Instructor wins national award for community journalism

By Darin Watkins, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

Tracy-Simmons-webSPOKANE, Wash. – A religious online media project started by a Washington State University instructor has won a national award for “Best Local Community Initiative” from the Local Media Association.

“This is really a unique, local initiative that identified a community need and responded,” wrote judges for the association, which is made up of 2,400 traditional news organizations that serve as the dominant sources of local news in their markets. “Though this is a startup, it offers lessons for other news media.”

Respectful religious dialogue

Spokane Faith and Values (SpokaneFaVS) was launched in 2012 by Tracy Simmons (, an instructor with The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at WSU’s Pullman campus.

The nonsectarian initiative partnered with the national Religion News Service, local Spokesman-Review newspaper and area universities to create a place for respectful dialogue on ethics, morals, values, politics and faith. The site has more than 50 writers offering opinions and viewpoints across a wide spectrum of religious ideologies.

“I think religion lends itself to the digital medium,” Simmons said. “People want to have these conversations in a safe and respectful environment.” Read more at

Fostering understanding face to face

Online discussions sometimes lead to in-person conversations – with panel discussions, pub or coffee talks, mixers and “faith feasts.”

“I didn’t want just a website offering the latest headlines and conversations,” Simmons said. “I wanted this to be a tool for starting offline conversations aimed at fostering understanding among people at a time when many conversations have grown so divisive.”

Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism.


Tracy Simmons, WSU Murrow College, 509-335-1556,
Darin Watkins, WSU Murrow College communications,  509-335-4456,