November 20, 2023
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Rebecca Olds

Charmed and Marveled: Utah State Student Uses Class Project to Better Understand People of Other Faiths 

A Utah State University student's examination of how faith is depicted on the stage and screen was recently published in the Deseret News. 

In the article, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member Rebecca Olds observed that the ways her church has been portrayed across different forms of media "always felt strange to me, simultaneously familiar and alien." 

"I’ve wondered," she continued, "if others felt that way about media focused on their religion."

Olds set out to find out, arranging to watch shows like "Ms. Marvel" with a woman of Muslim faith, "Charmed" with a practicing Wiccan, and "Father Stu" with a faithful Catholic. 

Olds ultimately concluded that "the film industry is rarely a good place to learn about real people of faith."

What would be better? Actually getting to know people of other faiths by spending time with them — as Olds did as a result of the project she began as a student in Utah State's Department of Journalism and Communication.

"For me, it's a guiding star in the way I want to approach all of my reporting throughout my career," said Olds, who graduated in the spring of 2023 and also earned a certificate in interfaith leadership from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.   

The article, "Do people of faith recognize their religion when it appears on the big screen?" was published on Nov. 11. 

Olds is one of many USU journalism students who launched their professional careers long before graduation. She has been working for The Deseret News since July of 2022, first in an internship and later with a fellowship to support that newspaper's coverage of health, family, interfaith initiatives, and religious organizations. 

"I found it invaluable in putting into practice the things I was learning in my own way," she said.