Journalists: Apply for Spiritual Exemplars Project – International Religion Reporting

The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture seeks applications from journalists to join a team that will profile 100 “Spiritual Exemplars” around the world over the course of the next two and half years. The profiles are part of an academic project studying extraordinary people whose spirituality inspires them do good in the world. A team of about a dozen English-speaking journalists, based in any part of the world, will publish in-depth articles, videos and audio stories about such figures with outside media organization and on CRCC’s project home page. CRCC will pay a $5,000 stipend for each profile and cover reasonable travel and reporting expenses.

Skip to application information below.

Why Spiritual Exemplars?

Scholars in the fields of developmental psychology and social entrepreneurship study “exemplars” because they have a great influence on society and they provide insights into human nature by revealing the “upper limits” of what we are capable of as a species. Authoritative studies on moral exemplars find that they tend to be spiritual or religious in some way. We know little, however, about how spirituality functions in the lives of these individuals and the communities they serve. As social scientists, CRCC’s research team seeks to advance the understanding of the role of spirituality in exemplars’ lives and work and their broader communities.

CRCC will select a diverse set of exemplars to study and profile, with representation from a broad range of geographies, races and religions, including individuals who do not adhere to a particular tradition. A “spiritual exemplar” must match five criteria:

  • A living individual located anywhere in the world
  • Inspired and sustained by spiritual values, beliefs or practices
  • Significant impact that advances human flourishing
  • Admired and emulated by others within and beyond their community
  • Respects human rights, such as those defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Why Journalists?

CRCC aims to support religion reporting and solutions-oriented journalism about the people addressing humanity’s greatest challenges. Journalists are skilled interviewers, critical observers and expert storytellers. Through preliminary research, CRCC has found that Spiritual Exemplars often have rich, compelling stories, full of trauma, doubts or even a dark side, as well as hope. We want to work with journalists who are interested in deep reporting and complex storylines.

How will the project work?

CRCC has developed a database of potential exemplars, which will remain open to new nominations and suggestions from journalists (see application form). After the application period, CRCC will host the team of journalists and researchers for a project orientation, which will include opportunities for professional development and networking.

CRCC will select the exemplars and contact them to ensure their buy-in. CRCC will work with the team of journalists to make appropriate assignments (based on compatible areas of expertise, interest, language skills, location, etc.).

Journalists may apply to work on one or more exemplar profile over the course of 2.5 years. Those who are interested in working on multiple profiles (up to six, or one every five months) will be given a preference. CRCC will provide journalists with a $5,000 stipend plus reasonable travel expenses for each exemplar profiled.

Once paired with an exemplar, the journalists will be responsible for their own reporting schedules and logistics. Journalists also will plan for the publishing of any pieces developed out of the reporting. CRCC encourages journalists to pitch the profiles and related stories to media organizations and can provide support through introductions to media partners. The media organizations will have editorial control over the final products. CRCC will republish all stories to a project home, with credit to the publisher.

Journalists also may work with CRCC’s editors to publish their pieces directly to CRCC’s website.

Journalists will be expected to provide CRCC with:

  • A profile or story for outside media partner or CRCC’s website
  • A paragraph description of the exemplar
  • At least five usable photos of the exemplar, including one portrait
  • Completed questionnaire about exemplar
  • Audio from an interview with the exemplar (journalists will be given a typed transcript back)
  • Optional: Sidebars, news stories, or other features discovered while reporting on exemplars

Journalists will also be expected to engage with the research team, who will be analyzing data for commonalities and differences across exemplars.


  • Number of journalists: 12-20
  • Number of exemplar profile assignments per journalist: Up to 6
  • Payment: $5,000 per profile, plus a stipend for expenses


  • Application Deadline: March 10, 2019 (Midnight PST)
  • Acceptance: March 29, 2019
  • Project Orientation: May 13-15, 2019
  • Project End Date: September 30, 2021

Application Details

Journalists who work in print, online, audio and video may apply to complete one or more “spiritual exemplar” profiles. Journalists may be freelancers or on staff, as long as they have the support of their supervisor/editorial staff to devote time to this project. While young journalists are encouraged to apply, professional publishing experience is required. Journalists should have a proven ability to report complex stories and take useable photographs. Applicants must demonstrate a strong interest in religion reporting, but previous experience is not required. International reporting experience is a plus, but not required. Journalists may be based anywhere in the world, but must be fluent in English (the application and final products must be submitted in English).

You may be contacted for a short interview as part of the application process.

Before you start the application, please be prepared with the following materials:

  • Resume
  • A short bio (150-200 words)
  • 3-5 examples of your work (uploaded or links)
  • Letter of recommendation and/or support of editor (optional)

We recommend you compose answers to the following application questions before filling out the online application (no more than 500 words each).

  1. Why are you interested in the Spiritual Exemplars Project?
  2. Describe your experience (if any) reporting on religion and/or spirituality. Please note if you have specialized knowledge or training.
  3. Describe your experience (if any) with international reporting. Do you have experience or skills for reporting in a particular part of the world, and are there locations where you particularly want to go? Please note if you feel comfortable reporting in a language other than English.
  4. What is one challenge you have encountered in the reporting process and how did you overcome it?
  5. Pitch the story of a “Spiritual Exemplar” you would like to profile through this project. Include ideas about how you might like to tell their story (video, written piece, etc.). (Please note that CRCC already has a database with more than 100 exemplars. We may select you as a journalist without using your pitch, or we may already have your idea in our database.)
Type of Call: 
Deadline for Applications: 
Friday, March 15, 2019 - 00:00