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Times’ religion editor honored

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Julia Duin, religion editor for The Washington Times, has won two prizes in the annual national competition sponsored by the Religion Newswriters Association, the professional organization for journalists who cover religion in the secular media.

Miss Duin was the second-place winner in the prestigious Religion Reporter of the Year category, competing against nine other finalists, all from larger newspapers. The award honors enterprise reporting. She also won third place in the competition for the Cornell Award, given to the top religion reporter for mid-sized newspapers. While working for the Houston Chronicle 20 years ago, Miss Duin also placed second in the Reporter of the Year category.

Different panels of judges - including current or former reporters, journalists and scholars - selected the winners in the various categories.

Moni Basu, a former writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution won the association's top two prizes for her chronicles of the life of a military chaplain titled "Chaplain Turner's War." The series was about a chaplain who served in Baghdad and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. She won first place in the Religion Reporter of the Year category as well as first place in the Supple Religion Writer of the Year, which highlights writing skills. She now works for CNN.

Miss Duin's five entries for the Reporter of the Year award included a four-part series in May 2008 about the "new sanctuary" movement for illegal immigrants in mainline Protestant churches. To research those articles, Miss Duin traveled to Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and Kansas City, Mo. The other entry was a Sunday newsmaker profile of Esther Foer, executive director of the innovative Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in downtown Washington.

In the competition for the Cornell Award, Miss Duin's entries were a profile of William Paul Young, author of the Christian best-seller "The Shack"; an article on Metropolitan Jonah, the new patriarch of the Orthodox Church in America; a column on the untimely death of Susan Shaughnessy, 30, an employee of the John Paul II Institute in Washington; and two parts of her series on the new sanctuary movement.

"Julia Duin's coverage of faith helps distinguish us every day in the marketplace," said John Solomon, executive editor of The Washington Times. "She keeps us on the cutting edge of the issues on her beat, blogs regularly on our Web site and is a great ambassador to radio and TV audiences. We are so pleased to see her work get the recognition it deserves."

Miss Duin joined The Times in 1995. Twice weekly, she writes her "Stairway to Heaven" column in the newspaper in addition to covering breaking stories on religion.

The most recent of her five books, "Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community" (Crossland Foundation), was published this month.

The other winners include: Jeff Brumley of the Florida-Times Union, the Cornell Award; Melanie Smith of the Decatur [Ala.] Daily, the Cassels Award for small newspapers; and the Salt Lake Tribune, the Sachern Award for religion pages and sections.