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After year of isolation, 2021 Wilbur Award Winners paint story of resilience

Religion Communicators Council honors 20 for work during 2020

NEW YORK — The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) announces 20 Wilbur Award winners to honor excellence by individuals in the secular media for communicating religious issues, values, and themes. On the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, a tumultuous political landscape, and ongoing conversations around racial and social inequality, winning entries of the 2021 Wilbur Awards competition reflect how strength and resilience emerge in the midst of adversity and unrest. These awards were given for work completed in 2020 in the fields of print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and film.

The 2021 Wilbur Award winners highlight stories from across the country, and around the world. For example, a series of articles by the Religion News Service and winner in the online communications category, “Beyond the Most Segregated Hour” investigates the future of segregation and integration in American religion. “No Going Back,” by CBC Radio – Tapestry is a documentary about the thousands of refugees who have found a home and acceptance in the Metropolitan Community Church of Ontario after facing persecution on behalf of their sexual identity. The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell submitted “ON THE ROAD: Virginia Congressional Candidate Heals Political Divide With Compassion,” about how in the face of racism and harmful misconceptions about his faith, a Muslim lawyer and congressional candidate returned a vitriol-filled tweet with compassion and generosity, generating a genuine conversation in good faith and civility.

Other Wilbur winners include The Cork Nativity, a documentary by Bo Media, RTÉ in Ireland; “The Most American Religion,” an article published by The Atlantic; and “Religion in Life: A Conversation with Jim Wallis,” an interview series by Appalachian State University.

Additionally, this year a Special Wilbur Award will be presented to Rev. Dennis C. Benson. As a master storyteller who sees the image of God in every person, and inspires others to do the same, Dennis C. Benson has interviewed more than 15,000 people. His interviews with personalities ranging from Alice Cooper to Fred Rodgers to ordinary people have been featured on his radio and television talk shows in the Pittsburgh area over the span of six decades. He was also the producer of the “Passages” radio program for Presbyterian Media Mission for more than 30 years.

The Wilbur program is coordinated by RCC New York Chapter president Ryan Koch. Of the awardees he noted, “I am in awe of the way the awardees were able to communicate religious and inspiring themes with dedication, grace, and sensitivity. It is an honor to associate with professionals such as these, and I look forward to collaborating, coordinating, and communicating with them long into the future.”

The awards ceremony will take place virtually, on Friday, April 9, 2021, during the RCC’s annual convention, Opening New Portals, Building Community, to be held in conjunction with the Associated Church Press (ACP) and the Canadian Christian Communicators Association (CCCA).

The Religion Communicators Council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. Secular communicators enter work in seven categories. Juries of media professionals, coordinated by council members across the country, evaluate submissions on content, creativity, impact and excellence in communicating religious values. The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations, longtime council leader and former Presbyterian Church executive. Each winner will receive individually crafted stained-glass Wilbur trophies.

2021 Wilbur Award winners (for work produced during 2020)

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES print and online

  • National or Top 15 metro markets (single article, series of articles, special section, religion page)        
  • All other markets (single article, series of articles, special section, religion page)        
  • Blog/Column        

MAGAZINE ARTICLES print and online

  • National or Top 15 metro markets (single article, series of     articles, religion page)        
    • The Most American Religion,” McKay Coppins, writer; Denise Wills, editor; Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief; The Atlantic, Vienna, Virginia
  • All other     markets (single article, series of articles, religion page)        


  • Youth/Children
    • For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World, Michael W. Waters, author; Keisha Morris, illustrator; Erin E. Herbert, co-writer of the discussion and activity guide; Darryl Young, Jr., co-writer of the discussion and activity guide; Flyaway Books, Louisville, Kentucky


  • Documentary     (up to 30 min.)
    • 60 Minutes: Critical Condition, Bill Owens, Executive Producer; Tanya Simon, Executive Editor; Scott Pelley, Correspondent; Nicole Young, Producer; Katie Kerbstat Jacobson & Aaron Weisz, Associate Producers; Ian Flickinger, Broadcast Associate; Warren Lustig, Editor; CBS News 60 Minutes, New York, New York
  • Documentary     (30 min. +)
    • Spiritual Audacity: The Abraham Joshua Heschel Story, Martin Doblmeier, producer, director, writer & narrator; Deryl Davis, producer; Carrie Snyder, producer & graphic design; Mark Comberiate, producer, director of photography, & editor; Journey Films, Alexandria, Virginia


  • Multimedia     or Video


  • News –     network or national syndication (up to 4 min.)
  • News –     network or national syndication (4-8 min.)
  • News –     network or national syndication (8 min.+)
    • CBS Sunday Morning: Block by Block,” Lee Cowan, Correspondent; Dustin Stephens, Producer; Carol A. Ross, Editor; Rand Morrison, Executive Producer; CBS Sunday Morning, New York, New York
  • Documentary     (up to 30 min.)
    • The Cork Nativity, Roger Childs, Executive Producer; Derek Nagle, Producer; Patrick O’Shea, Director; Rupert MacCarthy Morrough, Director of Photography; Enya O. Sullivan, Researcher; Donal O. Driscoll, Camera Assistant; Gearoid O’Sullivan, Gaffer; Darren Sheehan, Composer; Bo Media, RTÉ, Cork, Ireland
  • Documentary     (30 min.+)
    • Names, Not Numbers, Dov Rosenberg, Executive Producer; Tova Rosenberg, Producer; Michael Puro, Director; Names, Not Numbers Inc, New York, New York


  • Series of     programs (two or more)
    • Unfinished: Short Creek,” Ash Sanders & Sarah Ventre, co-hosts; John Delore & Amy Westervelt, Executive Producers & Editors; Abigail Keel, Senior Producer; Witness Docs from Stitcher, New York, New York
  • Documentary
    • CBC Radio – Tapestry: No Going Back,” Produced by Rosie Fernandez and Trevor Green, with Erin Noel; CBC Radio Tapestry; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Toronto, Ontario, Canada


About the Religion Communicators Council

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC), founded in 1929, is an association of communications professionals who work for and with a diverse group of faith-based organizations in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and development.

Ryan Koch
Religion Communicators Council
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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