magazines, broadcast media, religious publications and an increasing number of online and social media outlets. Read the related RNS news release here.

The Conversation US was launched in 2014 and serves as a link between universities and news outlets and brings research and commentary by leading faculty researchers to mass-media audiences. Read the related TCUS news release here.