WJI 2017 Blog Day 10 AM: Helping readers see beyond themselves

May 23, 2017

By Julia Klukow

North Greenville University

He led us through the kitchen, passed an employee scrubbing dishes, a dusty, unplugged TV, and tools scattered over a stained concrete floor.

Red and blue lights barely lit the tiny studio behind the kitchen. Down the center of the room ran a table full of microphones, hoops of wires, and amplifiers.

When my teammate and I decided to interview a professor from Dordt College who doubles as a singer-songwriter in a local band, our video instructor asked why anyone would care. It wasn’t an offensive question but a telling one. Could we answer with the fundamental reason for a feature story—could we explain why others should to know about this person? Why would anyone care about a young professor who writes about his quiet life in a small town in the middle of Iowa?

Our job as journalists is not only to convey urgent, large-scale news but also to direct readers to see beyond themselves. We write to help our audiences empathize and understand those who are like them in some ways, unlike them in others. My teammate and I had to expose a thread that connects this Dordt professor with a national audience.

For lighting purposes, the professor sat by the open door. He leaned forward, pressing his Toms against the leg of the tripod and staring into the camera as I adjusted the lens’ focus. No bow tie, slacks, or collared shirt—just a blue-gray hoodie, which he had zipped to about mid-chest. Every now and then, his glasses flashed a glare from the fluorescent tube overhead to the camera screen.

He chuckled as he talked about his wife and three kids and squinted his blue eyes as he thought over our questions about his writing and music. His life was not perfect—he now had to do without the convenience and diversity of experiences he had been used to as a city boy. But he was content in this little town and created opportunities with what he found around him.

Content with little, using that little to do much—there lay a connection. Each human has little when we compare what we actually have to how much we would like to have. What we thought would be the perfect house turns out to be too small. The perfect job eventually becomes boring. Daily calorie intake—if we were to stick to it—probably doesn’t meet the demands of our taste buds. But those who are faithful with little are capable of great responsibility.

Journalists telling stories like the Dordt professor’s, humans living to glorify God, our faithfulness with little things, even in little towns where little happens, might bring greater responsibilities. But we already do bear a great responsibility: everything that has breath is to worship God.

As the professor strives to make something creative with everyday experiences in his neighborhood, so do we in our own ways. The little of the everyday works for a larger, eternal purpose—just one lesson I’ve learned at WJI.

For more information:

World Journalism Institute