News Release: Religion and Ethics

Jun. 21,  2010

Religion Dispatches Online Magazine Announces Enhanced Site

Religion Dispatches, a daily online magazine based at Emory University that explores the intersection of religion, values and public life, has launched "RD 2.0," a new design with features to better serve its fast-growing readership.

"The site is the most diverse, dynamic and in-depth religion magazine available, and its readership is increasing as well as its reach," says Gary Laderman, professor of American religious history and cultures and director of the magazine.

In 2010, its second full year of operation, RD will once again receive millions of views and is on pace for a 30 percent increase over 2009, says Laderman. RD's readership has grown in each of its nine quarters by an average of 5-10 percent per quarter.

Among Religion Dispatches' new features are a books micro-site, a stand-alone blog ("Dispatches") with a roster of all-star religion experts, a multimedia collaboration with Bloggingheads TV, and a weekly guest spot on Welton Gaddy's "State of Belief."

With numbers continuing to grow steadily-from a robust email subscriber base to a thousands-strong social media presence-"RD has found a singular niche in the media environment," says Laderman.

"The variety of religion stories covered is unparalleled in the media world, both in subject matter and approach.

"Where else can a reader find a reading of the myths behind TV's ‘Lost,' a feminist Catholic perspective on the church's crisis, a Muslim writer on Facebook's ‘Draw Muhammad' campaign, and a historian's take on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's doctoral thesis?" he asks.

"RD has a diverse readership, including educators and students, activists and religious leaders, media figures and policy makers, and people from all walks of life who respond to our stories and return to the magazine every day," says managing editor Evan Derkacz.

One of the site's more notable changes is its elimination of comments from its major feature stories and turning them into letters to the editor, a move that defies current trends, says Derkacz. "We've gone more traditional in order to facilitate a more productive conversation." The site retains comments on its "Dispatches" blog.

Some of RD's most influential and popular stories explore sexuality and gay rights issues-"the site is one of the few that is unequivocally pro-LGBT civil rights (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual)," says Derkacz. RD also provides in-depth exploration of atheism-theism debates, science and religion, African-American culture and politics, and popular culture and entertainment.

Religion Dispatches receives funding from Emory University, the Ford Foundation and other foundations. In October 2009, the Ford Foundation made a major grant to the site for its operation over the next three years.

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