Journo student: Thoughts and exploits

Do you need to be religious to be a religious reporter?

As part of my journalism course, I specialise in world faiths. At the beginning of the course I quickly began to realise that I knew nothing about religion and started to question my place on the specialism. I was studying to be a reporter of world faiths, training to convey important religious issues to those who knew far more about it than I did. I failed to see to how my coverage of or opinion on religion was worth anything. I mean, I have never been religious and grew up in a secular household.

Once into the course I began to realise that I was wrong and that you don’t actually have to be religious to be a religious reporter. World Faiths has turned out to be one of the highlights of my course. Religious site visits and interviews have actually taught me a lot about different religions and through these I have begun to develop my own opinions of them.

Last Friday, one of our tutors Ruth Gledhill, faith correspondent for The Times, gave us a crash course in becoming a religious reporter. She explained that objectivity is key when reporting on religion so not belonging to one doesn’t make you any less likely to report accurately. Ruth told us that being a good religious reporter is not about being religious; it’s about following certain rules like in any other area of journalism. It’s about doing the right research, not using a story to teach or preach and letting people label themselves.

Religion, in our community,is much more than believing, or not believing in something. People are all motivated by faith, in one way or another in their lives. The point is, religion provokes opinion and activity and activity provokes news.


Interview with a nun

A group of cynical journalism students descended en masse upon the unsuspecting nuns of Tyburn Convent in Marble Arch. Actually, they were suspecting and pretty shrewd with it. They met our intrusive questions with dignity and rich tea fingers. The only way to meet intrusive questions I’ve come to realise.

Sister Mary Chanel was our kind interviewee who explained to us what it meant to be a benedictine comtemplative and how exactly she came to be one. Sister Mary seemed more inclined to talk about the general principles of being a contemplative,  but we later steered her around to discussing more personal issues.

The fundamental principle of the order is to become the ‘perfect Christian’- as was established by St Benedict, who is generally considered to be the founder of western monastisiam. The aim- union of the soul with God.

What seemed to be the most interesting part of the interview with Sister Mary was the description of all the things sacrificed to be there. Seemingly trivial things perhaps, like television, radio, internet. One visit a month from a family member, lasting only for an hour. No real contact with the outside world. Complete obedience.


The strangest thing of all was the absolute silence. Being one moment on a central London street, centre of touristy chaos and the next inside a contemplative convent was alarming.

Sister Mary just seemed to find our looks of apprehension amusing: “A little voice told me long ago that this is where i was supposed to be.”

Flickr image courtesy of Krissie P

Flickr image courtesy of Krissie P