Wilbur Award winners (Courtesy photo)
Wilbur Award winners (Courtesy photo)

Faith-based marketing and communications professionals from throughout the U.S. and Canada gathered this month at the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC) annual convention in Atlanta, where they aimed to provide opportunities for networking and professional development in the industry and promote religious literacy.

The theme for the 89th convention, held April 5-7, was “Realizing the Dream: Peace and Justice Through Communication.”

Plenary and workshop topics during the convention focused on public relations, marketing and branding, social media management, crisis communication, diversity and inclusion and promoting justice through media.

The council presented the DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards to members for excellence and merit in the communications field. Recipients were from various faith-based organizations including the Baha’i National Center, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Bread for the World, Islamic Society of America and National Catholic Reporter.

Attendees also visited the King Center on April 5, the day after the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, as well as the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

On the final evening of the convention, the RCC held the Wilbur Awards to honor secular journalism on religious issues. Hosted by M. Alexis Scott, an Atlanta-based journalist, political commentator and community leader, the event’s honorees included author Michael W. Waters for his nonfiction book “Stakes is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America.” In the films and video category for drama, the award went to AHTF Films, LLC for “A Heart That Forgives.”

Pastor Darryl A. Burton of Kansas City, Missouri, accepted an award on behalf of Patrick Fazio, a reporter for Kansas City’s NBC affiliate, who won in the category for local or regional news story for his piece “Wrongly Imprisoned Pastor Preaches Forgiveness.” Fazio gave thanks the award via video.

Two D.C.-based organizations — Interfaith Voices and The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding — were also recognized. The Institute won an award in the digital communications in social media category for its “An America Without Muslims?” story, while Interfaith Voices won in the radio or podcast category for single program for its “Welcoming the Stranger.”

Previous Wilbur award winners include Morgan Freeman, Oprah Winfrey, “CBS Sunday Morning,” “ABC 20/20,” “Meet the Press” and the New York Times.

The Religion Communicators Council, founded in 1929, is an interfaith association of communication and public relations professionals. It is also the oldest organization for public relations professionals in the United States.

The next year’s convention will take place April 10-12 in Chicago. The organization also encourages faith communities and organizations to support the 2020 Religion Communication Congress in Washington, D.C.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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