Creating Connections, a project to bring together local media and faith groups, academics, religious education teachers and civic leaders, launches in Bradford this week.
Events are planned in six cities and include media panels where regional jouranlists discuss their reporting of religion, and faith groups outline their stories.
Highlights include sessions with top regional editors and community reporters explaining their trade. Young people from sixth forms and universities join the discussion on how they access the news — and it’s not via TV, radio or newspapers.
Faith groups present stories to journalists, for example on the new Faith Museum in the northeast, the faith covenants between faith groups and local government delivering front line services, initiatives on diversity and inclusion in every city and many individual stories.
Several bishops are lined up to support the venture and our venues include a city hall, a famed entertainment centre, an arts centre and cathedrals. Our schedule is:
• Bradford Tuesday 16 September, Kala Sangam arts centre
• Coventry Thursday 5 October, meeting room, Coventry Cathedral
• Newcastle and The North East, Weds 18 October, Cathedral of St Nicholas
• Liverpool Thursday 9 November, The Black E
• Bristol Wednesday 22 November, Conference Hall, City Hall
• Norwich Tuesday 30 November, venue to be confirmed
The project was first launched in 2021 and is repeated this year amid concern of a gulf of understanding between faith groups and the media.
We found that representatives from organisations were reluctant to speak to the media for fear of misrepresentation. Small groups which have no public relations resources, were lacking in confidence when approaching the media, needing help to identify their stories and finding local journalists.
On the other side, the media lacked information about religious groups and were unsure how to find the correct representatives when dealing with often controversial stories.
This year the landscape has changed with BBC cuts slashing local radio programmes and Meta, formerly Facebook, pulling the plug on its Community News Project, which placed hundreds of journalists in newsrooms around Britain.
Our events this year will all include a session on media skills, helping faith groups with the skills to communicate their stories on social media and taking them to the next step of engaging with the regional journalists who pick up the stories.
We found in our last project that 97 per cent of faith representatives surveyed said it improved their confidence in approaching the media and 87 per cent overall said it improved their idea of religion.
In the end, the difference made at these events is trust. Amrick Singh Ubhi, director of the Sikh faith Nishkam Centre in Birmingham, said the event he attended in Birmingham was the chance of a new beginning from which to build bridges.
And Michelle Mayman, who was then editor of BBC North West Tonight, told the Manchester meeting: “If you want to get your story out there, you have to trust somebody. I would urge you to have faith in people and develop that trust so you can tell those stories. Have faith in us”.
Our Creating Connections project 2023 is organised thanks to the generous support of Culham St Gabriel’s Trust, the Saltley Trust and the Methodist Church.
Further details of our events, with programmes and links to book places, are on our website here