Diane Winston

Diane Winston is a national authority on religion and the media as both a journalist and a scholar. Her expertise includes religion, politics and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. Professor Winston’s current research interests are religion and the entertainment media, media coverage of Islam and of changing Christianities, and the role of religion in American identity.

Winston’s courses examine religion, spirituality and ethics in relationship to journalism, entertainment media, American history and foreign policy. Her class on international religion reporting has taken students to cover conflict and coexistence in Israel and Palestine, growing secularism in Ireland http://trans-missions.org/ireland/, and elections in India http://trans-missions.org/india2014/. In addition to partnering with Global Post and KPCC, she has helped students place their work in outlets including the Washington Post, the Jerusalem Post, Der Spiegel, Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times and the Atlantic.

“Hollywood, Faith and Media,” her course on how television narratives incorporate religion, spirituality and ethics has hosted writer/directors such as David Shore (“House”), Barbara Hall (“Joan of Arcadia” and “Madame Secretary”) and Ronald Moore (“Battlestar Galactica” and “Outlander.”). The guest lectures are available on YouTube. Her other courses include American Religion, Foreign Policy and the News Media; American Spirituality: Radicals, Rebels, and Freethinkers, and Jesus is My Homeboy: An Introduction to American Religious History

In her work as Knight Chair, Winston routinely organizes conferences on religion’s role in the media. Convenings have explored post-9/11 television and the war on terror; religion and electoral politics; Arab democracy in the post-Arab Spring era; religion and the 2016 elections, and the Syrian refugee crisis. In fall 2015, she organized a Visions and Voices event, “Windows on Death Row” that featured editorial cartoons and art work from Death Row prisoners that illuminated the issue of capital punishment

Winston is currently working on several research projects, including three books: Un/Real Religion: Religion and Reality TV, an edited collection; Lost and Found: Religion in Los Angeles, also an edited collection and A Shining City: Religion, News and Reagan’s America. Her other books include: The Oxford Handbook on Religion and the American News Media (Oxford University Press, 2012); Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion, editor, (Baylor University Press, 2009); Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture, co-edited with John Giggie, (Rutgers University Press, 2002); Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army, (Harvard University Press, 1999).

Winston is publisher of Religion Dispatches, a daily online magazine on religion, politics and culture, and she is on the executive board of the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture. Since 2006, Winston has received 14 grants for her work.

Before coming to USC, Winston was a program officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Between 1983 and 1995, she covered religion at the Raleigh News and Observer, the Dallas Times Herald and the Baltimore Sun and contributed regularly to the Dallas Morning News. She has won numerous press association awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work in Raleigh, Dallas and Baltimore. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education among other publications.

Winston received a Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University. She also holds Master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Brandeis University.

Program Overview

In today’s world, religion plays a crucial role in domestic and international affairs. That’s why reporters benefit by understanding the importance of religion, spirituality, ethics and values to both individuals and society.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, aware that religion coverage requires more than “a few good religious beat reporters,” conceived of the Knight Chair in Media and Religion as a rallying point for the re-visioning of religion in the news.

In 2002, the foundation awarded the $1.5 million Chair to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in recognition of the school’s commitment to enhancing media coverage of religion in the 21st century and raising public awareness of religion’s socio-cultural significance. The school pledged to facilitate better coverage of religion, spirituality, ethics and values, and recruited Dr. Diane Winston to the Chair.

The Knight Program in Media and Religion is internationally recognized for its innovative research, practical resources and journalistic training. Thanks to the university’s many resources — including the School of ReligionCenter for Religion and Civic Culture, the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, the School of Cinematic Arts, and the Norman Lear Center, as well as local stakeholders such as Hebrew Union CollegeFuller Theological Seminary, and the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation, — the new Knight Program can integrate professional excellence with cutting-edge research. In addition, Southern California’s diverse religious constituencies — ranging from long-established Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities to evangelicals, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and members of new religious movements — provide the ideal laboratory for the study and documentation of Diaspora religions as well as the more homegrown varieties.

The Knight Chair in Media and Religion participates in a wide range of activities, including fellowships for in-depth, explanatory reporting, conferences for working journalists, community events and resource development. Dr. Winston addresses a host of issues surrounding religion and media through her writing and public speaking, as well as her development of coursework and symposiums. Through these outreach activities, USC Annenberg has become a hub for re-visioning how the press—and society itself—thinks about and reports on religion.

Mission Statement

The Knight Chair seeks to establish the Annenberg School for Communication as a pre-eminent location for the enhancement of religion coverage—not simply confined to the traditional realms of religion reporting but one which proactively illuminates the intersection of religion and all beats, whether politics, environment, education, or entertainment. The Chair will develop courses for journalism students, sponsor public events, and initiate venture projects with local constituencies. The program aims to serve the news industry by working with media corporations and professional journalism associations to create an environment conducive to the critical understanding of religion, spirituality, and moral values as fundamental elements of coverage.  In this capacity, the Chair will initiate continuing education programs that benefit journalists.

More Information

Articles about Diane Winston:

The SMU Daily Campus, February 2, 2012
The Daily Trojan: Helping Journalists Keep the Faith, October 13, 2008

Articles by Diane Winston:

“There is Sin and Evil in the World”: Reagan, Trump, and the News Media, Los Angeles Review of Books, September 2016
Capital in the (Seventeenth) to Twentieth Century, Marginalia: Los Angeles Review of Books, December 2015.
Millennials and the ‘Nones’: Why 40 Years of Religion in US Elections May Change in 2016, Vice, June 20, 2015.
Rage Against the (New Age) Machine: Three Days at the Osho International Meditation Resort, Religion Dispatches, December 29. 2014.
More Religion in Politics? New Poll’s Findings may be Overhyped, Religion Dispatches, September 24, 2014.
Shutdown is over but will There be a Next Time, Religion Dispatches, October 17. 2013.
Pope Francis’ woman problem, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2013
Jerusalem Honors Right-Wing Mogul Sheldon Adelson, Religion Dispatches, June 3, 2013
The Myth of News Media as Secularist Conspiracy, Religion Dispatches, April 16, 2013
As Irish Flee the Church, a Push for Reform, Religion Dispatches, March 18, 2013
Does Digital Communication Encourage or Inhibit Spiritual Progress? Big Questions Online, January 15, 2013
The evolving politics of faith, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2012
William Booth’s army of salvation, Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2012
Heterosexual Martyrs and Gay Saints: Did AIDS Coverage Clear the Way for LGBT Equality? Religion Dispatches, July 16, 2012
Do You Have Faith in the Media? Washington Post, April 5, 2012
Review of The Mormon People by Matthew Bowman and LDS in the USA by Lee Trepanier and Lynita K. Newswander, Washington Post, March 9, 2012
Tea Party, Circa 1930s, Religion Dispatches, September 26, 2011
Spreading the Good Word, Online New York Times, September 8, 2011
Review of “Inside Scientology,” The Washington Post, July 14, 2011
Religion and AIDS at 30, The Huffington Post, June 7, 2011
Student Reporters Take on the Mideast Beat, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 16, 2011
Did Mad Men Get Religion? The Huffington Post, October 20, 2010
God Bless This Mess? The Jewish Journal, October 13, 2010
What Americans Really Need to Know About Religion, The Huffington Post, October 6, 2010
Gunning for the Pope? The Huffington Post, July 6, 2010
Pat Tillman and Prop 8: Two New Documentaries’ Take on God and Power, The Huffington Post, June 22, 2010
Hidden in Plain Sight: Israel’s Palestinian Citizens, The Huffington Post, March 22, 2010
City on a Hill: Can the U.S. Provide a Model for Israel? The Huffington Post, March 17, 2010
Israeli Right Demonizes Israeli Left, With American Money, Religion Dispatches, February 22, 2010
Capricology: Television, Technology and the Sacred, a blog launched on January 29, 2010 at Religion Dispatches.
Epidemics, Inoculation and God’s Will, The Washington Post, October 1, 2009
Give Me That Small Screen Religion, Religion Dispatches, July 27, 2009
To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (review), Religion Dispatches, June 21, 2009
Covering Religion in the New Year: The Atheist Bus and More, Religion Dispatches, January 9, 2009
Back to the Future: Religion, Politics and the Media, American Quarterly,September 2007
Press Coverage of Religion Tilts Right, The Huffington Post, June 7, 2007
Falwell had a dream, The Huffington Post, May 22, 2007
Forgetting Falwell, The Revealer, May 17, 2007
iFaith in the Amen Corner: How Gen Y is Rethinking Religion on Campus
Social Science Research Council: The Religious Engagement of American Undergraduates, May 11, 2007
Feeding desires, judging sin, The Revealer, December 11, 2006
Redeeming Media Relations, Fuller Theology News & Notes, Fall 2006
The Not-so-secret path to “The Path to 9-11,” The Revealer, September 11, 2006
A Different set of questions, The Revealer, June 28, 2006
So where are the Muslims on CSI, Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2006
A blessing or a purse, it’s your choice, Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2006
Isaiahs are in short supply, Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2006
Atheism with a smile, Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2006
Don’t take Jewish centrality for granted, The Jewish Week, February 24, 2006
Religious progressives, the next generation, Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2006
The risk of playing religion straight, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2006
When the conflict narrative doesn’t fit, Nieman Reports, January 1, 2006
Malling Christmas, Los Angeles Times, December 25, 2005
The power that made Rosa Parks, Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2005
6 million Muslim stories waiting to be told, Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2005
Redemption, God, a Crip and the “rapture index,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2005
The mystical all-star band boogied down the Katrina blues, Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2005
Goose bumps at an L.A. mosque, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 2005
Polygamy, white booties and fiberglass oxen, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2005
From strip show to skid row, Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2005
Hollywood’s spooky spirituality, Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2005
Crusading iPoders for Christ, Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2005
Shaken by the notion of a faith-based nation, The Baltimore Sun, November 10, 2004
Tocqueville on the Campaign Trail, The Revealer, October 26, 2004
What and why people believe, The Revealer, September 11, 2004
Framing power, Maybe religion reporters aren’t so stupid, after all, The Revealer, February 4, 2004
Unsung heroes, Beliefnet, May 23, 2000

Recent Presentations:

“A View from the White House: 20 Years of Faith-State Partnerships,” USC, September 2016
Discussion with Krista Tippett on her book, “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living,” Wilshire Temple, Los Angeles, April 21, 2016.
“Understanding Syria’s Refugee Crisis,” Conference, USC, February 26, 2016.
“Dead Man Walking the Journey Continues,” keynote by Sr. Helen Prejean, and “Windows on Death Row” art exhibition, USC, October 22, 2015
“Godless Politics: Bernie Sander, The Rise of Secular Humanism and the Future of American” USC, October 7, 2015
“What Matters to Me and Why,” USC- Office of Religious Life, Los Angeles. November 6, 2014.
Keynote Address, “Covering a Conflict without Adding to it,” Jewish Student Press Association, Los Angeles, October 31, 2014.
“Religion, Democracy and the Arab Awakening,” Conference, USC, April 25, 2014, co-sponsored with USC Center for Islamic Thought, Culture and Practice and Global Post.
Lecture and Seminars on the online Atlas of Global Pentecostalism, USC, February 24-25, 2014.
“Sex, Drugs and Religious Accommodation,” Working Group on Religious Accommodation, USC, September 17, 2014.
“Coverage of AIDS in Secular and Catholic Newspapers, Logos of Love Conference, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH September 20, 2013.
“All the News That Fit to Print: Coverage of Religion and Sexuality in the First Decade of the AIDS Crisis, San Diego State, May 30, 2013.
“Did You Hear the One About the Politician and the Evangelical Pastor Meet-Up in Heaven?: Religion in Political Discourse,” UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, October 30, 2012.
“Religion, Politics and Journalism in the 20th Century,” All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA, May 20, 2012.
“Religion, Sexuality and AIDS: All the News That’s Firt to Print?” at “Media, Religion and Social Transformation,” a conference sponsored by the Center for Religion and Media at New York University, April 26, 2012.
Lecturer at the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, USC Religion and American Journalism Conference, March 28, 2012
Moderator, “Looking for Judaism in (Un) Conventional Places,” asymosium hosted by the Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA, Feb. 13, 2012
Panelist on “Teaching Religion in Public Schools,” KCRW
Lecturer on the impact of the media on the Salvation Army’s mission and identity at a public symposium on “The Relationship of Religion and Philanthropy in Religious Philanthropic Organizations” at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis October 8, 2010
Panelist: “Religion and Media,” Ford Foundation Board of Trustees, April 21, 2009
“Religion, Media and Nonprofits,” International Center for Media Studies’ Symposium ‘Emerging Technologies, Globalization and the Developing World,’April 6, 2009
“Religion, the News Media and the 2008 Election,” UCLA Extension Series: Beyond the Headlines: Morning Edition, November 18, 2008
Panelist: Annenberg Open Forum on Politics, War and More, USC, November 6, 2008
Panelist: “Generation ‘Next’ Votes: Does Faith Matter?, USC Visions & Voices and the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, October 29, 2008
“Run for the White House: Religion, Race, Gender and the Media,” ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, October 16, 2008; podcast available here;video feed available here.
“The Role That Religion has Played in the 2008 Elections,” NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, September 27, 2008
“Religion and World Politics,” Festival of Faiths 2008, USC, 26 February 2008
US Elections and Religion, February 19, 2008
“Going Public on Religion: Paradise or Pitfall,” American Academy of Religion, 19 November 2007.
“Sleeper Cell: Viewing Religion, Race and Terrorism in a Post 9/11 World,” American Academy of Religion, 17 November 2007.
“Reporting on Religion: Religious Intolerance in Perspective,” Harvard Divinity School LA Regional Event, 16 November 2007.
“Buddhism in the News: Religion, Media and Public Diplomacy,” Religion, Identity and Global Governance Conference (USC), 18 October 2007.
“What Went Right: Religion, Politics and Journalism in the Twentieth Century,” American Studies Association, 11 October 2007.
“Going Public on Religion: Paradise or Pitfall,” American Academy of Religion, 19 November 2007.
“Interfaith Dialogue and Action,” Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (UCSB), 27 August 2007.
Gralla Institute, 15 July 2007.
MIT Communications Forum: Evangelicals and the Media April 5, 2007
The Future Is Now: Gralla Institute 2006 Keynote, Brandeis, July 16, 2006
If It Bleeds, It Leads: ASU Center for the Study of Religion & Conflict Marshall Series Lecture, April 20, 2006
The Way to the Land is Through the Wilderness: Pacific School of Religion Earl Lecture, January 24, 2006


Prince practiced door-to-door evangelism, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2016
And Now, the News through Catholic Eyes, The Atlantic, September 3, 2014
‘Scandalous’ evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson gets star turn on Broadway, On Faith, Washington Post, November 12, 2012
Christian rock rises again on the charts, on the road, on the sea, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2012
Debate over God is business as usual in the U.S., San Diego Union Tribune, September 7, 2012
Evangelicals ponder their vote, Mormons and national debt, Ventura County Star, August 26, 2012
TV’s Favorite Serial Killer Finds ReligionWashington Post, September 27, 2011
In the Glare of Public Scrutiny, Some Candidates Develop an Aversion to “Spicy” Religious Labels, Kansas City Star, July 22, 2011
Religion is Getting Its Prime-time MomentCharlotte Observer, July 16, 2011
Crystal Cathedral: A Mega Church in Troubled Waters, NPR, June 5, 2011
Muslim-Americans Try to “Write” Hollywood’s Wrongs, NPR, March 27, 2011
Tween Evangelist? Justin Bieber Film Packed with Prayer, USA Today, February 10, 2011
For Top Religion Stories of 2010, A Major Case of Déjà VuHuffington Post, November 27, 2010
Pamela Geller, “Queen of Muslim Bashers,” at Center of N.Y. “Mosque” Debate, Religion News Service, August 20, 2010
Laws of ChangeRoanoke Times, August 19, 2006
Pride often trips up powerful figuresRocky Mountain News, November 4, 2006
Fall TV Season Programs Are Out of This WorldBaltimore Sun, July 22, 2007
A Pastor Finds a Way to Serve Two Disparate FlocksNew York Times, August 11, 2007
Superheroes to our rescueBaltimore Sun, September 16, 2007
Jewish Flare of New TV Shows, Baltimore Jewish Times, September 21, 2007
Muslims on TV, No Terror in Sight, New York Times, November 11, 2007
With a Mormon candidate on the ballot, area church members open up about their beliefsVentura County Star, January 12, 2008
Westminster, Cypress show their faith in God, OC Register, February 24, 2008
USC religion site dissects the ‘new Seven Deadly Sins’Dallas Morning News,March 11, 2008
Myers’ latest spoof hits ‘ohm’, Yahoo, March 27, 2008
‘Idol’ Song Choice Courts Controversy and Finds It; Singer Is Voted Off, New York Times, April 25, 2008
Candidates and pastors: A holy war ahead?Philly.com, May 23, 2008
Rick Warren hopes to redefine presidential politicsOrange County Register,August 8, 2008
Pastor to endorse candidate: West Bend minister part of initiative against tax code, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 26, 2008
Anti-religion Agenda Among Social Media Users, Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2008
Gay-Marriage Ban Protestors Target Mormon Church, National Public Radio, November 7, 2008
Faith-Based Views Veer Off a Straight Political Line, New York Times, December 13, 2008
Spiritual Themes, Explored From Many Angles, New York Times, April 10, 2009
Couple’s Site Invites Others on Spiritual QuestDenver Post, May 10, 2009

Books by Diane Winston:

Heartland Religion: The News Media and American Identity, Oxford University Press (under contract, publication in 2017).
Reality and Religion: Faith and Spirituality in Reality TV, co-editor, (New York University Press, 2017).
Lost and Found: Religion in Los Angeles, co-editor, (in discussion with University of California Press, 2017).
The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media, 2012
Red Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army, 1999
Co-editor, Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture, 2002
Editor and Author, Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion, 2009
Complete CV available upon request.

Media appearances by Diane Winston:

Monster We Love: TV’s Pop Culture Theodicy,” on “Krista Tippett On Being” (American Public Media), December 1, 2011.
The Cost of Ignorance: Teaching Religion in Public Schools,” on “To the Point” (KCRW and Public Radio International), December 20, 2010.
Tis the Season…to be Angry About Religion,” on “The Pat Morrison Show” (Southern California Public Radio), December 15, 2010.
Non-Believers Know More About Religion?” on AirTalk (Southern California Public Radio), September 28, 2010.
Participant in a press conference on a Public Religion Research Institute survey about Proposition 8 and the religious community. Quoted in USAToday, on KPCC and other news outlets, July 21, 2010.
Panelist on the Canadian Broadcast Corp’s “Sunday Edition” program to discuss recent coverage of religion by the news media, April 2010
The Church of the Salvation Army” on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” December 4, 2009
“Religious ‘Nones’ and Religious Branding,” Fox News Special Report, August 14, 2009
TV and Parables of Our Time,” on “Speaking of Faith” with Krista Tippett, July 16, 2009
Gay-Marriage Ban Protesters Target Mormon Church,” NPR, November 7, 2008
LA Roundtable: The Presidential Election, LA CityView Channel 35, October 27, 2008
Sanctuary Movement,” KCET Life & Times, May 9, 2007
Mormon Mitt Romney’s Potential as President,” NPR: Day to Day, December 4, 2006
“Money 101: ‘Christmas and Commerce,'” KNX 1070, November 27, 2006
The Fall of Ted Haggard,” CTV.ca, November 3, 2006
Should Jesus Be on Television?” NPR: Talk of the Nation’s Opinion Page, January 9, 2006

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