Category Archives: Islam

Lessons from Reporting Islam – a case study of an Australian newspaper’s coverage of radicalisation

By MARK PEARSON

PART of my work on the Reporting Islam project of which I was chief investigator 2014-2016 has been published in the latest edition of the Australian Journalism Review.

Here is the abstract. The full article can be accessed here.

ABSTRACT: This article uses an analytical best practice schema derived from international studies of media coverage of Islam, ethics and conflict to inform a case study of the coverage of radicalisation in a package of stories entitled “Journey to Jihad” in the national newspaper, The Weekend Australian. The schema contains 20 key points of analysis elicited from the literature. These include questions particular to the coverage of Muslims and Islam along with more generally applicable but highly relevant ethical principles. The case study demonstrates that the treatment of radicalisation in the newspaper’s “Journey to Jihad” package falls short of international best practice in important ways that could be improved by paying heed to such questions in future coverage. The author was a chief investigator between 2014 and 2016 of the Australian Commonwealth Government funded project “Reporting Islam”. The schema was later extended and developed in consultation with project colleagues to inform other academic analyses, training materials and curricula produced by the project.

To cite this article: Pearson, Mark. Lessons from Reporting Islam – a case study of an Australian newspaper’s coverage of radicalisation [online]. Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 39, No. 1, Jul 2017: 47-62. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=034016563552936;res=IELLCC&gt; ISSN: 0810-2686.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2017

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Reporting Islam panel and workshop at #newnewsau

By MARK PEARSON

We were honoured to have our Reporting Islam project showcased at this year’s New News forum hosted by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism (October 29).

Our project manager Dr Abdi Hersi and I conducted a workshop centred around the reporting of a mosque proposal in a regional community and later joined lawyer and South Sudanese community leader Kot Monoah on a panel chaired by Denise Ryan-Costello, journalism lecturer at Swinburne University.

The discussion has been ably reported here on The Citizen by Master of Journalism student Emily Porello.

Here is the Twitter coverage of the session:

Our Griffith University project (co-led by colleague Associate Professor Jacqui Ewart) recently won the 2016 Queensland Multicultural Award for our ground-breaking Reporting Islam Project.

Since its inception in 2014, our team has created a suite of research-based multi-media training and education resources for Australian media practitioners and tertiary institutions.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2016

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Reporting Islam project wins Queensland Multicultural Award

By MARK PEARSON

Our Reporting Islam project team won the Communication and Media Achievement Award category of the Queensland Multicultural Awards on Saturday (August 20, 2016).

My co-investigator Associate Professor Jacqui Ewart and project manager Abdi Hersi accepted the award on behalf of our team.

Here are the award details, as outlined in media statements from Griffith University and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Grace Grace.

For more information about the project and its resources, please see www.reportingislam.org.


Reporting Islam Project wins Qld Multicultural Award

[Griffith University media statement]

Griffith University has won a 2016 Queensland Multicultural Award for its ground-breaking Reporting Islam Project.

Led by Associate Professor Jacqui Ewart and Professor Mark Pearson from the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, the world-first project aims to combat the negative stereotyping of Islam and Muslims in the media.

Since its inception in 2014, the project team has created a suite of research-based multi-media training and education resources for Australian media practitioners and tertiary institutions.

“The Queensland Multicultural Awards are a great initiative and we are honoured to be this year’s winners in the communication and media achievement category,” Associate Professor Jacqui Ewart said.

“Our project is about improving the quality of mainstream news media relating to Islam through the development of research-based best practice resources for journalists to encourage more mindful and accurate reporting of Muslims and the Islamic faith.”

“Our team has developed an app, a website, a reporting handbook, audio visual materials and two training packages.”

Find out more: Multicultural Awards finalists

Muslims negatively stereotyped

Associate Professor Ewart said the idea for the project was sparked by research showing that Islam and Muslims were routinely and negatively stereotyped in Australian news media.

“There is ample evidence of the negative impact of this news media coverage on Australian Muslims.

“We believe that fair, ethical and accurate reporting on matters involving Islam and Muslims will help promote social cohesion and feelings of inclusiveness for Muslim people and help build community confidence and resilience.”

Developed in consultation with south east Queensland Muslim community leaders and Australian news media organisations, the project team is delivering targeted training courses nationally.Strong partnerships have also been formed with Australian Muslim community members, international academic experts, educators and media industry personnel. The project team’s innovative and proactive approach promotes acceptance and understanding of Islam across diverse cultural groups and the wider community.

The 2016 Queensland Multicultural Awards were announced at the Logan Entertainment Centre on Saturday, August 20 as part of Queensland’s Multicultural Month celebrations.


 

Media statement from Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Minister for Racing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, The Honourable Grace Grace:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Awards recognise Queensland’s brightest multicultural achievers

Queensland’s brightest multicultural achievers have been recognised at today’s Queensland Multicultural Awards, held in Logan.

Multicultural Affairs Minister Grace Grace announced the eight winners and congratulated all 27 finalists during a gala luncheon that was also attended by Health Minister and Member for Woodridge Cameron Dick.

“These awards recognise some of the outstanding organisations and individuals who are such a vital part of Queensland’s multicultural success story,” she said.

“Community groups, volunteers, businesses and sporting organisations are just some of those recognised by these prestigious awards.

“I want to congratulate all finalists for their efforts to create a harmonious and inclusive Queensland.

“It really is the icing on the cake to be having these awards during Queensland Multicultural Month, Queensland’s largest multicultural celebration.”

Ms Grace said all finalists were setting a great example and providing inspiration to all Queenslanders.

“They remind us that Queensland always has, and always will, depend on the skill and talent of people drawn from all parts of the globe,” she said.

Communication and Media Achievement Award – Reporting Islam Project Team (Nathan). They aimed to combat the negative stereotyping of Islam and Muslims in the media through the development of a research-based, best practice guide for journalists reporting on stories about Islam and Muslims

Queensland Multicultural Award winners:

  • Minister’s Multicultural Award – Multicultural Community Centre (Newmarket). The centre assists migrants, refugees and disadvantaged members of the community through settlement services, training and employment support
  • Outstanding Volunteer – Naseema Mustapha (Highgate Hill). She was involved in causes such as blanket and clothing drives to assist asylum seekers, English tutoring, fundraising for orphanages in Africa and the Griffith University Refugee Students’ Association Refugee Day Festival.
  • Business Excellence Award – Townsville Hospital and Health Service (Townsville). The hospital partnered with TAFE North Queensland to provide work experience to 18 refugee and migrant job seekers. The program also gave participants their first experience in gardening, painting, food preparation, cleaning and plumbing at Townsville Hospital.
  • Communication and Media Achievement Award – Reporting Islam Project Team (Nathan). They aimed to combat the negative stereotyping of Islam and Muslims in the media through the development of a research-based, best practice guide for journalists reporting on stories about Islam and Muslims
  • Employment, Education and Training Innovation Award – Private Enterprise – The Multicultural Sports Club (Logan) is an initiative of Multicultural Youth Queensland, a youth-led innovative, not-for-profit organisation which provides targeted services, programs and projects to improve life outcomes for young people aged 12 to 30 years old.
  • Employment, Education and Training Innovation Award – Public Sector – Queensland Police Service Academy – ROLE program (Oxley). The program pairs police with students from a Brisbane high school where they work with mentors and encourage Year 9 students to participate in team building activities
  • Services and Communities Award – Individual – Regina Samykanu-Vuthapanich (Gatton). She set up the first Youth Council in the Lockyer Valley, established the Gatton Multicultural Festival and the Overseas Students Association Support Group. She also founded the Lockyer Valley Multicultural Association and the Somerset Migrant Resource Centre.
  • Services and Communities Award – Organisation – The Friends of HEAL Foundation (Yeronga). The organisation provides creative arts therapy to young people from refugee backgrounds and also helps refugee children settle into their new community

For more details on Queensland Multicultural Month head to www.qld.gov.au/multiculturalmonth

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2016

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Reporting Islam in the spotlight at #AEJMC16

By MARK PEARSON

My sabbatical semester travels now have me in Minneapolis for the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication – #AEJMC16.

Visiting the Hindu temple in Minneapolis with the Religion and Media interest group from AEJMC with my Mindful Journalism co-author Shelton Gunaratne (front row, second from left).

Visiting the Hindu temple in Minneapolis with the Religion and Media interest group from AEJMC with my Mindful Journalism co-author Shelton Gunaratne (front row, second from left). [Photo: Julie Pearson]

I’m presenting a paper titled “Perspectives of journalists, educators, trainers and experts on news media reporting of Islam and Muslim communities in Australia and New Zealand”, showcasing research from our @ReportingIslam project, written with colleagues Jacqui Ewart (@jacquiewart) and Guy Healy.

Our paper uses data from an Australian study to ascertain issues associated with news media coverage of Islam and Muslims from the perspectives of journalists, journalism educators and media trainers. We draw on data from interviews with 37 journalists, editors, educators, media trainers, Muslim community leaders and other experts located in Australia and New Zealand to explore their understandings of the ways stories about Islam and Muslims are reported and why.

We’re looking forward to the feedback from colleagues after two interesting sessions on similar topics yesterday.

On Wednesday we visited Muslim, Hindu and Christian places of worship in Minnesota with the Media and Religion interest group from the conference (pictured left).

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2016

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Gearing up for a stimulating and mindful #wjec16

By MARK PEARSON

Many of the leading lights in journalism education internationally gather in Auckland next week for the fourth World Journalism Education Congress at AUT Auckland.

WJECWebsiteScreenshotFor me, it will be a busy start to a sabbatical semester and I am looking forward to chairing a session, being respondent for another, a panellist in a 21st century ethics discussion, and presenting two conference papers with @ReportingIslam project colleague Jacqui Ewart (@jacquiewart).

Interested? Here are the session descriptions and abstracts. See the full program here.

WJEC preconference of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA), AUT Pacific Media Centre (PMC) and Media Educators Pacific (MEP), Wednesday, 13 July 2016, 4-5.30pm

A Research-driven Approach to Developing a Best Practice Checklist for Journalists Reporting upon Islam and Muslims

Prof Mark Pearson and Prof Jacqui Ewart (Griffith University, Australia)

This paper explains the processes undertaken to research, develop and trial a checklist for journalists or journalism students for the ethical and mindful reporting of stories involving Islam as a religion or Muslim people. The presenters outline an innovative approach to such a task where the international literature in the field and follow-up research informed the creation of an extended checklist which was then refined according to the perceived needs and priorities of the journalists and students who were presented with it.

This paper presents the methodology and results of the study implementing exactly that approach, which might inform future approaches to the development of such guidelines across a broad range of reporting topics. The study formed part of a major Australian Government funded project involving the creation of research-based resources on the mindful reporting of Islam and Muslim people.

Academic research papers stemming from international studies on reporting Islam and journalism ethics were searched. We also undertook 29 interviews with journalists, journalism educators, journalism students and academics with expertise in the media and Islam in Australia and New Zealand. Topics covered included best and poor practice and curricular and pedagogical approaches to educating journalists for more mindful reporting. We analysed this data – previous studies and the interview transcripts – as a crucial part of the development of an extended list of 30 questions journalists and editors might ask themselves when covering a story related to Islam or Muslim people. Journalists, educators and journalism students (n = 123) attending workshops throughout 2015 were presented with the 30 questions and were asked to nominate the 10 they felt were most important (in no particular order), using a variation of “forced choice” testing in survey methodology (Frederick, 2004, pp. 397-398). The responses were then ranked in order of importance into a “Top Ten” checklist and subsequently built into the project’s resources and curricula which were in turn trialled with journalists, journalism educators and students at several sites in four Australian states and in Canberra. This paper explains that the approach has at least three benefits – the pedagogical advantage of the embedded learning happening while the participants perform the ranking; the reassurance for the teaching resource developers that the selected guidelines are considered the most important by the target groups; and the enhanced credibility of the resulting guidelines for those subsequently using them. The paper details the methodological and educational research underpinning the approach and presents the resulting refined checklist.

Frederick, R. (2004). Forced-choice testing. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 397-398). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

WJEC Conference, July 14, 11am-12.30pm

Panel 2: 21st century ethical issues in journalism
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This panel explores the ethics of journalism in an environment where journalistic authority is diminished and new relationships with news publics are being sought. The speakers, drawing on a range of philosophical positions, will explore arguments around journalistic independence, engagement with the public good, transparency and sincerity. In doing so, the panel members will trace some of the major fault lines in contemporary journalism ethics around truth-telling and accountability and assess ways through which journalists can morally justify their work.
Chair: Donald Matheson, Canterbury University (New Zealand)
Panelists:
Mark Pearson, Griffith University (Australia)
Cherian George, Hong Kong Baptist University (Hong Kong)
Linda Steiner, University of Maryland (United States)
Respondent: Stephen Ward, University of British Columbia/University of Wisconsin-Madison (Canada)
WJEC Conference, July 16, 11-12.30pm
Paper session: 21st Century Ethical Issues in Journalism 3
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Eliciting Best Practice in Reporting Islam: Case studies from Australia

Mark Pearson and Jacqui Ewart, Griffith University

Much is known about the poor practices adopted by some news media outlets in their coverage of Islam and Muslims, but relatively little research has been conducted into what might constitute best practice in this important area of reportage (Pintak & Franklin, 2013; Rupar, 2012). In this presentation we discuss two case studies from Australia, involving a range of approaches to reporting stories involving Islam and Muslims. These case studies were part of the first stage of a projected three-stage project aimed at developing best practice resources to encourage the more mindful reporting of Islam and Muslims. The first case study includes a set of examples of news media reporting of proposed and existing mosques and prayer rooms. We chose this particular case study because the international literature revealed that mosque proposals and construction projects frequently became the focus of negative news media coverage (DeHansas and Pieri 2011; Dunn, 2001; Alleivi, 2009). Key journalistic lessons to emerge from the examination of the articles about coverage of planned, proposed or existing mosques included the need to: pay attention to the type of language used in news reports; focus on using non-inflammatory language; ensure a range of voices are heard in reports; avoid giving attention to extreme points of view held by a minority; ensure images are in context; verify the veracity of protestors’ claims; assess the proportion of protesting residents in the particular community; embed ongoing coverage of issues affecting Muslim communities into the news schedule; and consider the broader social and current affairs context when covering stories about Islam and Muslims.

The second case study focuses on two approaches to national media coverage of radicalisation and association of Muslim people with violence and terrorism because the international body of research highlights the tendency of news media to make connections between, or conflate, these issues (Altheide, 2007; Murphy et al, 2015; Pintak and Franklin, 2013; Rupar, 2012).

There were some similarities and some differences between the approaches of the two national media outlets (newspaper and public television) to essentially the same topic of radicalisation of Australian Muslim men at approximately the same point of history. Both used a range of sources including some experts, mainstream Muslims and radicalised militants and/or their friends or associates; demonstrated a lack of detail on the sponsorship of their key expert sources; and simplified and sensationalised the issue in key aspects. Differences included: a generalised headline damaging the credibility of the newspaper’s overall coverage and the television program’s use of a moment of conflict in its promo; the newspaper’s use of a single expert source and the television program’s use of several; the newspaper’s profile of a single Muslim suburban woman for its ‘typical’ or ‘mainstream’ Muslim perspective as opposed to the television program’s inclusion of a range of diverse Muslim voices from different ethnic groups and locations; and the newspaper’s delay in offering Muslim community leaders’ perspectives until its follow-up coverage the next day as distinct from the television program including several such voices.

Using the international literature about best practice in reporting Islam and Muslims and the findings from our analysis of the case studies, we draw upon the research, our case studies and selected data from a series of interviews with experts to present a schema of 30 best practice questions journalists might reflect upon when reporting Islam and Muslims.

References

Allievi, S. (2009). ‘Conflicts Over Mosques in Europe: Policy Issues and Trends–NEF Initiative on Religion and Democracy in Europe’, Network of European Foundations.

Altheide, D.L. (2007). The Mass Media and Terrorism, Discourse and Communication, 1(3): 287-308.

De Hanas, D.N., and Pieri, Z.P. (2011). Olympic Proportions: The Expanding Scalar Politics of the London ‘Olympics Mega-Mosque’, Sociology 45(5): 798-814.

Dunn, K. M. (2001), Representations of Islam in the politics of mosque development in Sydney. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 92: 291–308.

Murphy, K., Cherney, A., and Barkworth, J., (2015), forthcoming). Avoiding Community Backlash in the fight against terrorism: Research Report.

Pintak, Lawrence and Franklin, Stephen (eds) (2013). Islam for Journalists; A Primer on Covering Muslim Communities in America. [Digital newsbook]. US Social Science Research Council; Edward R Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University. Available: https://www.rjionline.org/downloads/islam-for-journalists

Rupar, V. (2012). Getting the facts right: Reporting ethnicity and religion. A study of media coverage of ethnicity and religion in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.[Project Report]. Brussels: International Federation of Journalists. Available: http://ethicaljournalisminitiative.org/en/contents/eji-study-2012

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RELATED:

More on the Reporting Islam Project:

Griffith University Red Couch interview: Spotlight on Reporting Islam

ALSO RELATED:

Related to my ethics panel presentation, our recent book Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach (Shelton Gunaratne, Mark Pearson and Sugath Senarath eds; Routledge, NY, 2015)  explored the possibilities of applying mindfulness techniques to journalism practice.

Interested? You can listen to my 10 minute interview on Radio National’s Media Report here.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 9.46.24 am

See also my account of the basic principles of mindful journalism in the journal Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, and the editors have been kind enough to make that article available for free viewing as a feature item on their website here. You might also want to explore some of their other fascinating articles on media ethics here and perhaps subscribe.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2016

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Filed under blogging, Buddhism, citizen journalism, Eightfold Path, free expression, Islam, journalism, journalism education, media ethics, mental health, mindful journalism, social media, terrorism

International studies point to best practice for reporting Islam and stories involving Muslims

By MARK PEARSON

Three key international studies counsel journalists to reflect carefully on their practice when they are reporting news and issues involving Islam and people who follow it.

Griffith University colleague Dr Jacqui Ewart and I have been funded to explore the best practice in reporting upon the Islamic religion and Muslim people with a view to developing educational resources and training materials.

The project has involved a literature review of the field, the identification of case studies in the Australian media highlighting different approaches to such coverage, and the analysis of extended interviews we are conducting with journalists, educators, students, media relations personnel and other experts the topic.

An important part of the literature review has been to identify similar studies conducted internationally on the topic – ably conducted by one of our research assistants, experienced journalist Guy Healy.

We have identified these three reports as offering excellent guidance to journalists and educators working in this space and we would appreciate hearing from those of you willing to engage in dialogue on the topic.


 

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.36.02 PMRupar, Verica (2012). Getting the facts right: Reporting ethnicity and religion. A study of media coverage of ethnicity and religion in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.[Project Report]. Brussels: International Federation of Journalists. Available at: http://ethicaljournalisminitiative.org/en/contents/eji-study-2012

This report from Associate Professor Dr Verica Rupar of Cardiff University (now with AUT University, Auckland) aims to improve “…the media’s ability to accurately and fairly report on people, events and issues that touch upon ethnicity and religion.” It draws upon interviews with 117 journalists in nine EU countries and the analysis of almost 200 news stories.

While its scope goes well beyond the reporting of Islam and Muslims, many of its examples and recommendations apply to this religion and its followers.

The study highlights immigration as a topic conflated with Muslims and Islam.

The report suggests the main obstacles to good reporting are the poor financial state of the media, overloading of reporters, lack of time, lack of knowledge, and lack of in-house training.

Overall, it identifies the media’s tasks as:

* Reporting factually and accurately on acts of racism and intolerance

* Being sensitive when writing about tensions between communities

* Avoiding derogatory stereotypical depiction of members of religious groups

* Challenging the assumptions underlying intolerant remarks made by speakers in the course of interviews, reports, and discussion programs.

It calls upon journalists to become more familiar with with anti-discrimination legislation, use broader networks of expert sources, ensure facts are put in context, avoid negative labels, portray people as human beings instead of members of an ethnic or religious group, organize in-house training and adopt internal editorial guidelines.


Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.39.00 PMGreater London Authority (2007). The Search for Common Ground: Muslims, non-Muslims and the UK media. A report commissioned by the Mayor of London. London: Greater London Authority. Available at: http://www.insted.co.uk/search-for-common-ground.pdf

This major study on British media coverage of Islam and Muslims was commissioned by the Greater London Authority in the wake of the London bombings and perceived polarisation of coverage in the media.

It involved opinion poll reviews, studies of recent books and stories, a randomised survey of one week’s news stories, examination of stories about political correctness, interviews with Muslim journalists, and analysis of a television documentary. The researchers were commissioned to inquire into whether the media stimulated informed debate about building a multicultural society, or oversimplified and provided insufficient background that pandered to reader anxieties and prejudices. Other key questions focused on whether stories fostered anxiety, fear and hostility between non-Muslims and Muslims, and whether reportage increased or decreased a sense of common ground, shared belonging and civic responsibility.

Its principal recommendations included (at p. 133):

  • News organisations should review their coverage of issues and events involving Muslims and Islam.
  • They should consider drawing up codes of professional conduct and style guides about use of terminology.
  • News organisations should recruit more journalists of Muslim heritage.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.40.35 PMPintak, Lawrence and Franklin, Stephen (eds) (2013). Islam for Journalists; A Primer on Covering Muslim Communities in America. [Digital newsbook]. US Social Science Research Council; Edward R Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University. Available at: http://www.rjionline.org/newsbooks/islam-for-journalists

This 343-page e-book was released in 2011 and has since been updated. It contains chapters by several journalists and educators and is presented as an online course in covering stories related to Islam and Muslims. It features a useful glossary of Arabic terms and an extended list of resources.

In his afterward, titled ‘Islam on Main Street’ Lawrence Pintak states that the coverage of Islam is in many ways no different than the coverage of other topics, except that it is potentially inflammatory.

He suggests:

* carefully assess the bona fides of so-called experts, and make sure the audience is provided with the information they need to weigh the credibility of speakers.

* provide background and context when quoting non-academic “experts” and be transparent about their sponsorships and allegiances.

* turn to academics for guidance because many will offer a more researched and balanced perspective on the topic.


We look forward to hearing from others working in this space.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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