Covering Islam in America

Course Overview

Covering Islam in America
Self-Directed Course
This $24.95 course is FREE thanks to funding support from the Social Science Research Council.
Time Estimate:
2-3 hours

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

“Islam hates us,” Donald Trump told CNN. Ted Cruz wants to patrol Muslim neighborhoods. Marco Rubio sees a “clash of civilizations.”

Islam is part of the 2016 presidential election campaign. And it’s a local story for reporters from Portland, ME to Portland, OR and Ann Arbor to Austin.

Fifteen years after the 9/11 tragedies, many American journalists find themselves telling a story about Islam at home as well as far away. But how do you bridge cultural gaps to accurately put news about Islam and Muslim communities into context?

This course is designed to give you a broad explanation of the religious, social, political, and geographical facts about Islam today. It provides the essential information you need to humanize, analyze and put news about Islam and Muslim communities into context.

We created "Covering Islam in America" as a tool for journalists who want to be accurate in educating their audience about the religion and culture of Islam, Muslim communities in the U.S., and the distinctions between Islam as a political movement and the radical philosophies that inspire militant Islamists. This course, funded by the Social Science Research Council, gives journalists the language and knowledge they need to convey this information to their audience. It is an extension of the e-book Islam for Journalists, also funded by the SSRC and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, available for free download from Reynolds Institute “newsbook” catalogue at the University of Missouri.

Together with the Social Science Research Council and Washington State University, we are committed to strengthening accurate reporting and to enhancing the ability of the media to fairly report on a range of pressing issues. We believe there is a need to better understand the complexities of Muslim societies and this course is a vital resource toward that end.

The values underpinning the course are truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, minimizing harm and context -- the core journalistic values on which we build all our teaching here at Poynter.

The two primary instructors, Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Franklin, spent years as journalists covering the Islamic world. They have firsthand knowledge about Islam and Muslims, as well as academic insight and experience doing research into the topic. This course also includes a team of noted academic authorities on specific aspects of Islam who share their academic knowledge.

In the coming weeks, we'll be adding sections about the diversity of religious expression, women and Islam, and Islam and the black community.

A companion website Islam for Journalists: A Crash Course for Reporters with more readings and analysis, is available through Washington State University's Center for Distance Education.

What Will I Learn:
  • Essential facts about Islam and Muslims
  • Background about the growth of Islam in the U.S. and around the world
  • Reporting strategies to give your stories greater context
  • How to find additional resources to improve your coverage
Who should take this course:

Journalists who want to improve their understanding of Islam and become more effective in their coverage.

Course Instructors:

Lawrence Pintak

Lawrence Pintak is a veteran journalist who has reported from the Middle East and broader Muslim world for more than 30 years and now writes and lectures on America's relationship with the Muslim world and the role of the media in shaping international relations. He was the founding dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University (2009-2016) and is currently a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, and writes on Islam and American politics for

Stephen Franklin

Stephen Franklin is a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune with extensive experience in the Middle East. He has also trained journalists in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and designed an online course about labor coverage for Arab journalists for the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). He is a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey. He is the editor and project manager for the Islam on Main Street effort at the College of Communication at Washington State University.


Social Science Research Council

This course is funded by the Social Science Research Council as part of an initiative to support public engagement by academic experts on Islamic traditions and Muslim societies, made possible through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is an independent nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of social science research and scholarship.

Training Partner:

Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University

The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University is the only program in the Northwest that offers sequences in all six communication fields: advertising, broadcasting, communication, communication studies, journalism, and public relations. Named for its most illustrious alumnus, the college is noted for combining professional skill building and theory and is one of only a few programs in the nation that airs a daily, student-produced television newscast.