Northeastern will train religious scholars to work more effectively with the media

Students walk through campus on Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

When it comes to writing about religion for the general public, the media and religious scholars are equally at a loss. Both sides struggle to convey cultural insights in a way that won’t fan the flames of a cultural war.

To bridge this chasm, Northeastern will launch a program that will train religious scholars to work with the media more effectively.

“Religious scholars have a lot to add to the discussion of contemporary issues, but they’re trained to write jargon-based technical pieces intended for members of our club,” said program creator Elizabeth Bucar, an associate professor of religion and Dean’s Leadership Fellow at Northeastern. “No one outside the academy ever reads this work.”

Most universities are not as open as Northeastern is to the concept of public scholarship.

Elizabeth Bucar, Associate Professor of Religion

Funded by a $750,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the aptly named Sacred Writes program will train 30 scholars in a series of one-week sessions over the next four years. Training topics will include pitching an op-ed article, building a scholarly brand, and using social media to get the word out.

After completing the training program, scholars will work as consultants or short-term employees with major media outlets to help expand their coverage of religion.

Bucar said another goal of the program is to get academic institutions to be more receptive to public scholarship, which is outward looking and structured to engage the general public.

“Writing three pieces about religion for Teen Vogue didn’t help me get my job and the piece I wrote for The Atlantic isn’t going to help me get tenure,” said Bucar. “Most universities are not as open as Northeastern is to the concept of public scholarship.”