Religion Communicators Council honors 22 for work during 2018

NEW YORK — For 70 years, Wilbur awards have honored excellence in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – for communicating religious issues, values and themes. Since the time when they were first given in 1949, award winners are represented by a myriad of individuals, agencies, and networks. Past winners include public figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Morgan Freeman and popular films “Chocolat,” “The Help” and more recently “Hidden Figures.”

This year is no different. The Religion Communicators Council announced 22 Wilbur Award winners on March 8 for work completed in 2018. Contributing to an impressive legacy of uplifting and inspiring secular media, this year’s winners include Mitch Albom’s New York Times bestseller, “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven;” an A&E Lifetime television drama, “Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story;” Vanity Fair’s “Pope Versus Pope,” article on issues surrounding the Catholic Church; a stunning documentary by Irish national television and radio broadcaster RTÉ, “Jesus: Countdown to Calvary;” and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who won in two categories for their in-depth reporting on the devastating shooting that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue, considered to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.

Other Wilbur winners include CBS News, NBC-WTWO TV, The Associated Press, CNN and several other contributors both locally and internationally.

The awards ceremony will take place in Chicago during the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC) 90th annual convention. Winners will be presented individually crafted stained-glass Wilbur trophies during the event on April 12 at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel. Fr. James Gardiner, SA will host the ceremony and the program will be produced by Dr. Andrew B. Rawls. Phillips Theological Seminary, a community of teachers and students that offers online and on-campus courses across the US and abroad, will sponsor the event.

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.

See complete list of 2019 Wilbur winners below.

2019 Wilbur Award winners (for work produced during 2018)

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES print and online

MAGAZINE ARTICLES print and online

  • National or Top 15 metro markets (single article, series of articles, religion page)
    • Pope Versus Pope,” John Cornwell, writer; Vanity Fair, New York, New York
  • Commentary/Blog/Column


  • Fiction
    • “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven,” Mitch Albom, author; Harper, HarperCollins, New York, New York
  • Non-fiction
    • “Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs,” Beth Ricanati, MD, author; She Writes Press, Berkeley, California
  • Non-fiction
    • “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks,” Diana Butler Bass, author; HarperOne, HarperCollins, San Francisco, California


  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • The Secret History of Muslims in the US,” Negin Farsad, Zeyba Rahman, Hussein Rashid, Joshua Seftel, Maria Stanisheva; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Smartypants Pictures & Animadocs, Brooklyn, New York
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • The Gate: Dawn of the Bahá’í Faith,” Steve Sarowitz, executive producer/writer; Bob Hercules, director/producer/writer; Edward A. Price, producer/writer; Adam Mondschein, producer; Spring Green Films, Los Angeles, California



  • Drama
    • Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story,” T.D. Jakes, Derrick Williams, Craig Baumgarten, Toni Braxton, and Judith Verno, executive producers; Larry Rapaport, producer; Vondie Curtis Hall, director; Laura Harrington and Stephen Kay, teleplay; Based on the Book “Prepared For a Purpose” by Antoinette Tuff; A&E Lifetime, Manhattan Beach, California
  • News Segment
    • The CBS Evening News: Sikhs in Semis,” Jim Axelrod, correspondent; Mosheh Oinounou, executive producer; Javier Guzman, senior producer; Sharaf Mowjood, producer; CBS News, New York, New York
  • News – network or national syndication (4-8 min.)
    • A Gift of Dance” Lesley Stahl, correspondent; Mary Lou Teel, producer; April Wilson, editor; Rand Morrison, executive producer; CBS Sunday Morning, New York, New York
  • News – network or national syndication (8 min.+)
    • 60 Minutes: Inside the Secret Archive,” Bill Whitaker, correspondent; Guy Campanile producer; Lucy Hatcher, associate producer; Craig Crawford, editor; Bill Owens, executive producer; “60 Minutes,” CBS News, New York, New York
  • News Story – local or regional
    • Making His Mark,” Sierra Hignite, reporter; Josh Lum, photographer; WTWO TV, Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • Deconstructing My Religion,” Elizabeth Kineke, writer/producer; Elyse Kaftan, editor; Yuti Joshi, associate producer; CBS Television: Religion and Culture, CBS News, New York, New York
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • Jesus: Countdown to Calvary,” Hugh Bonneville, presenter; Gerry Hoban, director; Eric Luskin & Cynthia Fenneman, commissioning executives (American Public Television); Béatrice Aullen, commissioning executive (ARTE); Roger Childs & Ray Bruce, executive producers (RTÉ, Dublin, Ireland)
  • Interview
    • Religion in Life,” Conrad (Ozzie) Ostwalt, host; Jesse Jackson, guest; Kelly Hunter, producer: “Religion in Life;” Rob Gelber, general manager, AppTV; Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina


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.

Contact: Shirley Struchen, or 212-870-2402.

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