WJI Testimonies - Timothy Meinch
Nov 3, 2016
Timothy Meinch likes to travel. He enjoys learning about new cultures, seeing new places, meeting new people—and that’s why he became a “backpack journalist.”
Raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Meinch attended high school with Drew Belz, who introduced him to WORLD Magazine. Like many students, Meinch learned about journalism through high school and college writing opportunities: serving on the school yearbook staff and college newspaper.
Meinch attended the University of North Carolina, Asheville where he studied communications. The city of Asheville provided an eclectic environment for him to practice his skills and intern for the Asheville Citizen Times. He attended the World Journalism Institute (WJI) in 2010 where he learned more about the unique niche of being a “backpack journalist” — someone who can carry diverse skill sets and fill any need when covering a story. At WJI, he learned to be a writer, photographer and videographer, all skills he would later need as a reporter for the Des Moines Register.
While taking a year off from college, he attended Youth With A Mission (YWAM) where he met his soon-to-be wife Dana, a musician and talented photographer. After graduating, Meinch moved to Dana’s homestate of Iowa. The couple sometimes go on trips together with Meinch writing while Dana focuses on the visual storytelling.
“Journalism always takes you to different places, whether that’s even within your own city or town and it kind of sends you to places you’d never get to see,” says Meinch.
Sometimes traveling means seeing new aspects of Des Moines, or visiting nearby states to tell stories of interest to Iowa readers.
But Meinch’s favorite trip took him outside of Iowa and across the globe to East Africa. In July 2015, Meinch embarked on an international reporting trip in Uganda with fellow writer Jeff Chu. While in Uganda, Meinch was able to uncover stories that would resonate with his Midwestern audience back home.
Meinch wrote about a south Sudanese bishop named Samuel Peni, who was forced to send his children to Uganda as refugees. These children were waiting to be adopted by an Iowa family, Mary and Milton Cole-Duvall. Bishop Peni had studied in Iowa years ago and met the family who agreed to adopt many of his children when they fled Sudan. A backpack journalist’s article written from across the world brought one family’s story into the light.
Meinch’s article also won second place in the Amy foundation for 2015.
Not all of Meinch’s travel experiences have included such moving stories from around the world. Sometimes he covers politics. During the Iowa caucuses, he was the designated Dr. Ben Carson reporter. Writing about Dr. Carson allowed Meinch to draw upon another important aspect of his life: his faith.
“Covering the Iowa caucuses in a very heated political climate, things often become religious, especially covering a conservative Christian republican candidate,” says Meinch. “For me, my background in that was an asset in a sense because I feel like I’m pretty well versed in theology and in the Bible...And it really made me a more effective journalist covering someone like Dr. Ben Carson who quotes the Bible a lot, references Scripture in many ways, and it wasn’t a foreign language to me.”
Meinch hopes to keep taking up his backpack and going to new places in search of a story worth telling.
“At my very core is life experiences through traveling and other cultures and pushing myself out of the familiar and my comfort zone,” says Meinch.
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