Why Should a Journalist Call a Religious Studies Scholar?
Dr. Jordan Rosenblum
Religious Studies Program Director, Associate Professor at the Center for Jewish Studies
Oct. 13, 2017
Too often journalists turn to members of religious groups for information about that religion. While the perspectives of practitioners and religious authorities often enhance a story by providing anecdotal support, one person cannot speak for their whole community. Religious Studies scholars can provide details about the diversity within religions, offering crucial background information for good reporting.
Dr. Rosenblum walked those in attendance, including undergraduate journalism and religious studies students, professors, journalists and community members, through a New York Times article, “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love a Kosher Prison Meal.” As a group, we discussed what elements of the article could have been improved by a deeper understanding of Judaism and kosher food. The piece would be helped by a definition of kosher, information about its importance in Judaism, and the general requirements for eating kosher. These few facts would have allowed for a more robust conversation: Why does kosher food cost more money? How does Florida’s history of denying, what the article calls, “religious meals” violate religious freedom? What right does the state have to interrogate whether inmates “hold a sincere belief in Judaism?” Dr. Rosenblum argues that articles like this can be more accurate and unbiased with the help of a Religious Studies scholar.