Emory Report
November 2, 2009
Volume 62, Number 9


Emory Report homepage  

November 2, 2009
Online journal grant among Emory College’s largest

By Elaine Justice

Religion Dispatches, the online religion magazine based at Emory, has received a grant of $870,000 from the Ford Foundation for its operations over the next three years.

The award is one of the largest single grants to the humanities in the history of Emory College, says Bobby Paul, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

Launched in February 2008, Religion Dispatches already has passed the 2 million page views mark and is on track to reach a million readers a year, says Gary Laderman, chair of Emory’s Department of Religion. Laderman and Linell Cady of Arizona State University are Religion Dispatches’ executive editors and co-directors. They attribute the magazine’s success to growing demand for online analysis and commentary on religion and public life.

“Religion Dispatches meets a critical need for progressive expertise, public scholarship and informed perspectives at the intersection of religion, social justice issues and policy debates,” says Cady. “It provides a platform for a variety of voices, from experts to journalists and activists, both secular and religious, to explore the religious dimensions of political and social issues.”

Several Emory faculty have become frequent contributors to the magazine, including Arri Eisen, director of the College Program in Science and Society; Shalom Goldman, professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies; Gordon Newby, professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies; Laurie Patton, director of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence; John Blevins, visiting assistant professor of pastoral care at Candler School of Theology; and Michael Elliott, associate professor of English. Emory graduate students also have been contributors.

In addition to offering analyses and commentaries on the biggest stories of 2008 — the economy and the presidential election — the magazine has offered extensive coverage of religion and social justice issues, including race, immigration, health, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights.

“We are driven by what’s happening in the world now, but not only that,” says Laderman, professor of American religious history and culture. “Part of the nature of this beast is to be fast on your feet and be constantly ready to change.”

In coming months, Religion Dispatches will roll out a new design and architecture with an eye toward expanding multimedia content on the site. Plans also include marketing its content to religion scholars as a resource for classroom use, and continuing outreach to other Web and social networking sites. Religion Dispatches stories already have appeared on sites such as the Huffington Post and Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog.