Nov. 19 — Covering the Rifqa Bary case

Runaway ConvertThe story of Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old girl who converted from Islam to Christianity then ran away from home, has been one of the most enduring stories of the year.

Join the Central Ohio Society of Professional Journalists for its annual diversity event at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Worthington Inn, where reporters from the Columbus Dispatch and Orlando Sentinel will talk about the challenges of covering the Bary story, which touches on religion, parenting, law and societal assumptions and misconceptions.

Bary secretly left her New Albany home this summer to join a Christian minister and his family in Orlando, Fla. Although her parents deny the claims, Bary repeatedly told law enforcement she had to leave because her family would kill her for converting. The result has been a protracted battle in Ohio and Florida courts and a deluge of letters and comments to newspapers from Christians, Muslims, parents and readers.

Reporters covering the story have heard an earful from both sides — and dealt with many an angry blogger — during their coverage.

Dispatch columnist Joe Blundo will moderate. No cover charge, free hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.

To register, e-mail Katy Waters at with your name and e-mail address.

Blundo_Joe sllJoe Blundo‘s award-winning column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of the Columbus Dispatch. It’s a mix of humor, human interest and information. Among his favorite topics are Columbusness: the peculiarities that make Columbus what it is. Such as why we rush to the store and buy all the milk and bread when a half inch of snow is in the forecast. He also likes to write about crazed Buckeye fans, bizarre entertainment acts and oddball collectors, such as the guy who keeps a million used lottery tickets in his basement.

Joe has been at the Dispatch since 1978. A native of New Castle, Pa., he is a 1975 graduate of Kent State University. He lives in Worthington. He and his wife have two children.

edwardsAmy Edwards been with the Orlando Sentinel for about five years and is on the breaking news team. She covers criminal justice and has written about the Jessica Lunsford kidnapping and homicide.

Amy won awards for a story about a hospital nurse who preyed on patients and for her coverage of the Casey Anthony case.

She graduated from the University of Central Florida.

heagney_dciiiMeredith Heagney has been the faith and values reporter at the Columbus Dispatch for 2½ years. In April 2008, her coverage of the first U.S. papal visit of Pope Benedict XVI in New York helped her win first place in the “Best Religion Reporting” category of the 2009 Ohio SPJ awards.

Before coming to the Dispatch, Meredith worked for the Columbus bureau of the Associated Press.

She is a native of Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo, and a 2006 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

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