WJI 2016 Blog - Day Two - The What and the Why of Journalism
May 16, 2016
On the first day of the World Journalism Institute, National Editor Jamie Dean held up a copy of WORLD magazine from the week of September 11, 2001.
9-11 was a Tuesday and WORLD printed weekly issues on Thursday. After hearing about the terrorist attack, the editorial team led by Marvin Olasky discarded everything prepared for that week’s issue and started from scratch. Forty-eight hours later, WORLD ran an issue with a picture of the twin towers cloaked in smoke.
“This shows what happened,” Jamie said. But then she picked up the issue from the week after 9/11—the cover was of a grieving woman clutching her wedding photo. “But this shows why it matters.”
Journalists do more than report facts—they show why those facts matter. By creating context and discovering personal implications, we anchor our stories in someone’s objective reality. In doing so, we aim to treat individuals with dignity. We listen to their stories and report them to the best of our ability.
Jamie shared about meeting displaced families after Hurricane Katrina. Lee Pitts, Associate Dean of WJI, talked about befriending soldiers he was traveling with during the war in Iraq and learning about the need for armored vehicles. Tiffany Owens, a professional photographer, focused on the importance of narrative photography to contextualize and provide a snapshot into someone’s time, place, and personality.
Already this week, I have met people who enriched my perspective: Andrea is a community artist staying at our hostel, who has a heart for listening to the narratives of travelers. She leaves encouraging art around the hostel to brighten someone’s day. Dane, a street violinist who wears a leather jacket, played Vivaldi as he waits for a friend to arrive so they can hitchhike north and start a new life.
Asheville is an eclectic, “Portland-of-the-South” kind of place. It is the ideal place to write, to practice the art of observation, and to listen to people’s stories. Our goal as Christian journalists transcends the impetus to write a factually true story—we should seek to show why that story matters.
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