And the Religion Newswriters Association award goes to …

Who cares about the Emmy Awards ceremony that was held on Sunday? What really matters are the latest award winners from the Religion Newswriters Association. The group’s 62nd (!) annual conference was held last week. I followed as many tweeting religion writers as I could and it sounded awesome, particularly the panel discussion and the karaoke.

I may have completely misinterpreted a tweet but I think Bob Smietana was belting out Sweet Caroline at a karaoke bar. I would pay good money to see Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s “I Did It My Way” interpretation.

And speaking of these two religion reporters, they both got some RNA award action on Saturday. Here are some highlights, featuring some of the best names on the religion beat:

Michelle Boorstein won the large newspaper reporting award for The Washington Post, followed by the The New York Time’s Laurie Goodstein and Adelle Banks of the Religion News Service.

Tim Townsend of St. Louis Post-Dispatch won the metro newspaper reporter of the year award, followed by Tim Funk of The Charlotte Observer and Michelle Bearden of The Tampa Tribune.

The Cornell Religion Reporter of the Year award for mid-sized newspapers went to Bob Smietana of the The Tennessean in Nashville, followed by Peggy Fletcher Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune, Kristen Moulton of The Salt Lake Tribune and honorable mentions to David Yonke of The (Toledo) Blade and freelancer Rasha Elass.

In the Cassels Religion Reporter of the Year contest for small newspapers, first place went to Melissa Burke of the York (Pa.) Daily Record, followed by Brett Buckner of Anniston (Ala.) Star, Tracy O’Shaughnessy of Republican American in Waterbury, Conn. and Amy Umble of The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star (honorable mention).

There were other awards, and you can read about them here. They include awards for religion writers, enterprise writing, religion commentary, multimedia reporting, magazines, radio, podcast, cable news, documentary, non-fiction religion books, student religion reporter, etc.

Also this:

Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Christianity Today won overall excellence in religion coverage in the magazine category.

The PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly swept all three television news magazine awards for work done by Fred De Sam Lazaro in first place, followed by Saul Gonzalez and Bob Abernethy.

Sarah says the award wasn’t for her but for the whole team at Christianity Today. And as for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly sweeping that category, is anyone surprised? Consistently excellent reporting week after week.

So congratulations to all the winners. And judging from all of the tweets, the conference was very valuable for attendees, who learned about everything from the state of fatherhood, evangelical megachurches, and religion in the 2012 elections to religious liberty, growing up gay, and the evangelical adoption movement. And polygamy! And atheism! And the dangers of groups that warn about Islam!

Next year’s conference is in the D.C. area, I hear. Make your plans now. Start practicing your karaoke now!

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  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Thanks, Mollie. Yes, next year’s conference! There are now opportunities for religious media, bloggers and book authors to win RNA contests. Next year’s conference is in Bethesda, Meryland, October 4-6, 2012. Go to for membership, contest and conference information. I’m a shameless promoter of RNA, I’ll admit it.

  • Nicole Neroulias

    Check out my blog for some top tidbits from most of this year’s RNA conference sessions. (Also, there should be a bunch of news stories coming out this week about the Baylor poll we learned about on Saturday, but was embargoed until today.)

    It was also great to see so many new faces, since RNA membership and contests are now open to a wider range of people — including book authors, bloggers and some religious media. Next year should be even better, since it’s much easier for most folks to get to the DC area: mark your calendars for Oct. 4-6, 2012, in Bethesda!

  • Julia

    For whatever category she would fit, I nominate Patricia Rice formerly of the St Louis Post Dispatch and now an occasional writer for the on-line newspaper in St Louis called The Beacon.

    I miss her work at the Post, but she managed to get a great story for The Beacon in April, 2010 about a father of three who inspired then-Bishop Gregory in his struggles as head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to deal with the child abuse scandal in 2001. I hope that piece won her some kind of prize.

    Local dad’s cry of the heart became memo that helped change the Catholic Church

    Today the Beacon is making public a 10-page memo, a cry from the heart, read aloud to Gregory on Feb. 22, 2002, by a Catholic father of three children.

    This influential document laid out ideas that evolved into the church’s wider protection policy; it has never been publicly acknowledged or published. Its author is David R. Spotanski, 47, the Belleville chancellor for all matters except canonical issues that require an ordained priest. Before he worked in Belleville, Spotanski had worked for the St. Louis archdiocese.

  • Jerry

    It’s always nice to read about people doing great work being honored for their accomplishments. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire others to do better.

  • Daniel

    I may have a copy of that “I Did It My Way” video you wish to see …

  • Bob Smietana


    We expect to see the Get Religion crew at karaoke in 2012

  • Scott Thumma

    I have the video of Bob and gang singing Sweet Caroline which I’ll happily provide for those of you who collect truly great musical performances….on second thought, maybe you wouldn’t want this video.