Building a Faith and Religion Beat That’s Responsive to the Community


Our faith and religion beat was developed to address the intersectional nature of religious matters in our region: how do issues such as class, race, sexuality, and gender affect the ideologies, decisions and actions of religious leaders, communities and individuals? How has the historic influence of powerful interests in our area affected where and how today’s religious communities gather? What effects has the pandemic had, and are there likely to be lasting changes?

With these questions in mind, we partnered with the American Council of Learned Societies to bring on post-doctoral fellow Chris Hedlin as our faith and religion reporter, through a grant program that matches scholars of religion with organizations serving public needs. Chris trained as a religious and literary historian, studying how people of faith responded to moments of crisis in the 1800s, and applies this background to addressing current upheavals in public safety, racial equity, the economy, and political division.

Chris has written stories on the faiths of medical workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, how faith communities are combating misinformation surrounding COVID-19, the history of Pittsburgh as a refuge for Black Muslims. This last story was linked to an episode of our podcast on the same topic, offering crossover between products and inspiring collaboration between reporters. One of the most well-read stories detailed how the oldest Black congregation in Pittsburgh had their church demolished as ‘blight’ in the 1950s and now seek reparations. For this story, Chris worked with several other members of our reporting team so that the story could incorporate the history of local economic development and to ensure an environment in which congregation members felt safe to voice the specific harms they had undergone as a result of racism.