“But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him’.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
By Your hand You chose 26 of us to come together at WJI. You let us cling to You around our tables in Dordt University’s student center during that first pizza dinner. But our insecurities began to silence as we introduced ourselves in our accents from all across the country, each person wondering where You were taking us, and where were we going together.
Our degrees titled us as accountants and musicians, creative writers and lawyers, journalists and scientists. But with a blank notebook and pen in hand, You sent all of us into an unknown: the Orange City Tulip Festival. Our only mission was to tell a story: Your story.
We were instructed to be curious. Listen. Ask questions. Have courage. Be limited. Capture conflict. Smell. Find a face. Encourage each other.
You tested our D.Q. (determination quotient) as we stayed up late putting our first stories together, and again after receiving feedback. But in these mistakes is where You believed in us most. You are to be glorified with excellent work, and You believed in WJI to make our work as excellent as possible in order to do so.
This meant for the next 2 weeks, no detail of our training in journalism went unnoticed. We learned how to raise our hands to get called on in a press conference. How to look credible conducting research. Consider the protagonist/antagonist/mission/obstacles of a story. Read a script holding the tongue out before delivering a podcast. Avoid unnecessary jargon. Ask what color the couch is an interview. Get quotes but don’t let the quotes shape the story. Use a tripod for shooting. Keep audio levels below the redline. Look for back light, fill light, key light.
You drew us nearer to You in this pursuit of excellence because of how You brought us together. Meals filled with more laughter than eating, and singing hymns at church or around a campfire gave us rest. Walking to and from classes sharing how we were being challenged spiritually, or what challenges in our projects we had overcome, made us a team.
Story after story we practiced excellence, and the more we recognized each one as Yours, the more we fell in love with telling them. But each one of us as writers also revealed something about You none of our eyes had even seen, our ears ever heard, our hearts ever felt before WJI. As in the stories You brought us here to tell, we ourselves are details revealing Your story of Christ’s excellent work.
Even though we separate tomorrow, I pray we may continue to approach all we have not seen, heard, or felt, knowing it has been prepared for us by You. As we are edified may we stay curious, humbly seek Your mercy, and may You be most glorified.
- Lillian Hamman
After an intense week of learning journalism best-practices and completing fast-paced assignments, the WJI students will spend Week Two developing real news stories to apply what we’ve learned.
This morning we split into three groups to begin working in our assigned tracks. I’m one of six students tasked with crafting feature stories for future publication in World Magazine. Unlike those on the audio/video and daily news tracks—each of whom are juggling multiple smaller projects—we on the magazine track are collaborating in two groups of three to complete a single, long-form story.
Last week we learned the acronym T.H.A.W. to remember the stages of writing a news story: Think, Hunt, Assess, Write. This morning we gathered around the snack-room table to Think, brainstorm our story and do preliminary research. We reconvened with our magazine-track colleagues after lunch to report progress and identify next steps for our stories. It’s interesting to be part of the brainstorming process for a feature article, as we share newly-gained knowledge and consider different angles.
Now we start Hunting, gathering information and identifying key sources. I notice WJIers in motion all afternoon, popping in and out of classrooms and finding quiet nooks to arrange interviews by phone.
A few hours and several pages of notes later, we’ve roughed out a working nut graf, nailed down an important interview, and learned more about our topic than we thought was possible in a single afternoon. Tomorrow we’ll continue Hunting as we start talking to sources. Then we’ll Assess our findings and begin to shape them into a story before we Write.
We gathered after dinner to hear from Jamie Dean, national editor of World. She encouraged us to trust the process of reporting; to stay calm even when we don’t know how things will turn out; to ask for help when we need it; to be curious; and, not to be afraid to take on things that may seem tough early on. She notes that journalism involves a lot of grunt work. After a long day spent Googling and reading articles, I resonate with that.
Dean reminded us that when it comes down to it, journalism isn’t about writing stories that we ourselves love, but stories that serve the reader. She urges us to “make every effort to tell stories that glorify God and help people.”
I hadn’t expected this week to look or feel so different from last week. Those I’ve talked with agree: the day seems to go faster when we spend it working on a single project. Though it’s nice to have a change from last week’s breakneck pace, suddenly I realize we’re speeding toward the end of WJI—and part of me doesn’t want it all to end.
I set my alarm a whole 45 minutes later this morning. Pure bliss. It went off at 9. Pure agony. I honestly think my spirit might have left my body when I got out of bed. Everything felt extremely disoriented and shaky. I showered and got ready for the day and whatever mystery church we were going to this morning.
It is still, in fact, a mystery church, because I can only remember a few facts about it. The name of the church did not make that short list. The fact that they served ice cream on the way out the door was a pleasant surprise. I think my taste buds were also pretty surprised to taste something so cold and sweet as their first meal of the day. I may as well try and keep them on their toes like WJI has kept me on mine.
The past week has been full of last minute changes and stressful evenings pouring over my writing realizing I am not half as good as I thought I was. It has also been full of growth. Lots of growth. I have never taken a journalism class. I didn’t even know there was a journalistic style. I thought (on some hidden level that I would have never admitted) that I was going to saunter in a good writer, be congratulated for it, and saunter out a great one.
I was wrong.
Susan Olasky and Russ Pulliam’s edits made me question basically my whole way of writing. “Why are you writing this? What’s the point?” These really should not be earth shattering questions, but for me they were. I thought I had made everything so clear in my perfect little first drafts. Wrong. Their questions made me look deeper at not only my writing, but myself and my subject. Who was I talking about? Who are they really? “What makes them tick?” This question haunted me. It also made me a better thinker, question asker, and, by extension, a better writer.
These are all the things I looked over this morning after church. I meant to edit more, but I ended up just staring at the notes left in their margins and marveling at how much my writing has changed in just a few days. I still write like me, but my motives are different. I don’t just want a story. I want a face. I want a “why.” And, of course, there is significantly more “frolicking” and “clomping” in my everyday vocabulary and significantly less in my writing.
“Eyebrows are the window frame to the… face. Get it? Because your eyes are the window to the soul and your eyebrows frame your eyes?”
This is Mikayla’s quote for the day. As WJI comes to a close, the exhaustion has set in. Because of sleep deprivation, Mikayla always says something quotable in the mornings. One day, it was her singing one line of “déjà vu” by Olivia Rodrigo. Another day, we both slept through the alarm. I woke up to the sound of Mikayla saying, “Katie, it’s 8:30.” Instead of panicking, we both slowly got out of bed while groaning a long “NOOOOO!”
But as we are nearing the end of WJI, I’m feeling bittersweet. Bitter because on Saturday, we all return to our homes, and spread across the country. It is surprising how close you can become with a group of people in fourteen days. But I come away from this experience feeling blessed and thankful. I have learned more in two weeks than I have in two years of college.
I have to admit, being in Iowa has been… interesting. It is one of my life goals to visit all 50 states, so I’m glad that my thirteenth is Iowa. If not for WJI, Iowa would have probably been my last state to visit.
I will leave WJI being more exhausted than I ever have been. I have noticed the dark circles under my peers’ eyes becoming more and more prominent with each passing day. I think it will take several days, if not weeks to recover.
But I will also leave feeling refreshed. Looking at journalism through a biblical perspective has completely changed my outlook. I have realized the importance of compassion when interviewing, or when covering a difficult topic.
The friendships and connections that I have made are irreplaceable. I know this is cheesy, but I will never forget this experience. And I mean that with the utmost sincerity!
- Katherine Futch