Photo of Diane Winston
Download high res photo

Diane Winston

Knight Chair in Media and Religion
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
Personal Website


Knight Chair in Media and Religion (University of Southern California): Diane Winston and the Center for Religion in the Media are prolific commentators on the impact of news coverage (or lack of coverage) of religion.


Diane Winston is a veteran journalist, author and scholar.

Grant Background

The Knight Chair will suggest new ways journalists can cover faith and values, and be an articulate advocate for the improvement of journalism and its contributions to society. The chair will design curricula for graduate journalism students and teach in the religion track in the master’s program. The chair will implement programs to train mid-career journalists, including those at small newspapers, about special issues related to religion and society. As a result of teaching and research by the Knight Chair, USC will serve as a new resource for religion and media nationally, as a training center for young journalists and as an intellectual center for the public on issues involving the news media in the coverage of religion.

Recent Activities

 In March 2012, The Knight Chair’s Reporting on Religion class spent 10 days in Delhi for an intensive reporting trip focusing on religion and caste. Student work subsequently appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Global Post among other outlets. Students called the trip “transformative.” One student created an online comic as a reporting project that pushed the limits of comic interactivity.

In Fall 2012, Oxford University Press published the Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media, edited by Diane Winston. The volume is the first ever, comprehensive collection on the history of religion reporting, the religious press, the coverage of religion and social issues and coverage of world religions. The book, targeted for interested readers as well as academics and journalists is part of Oxford’s signature collection of religion handbooks. The volume signifies academic recognition of the field of religion coverage.

The Knight Program offered two fellowship programs that attracted over 100 applicants for reporting on religion and international relations and for religion and domestic social issues. The Knight Luce Fellowship yielded stories that appeared in outlets including The World, Foreign Policy, NPR, New Yorker, Mother Jones and The Believer. Distinguished journalists such as Caryle Murphy, Ned Sublette, Tim McGirk and Sarah Stillman contributed to the project. The Knight Grants  (funded by the Ford Foundation) focused on domestic reporting. Coverage appeared on NPR, GlobalPost, The Atlantic, Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education among other outlets.

Question-and-Answer with Knight Chair

Social media is not just a distribution or promotional platform. Tweets like, “Read the story I just wrote!” are a minority of successful Twitter communications. How do you teach your students to use social media to engage?

My students use twitter to facilitate communication among each other and to expand their reporting. Each of my classes has its own hashtag, and I direct students to post on weekly course readings. Twitter allows students to engage with the materials and with each other before class discussion. Similarly, I encourage journalism students to tweet about their reporting ideas, experiences and their coverage to reach informed readers with ideas, suggestions and contacts.

We define the “teaching hospital” model of journalism education as a system of learning by doing where students, scholars and professionals fully engage with the community they are serving by using innovative tools, techniques and informed research. Do you agree with that definition? If so, how should journalism schools seek to add community engagement and experimentation to the kind of journalism they now produce ?

The “teaching hospital” model of journalism makes sense for community reporting. But it’s not obvious for other areas, such as global religion coverage. Thanks to support from the Luce Foundation, my reporting classes have for several years, focused on coverage of religion, politics and culture in global settings. Prior to setting out for an international field trip, students report in local religious communities. However, seeking community engagement and nurturing experimentation is not viable when reporting on Los Angeles’ far flung and disparate Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Protestants and Catholics. That said, if we decided to cover issue sof diaspora communities and forego international reporting, we could rethink our strategies and consider partnership and involvement in the “right” community.