- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

A five-part series in The Washington Times examining the challenges faced by Christian clergy in America has won the 2001 Religion Communicator Council's Wilbur Award for newspapers in major markets.
The award was presented April 20 at the Yale Club in New York City for "Pulpits in Peril," written by Julia Duin and Larry Witham. Photographs illustrating the series were taken by Maya Alleruzzo.
The series, which ran last July 2-6, examined issues at stake for Southern Baptists, Catholics, "mainline" Protestant churches, female pastors and an aging clergy.
"Do Americans value their clergy enough to make it a viable calling in the next generation?" the series asked.
"Although opinion polls show Americans laud pastors more than other 'professionals,' they also seem less willing to pay well for the job, encourage their children to follow the call or uphold the pastor's work in the culture or media."
Along with a close examination of the effects of feminism and the changes in both traditional and orthodox denominations, the series looked at a "new breed" of pastors, who rely "less on formal training and more on Jesus."
According to council spokesman the Rev. Eric Shafer, the judges found the series in The Times "meticulously researched and exquisitely constructed."
"We're delighted to see the work of Miss Duin, Mr. Witham and Miss Alleruzzo recognized with this award, perhaps the most prestigious of awards for religious reporting," said Wesley Pruden, editor in chief of The Times. "We regard coverage of the work of America's religious institutions as among the most important work we do, because the work of priests, pastors and rabbis is crucial to all of us churchgoers, believers and nonbelievers alike. Houses of worship are ultimately America's most important institutions."
The Chicago-based Religious Communicators Council is an interfaith organization of more than 500 religion writers, producers and other communicators working in print, broadcast and electronic media, plus marketing and public relations.
The Wilbur Award, which has been offered for 52 years, recognizes "excellence in communcations of religious issues, values and themes in the secular media."
Criteria include content, creativity and results. But the "ultimate criterion," organizers say, is "communications of religious values."
Other award winners included Warner Bros., for an episode of NBC's "West Wing,"; Newsweek magazine, the Dallas Morning news, the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, ABC News, Fox Television, the Spokane-based Spokesman-Review and the National Film Board of Canada.
The "Pulpits in Peril" series earlier won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Virginia Press Association.

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