Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 26, 2004
Calgary multi-media centre opens
National faith information resource provides facts, strategies
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
A new national multi-media organization designed to help faith groups spread their word to as wide an audience as possible has been established in Calgary.
Spearheaded by former Calgary Herald religion editor Gordon Legge, the Centre for Faith and the Media uses its web site (www.faithandmedia.org) to list and inform religious and journalistic contacts from across Canada, says Richelle Wiseman, the centre's managing director.
"Our goal is to assist Canadian journalists in providing them with accurate information on religion and spiritual issues, to help faith communities work with media and to conduct research on matters of faith and media."
The non-profit organization, currently operating with a federal grant from Canadian Heritage, was born out of a 1998 conference in Ottawa where more than 300 people from varying media outlets and faith communities discussed the state of religion in the media.
"There was a consensus among the people that Canadian media can do a better job of covering religion," Wiseman said.
From that conference came the idea for Legge to pull things together and create the centre. However health issues forced him to resign as director.
Basically, the centre is an information brokerage. Reporters can contact the centre with story ideas and request a search for a list of contacts. Or, once the centre becomes more established, reporters can contact them for story ideas.
"It's our hope we will make the job of reporters easier by providing them with contacts they need," Wiseman said. "Eventually, we will have up-to-date contacts for them from all major religious traditions from all the major centres."
The centre has been involved in producing three guides for journalists to assist in covering Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Three other guides are in development to cover Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh traditions. Eventually, Baha'i and native traditions will be included.
"We also act as media relations for faith groups and faith-based non-profit organizations," Wiseman said. "We help them with press releases, show them how to do broadcast interviews and public service announcements, as well as guest columns in newspapers. We show them how to use the media instead of griping about how bad a job it's doing."
People are shown what the constraints are for journalists and avenues they can pursue to be effective with the media. For example, if a church has a special event such as an anniversary, it can contact the centre that will advise it how to get the maximum attention for the event. As the centre will have a list of contacts, including reporters, the church might be pointed in that direction.
The centre has applied for charitable status and hopes to hear about its application soon. Assuming it obtains charitable status, it will then seek donors and funds through foundations.
Additional funding for the faith and media centre will help it launch regular workshops. To date, a few workshops are planned, including a two-day event in Toronto next month at Ryerson University, plus one for journalism students at Mount Royal College in Calgary.
"I'm already getting calls from journalists who need help," Wiseman said.