The project, called "The Global Religion Journalism Initiative," is funded by an 18-month, $4.9 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to RNF. RNF provides education resources to media professionals, corporate clients and the general public on religious literacy.
The organizations are claiming it is one of the largest investments in religion journalism in decades.
"It is deeply affirming and humbling to be entrusted with this important grant, especially at a time when competent, reliable, professional religion journalism is needed more than ever," stated Thomas Gallagher, president and CEO of RNF, CEO-publisher of RNS.
RNS publishes global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics. The Conversation provides commentary and analysis from the academic and research community to the general public.
The organizations will create a joint global religion news desk to cover major world religions, "with an emphasis on explaining religious practices and principles behind current events and cultural movements,” according to a statement.
"This collaboration significantly expands AP’s capacity to explore issues of faith, ethics and spirituality as a social and cultural force," stated AP managing editor Brian Carovillano.
The desk will produce multiformat content "intended to improve general understanding and analyze the significance of developments in the world of faith," according to the statement.
“This is an opportunity to bring content about religion to a much broader audience and market than has previously been possible,” stated Michael Fabiano, AP’s vice president for local media.
Each organization will keep editorial control of its respective content, which will be labeled and distributed by AP.
RNS opinion content will be available to AP member news organizations and customers, but will not appear on the AP wire.
AP will add eight religion journalists, RNS will add three religion journalists and The Conversation will add two religion editors. Additional business staff will also be hired across the organizations.
On its Careers page, AP already has job postings for its Global Religion team, asking for a global editor, a news editor, two reporters (one to report on the intersection of youth and faith, and the other on politics and faith), a video journalist and a text and digital presentation editor.
Lilly Endowment grants have previously helped fund other media projects, including RNF’s support for RNS, and documentaries about religious leaders and traditions.