|code: 265691||Date: 2011/09/14||source: Islam Today|
Two US Universities Launch Online "Covering Islam" Course for Journalists
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Two American universities have teamed up to offer journalists a free online course that prepares them to bridge cultural gaps and accurately put news about Islam and Muslim communities into context.
Washington State University and The Poynter Institute's News University yesterday announced the launch of the new course, entitled "Covering Islam in America"
The two primary instructors, Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Franklin, spent years as journalists covering the Islamic world. They have firsthand knowledge about Islam and Muslims, as well as academic insight and experience doing research into the topic. This course also includes a team of noted academic authorities on specific aspects of Islam who share their academic knowledge.
The project was developed by Pintak, founding dean of the college and a former CBS News Middle East correspondent. He brought together a team that includes some of the country's top academic experts on Islam and several journalists who write extensively on the topic. Stephen Franklin is the project editor and is a former Chicago Tribune Middle East correspondent .
"We turned to the scholars who know this subject inside out and helped them present their knowledge in a way accessible to general assignment reporters on deadline," said Pintak, who has written several books on media and policy in the Muslim world.
"We have no ax to grind, other than a desire to see accurate, balanced reporting of this topic, which has such broad impact on American society today," Pintak added.
"In our increasingly polarized media landscape, having the facts about any topic is vital to good journalism. And this is especially important when covering topics such as religion. We are delighted to partner with The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University on this important project," said Howard Finberg, Poynter's director of interactive learning. "Our e-learning module on NewsU is an effective and accessible way for journalists to get the training they need to cover Islam and Muslims in America."
Pintak and Finberg said the course is meaningful as the nation and the world commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
In addition to the online course at Poynter's NewsU, a version with more readings and analysis called "Islam on Main Street" is offered through WSU's own Center for Distance Education. They can both be accessed at IslamforJournalists.org or directly on the NewsU.
Both versions of the course cover a wide range of topics—everything from a primer on the beliefs of Islam and the history of Muslim immigration to the role of women in Islam and the relationship between Islam and Christianity. Over the coming weeks, additional interactive sections will be added to the NewsU course. The course is designed for journalists, bloggers and students, but it also may be useful to educators, government officials and anyone involved in the conversation about Islam in America.
Pintak said the online course offers the kind of education about the Muslim community that he wished he had received before he was assigned by CBS to Beirut 30 years ago. "I had been reporting on wars in Africa, so I knew how to dodge bullets. Of Islam, the dominant religion in the region, I knew essentially nothing," Pintak said.
If foreign correspondents assigned to the region have such a "limited" understanding of Islam, there is no reason to expect reporters and editors based in the U.S. to be any more prepared to tackle stories involving Islam and Muslims without access to a the kind of background offered in the course, he concluded.
Contributors to the project include scholars from Harvard University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Boston University, DePaul University, and the University of Washington.
The project was supported by the Social Science Research Council and the Carnegie Corporation of New York under an initiative to make academic expertise on Islam accessible to the public.