New website to educate, discuss, raise religious awarenessWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | email@example.com
A former Blade editor has helped launch a website to get Toledo talking about religion.
ToledoFAVS.com mixes columns and news articles written by religious leaders and followers alike about subjects relating to all forms of religion. David Yonke, who was a religion editor for 12 years, approached the Religion News Service about a year ago about getting the site up and running.
Toledo is the fourth city to see a local “faith and values” site administered by the Religion News Service. Religion News LLC, which is based out of the Missouri School of Journalism, acquired the Religion News Service about a year ago. Seeing that the company was not sustaining itself, Religion News LLC turned the news service into a nonprofit and sought to open sites in local markets to drive up advertising opportunities, said Debra Mason, the publisher.
The local sites are also a way to fill the gap left by many daily metro newspapers closing out their religion sections, Mason said.
“We see part of our role as educational and helping to foster a civil discourse about religion and part of our role as telling good stories that many daily newspapers have abandoned and are not telling anymore,” Mason said.
Yonke said he aims to improve religious literacy and acceptance in the area.
“A lot of people are fearful or naive about religions and defensive,” Yonke said. “If they are educated and informed and learn about what other people believe, it will build a better sense of community and understanding. Religion can be a wonderful driving force in people’s lives and it can be abused — the more we can break down the stereotypes, the better.”
Yonke has 11 official contributors and his goal is to get 50-70 writers to update the site with at least three stories a day. Yonke is seeking contributors from all faiths — from Wiccans to pagans and druids to Catholics, mainline protestants, Muslims and Jewish people, he said.
Yonke emphasized that the site will not just be “Theology 101,” but will host a multitude of stories analyzing anything from current events to television shows.
Mason said FAV sites might offer a venue for reporters interested in faith topics to learn their craft and exercise their skills.
“We need to have a place where people can learn how to do it — it takes years to learn how to do religion reporting,” said Mason, who is also on faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism. “We have students coming out of journalism schools who are interested in writing about religion but we don’t have anywhere to send them to do that.”
ToledoFAVS.com and Toledo Free Press have formed a media partnership in which Toledo Free Press will publish articles by Yonke on faith and values and ToledoFAVS will promote Toledo Free Press online. The agreement expands the media partners’ reach in Northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan while giving readers greater and more diverse options for local news and features.