We spent the morning listening to exciting stories from World reporters, so after lunch we were eager to get to work on some stories of our own. For the next few days, we are working in three groups: broadcasting, news, and feature stories.
After lunch, each group met to discuss their story ideas and begin preliminary research.
Then we started making phone calls. Lots of them. We called business owners, non-profit workers, farmers, and police officers.
We identified ourselves as World News Correspondents. We felt official.
We explained our stories and asked for interviews.
After dinner, we reconvened for a news huddle. Lee shared a few reporting stories and some advice:
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
And then we got to work again, aiming for the good.
After experiencing a joyful yet rainy Memorial Day, WJI students find themselves back in the classroom soaking up Mindy Belz' continued lecture in international reporting called, Strangers in a Strange Land. Today, Belz gave crucial advice for those in the WJI program who want to report abroad.
While Belz was sharing another one of her journalist experiences in Iraq, she reminds us that the life of an international reporter is anything but glamorous. Though the work is usually rewarding, it is also hard, grueling, and emotionally taxing. The three main pieces of advice that Belz gave the students this morning exemplifies this.
The first word of advice that Belz handed out was: travel light. As simple as it sounds, Belz wanted to stress this point. So again, being an international reporter is not glamorous, usually. If you’re going to Iraq to report the war atrocities like Belz did, you’re not going to bring several pairs of shoes and matching outfits to go with them. This, of course, applies to both men and women. Traveling light will make life easier. Traveling light will also help make traveling safe.
Which leads us to Belz’s second piece of advice: Travel safe. Belz mentioned this morning that to travel safe – traveling light is kind of a prerequisite. But there other things an international reporter can do to ensure their safety. Belz recommends befriending trustworthy locals, creating an emergency contact list; keeping it stored somewhere safe, and if possible, finding a good guide that knows the people and area well.
The last piece of advice that Belz left the WJI students with, was to push their boundaries. Many journalists, especially when they’re reporting abroad, tend to stick themselves in places they are most comfortable in. Belz urged the students to get immersed in the community you are trying to gather sources and information in. She even mentioned that doing this could possibly be safer than staying with staying with the aid workers or military – who attract unwanted attention.
Another piece of advice that was kind of on the side, apart from her three main points – was to be kind yourself. Journalist like to take on everything at once, and do everything by themselves, which sometimes causes them to be overly critical of themselves.
This morning Mindy Belz, editor and reporter for WORLD, told stories of her travels abroad. As the rain drizzled down outside, she told the eager WJI students of adventures in Sudan and Iraq. Belz’s focus though, was not on the fascinating places, but on the people she met. Belz showed the class pictures of destroyed churches and homes in both Sudan and Iraq. While most people focus on the scale of destruction, good reporters need to remember that people once worshipped in the churches.
On Belz’s first trip to Sudan in the 1990s, she visited a large group of Christians who had been forced to flee from all the fighting in the region. In the group, she saw one young girl who was emaciated from lack of nutrition. This story of the young girl, who ended up dying from malnourishment, put the readers of WORLD into the daily struggles of those living in this war torn region. Instead of focusing on the “suite” level politics of powerful commanders, Belz’s article focused on the “street level” life of regular people living out the conflict.
Later on in the morning, the students heard from Marvin and Susan Olasky. Susan coached the students through the art of writing interesting and compelling features. She pointed out the importance of including details. Included details need to be intentional and help to help tell the story that is being written. She also explained the importance of showing, and not telling the story.
Marvin discussed the importance of having a Biblical worldview. He expressed the great respect that Christian reporters need to have for the Bible. This includes knowing when the Bible is clear on an issue, and when it is not.
It's a sunny, 62-degree day, and WJI students are spread all over northern Iowa. Some are visiting the Dutch Heritage Center in Orange City. Others are at Palisades-Kepler State Park. Many of us stayed right here in Sioux Center.
Today is video day: We're filming interviews with interesting people and then filming B-roll —additional footage that will overlay our interviews. The goal is a two to four minute, documentary-style video. We're telling the stories of business owners, churchmen, and even a park ranger.
Some students filmed earlier this week, while others are working tomorrow. So back at Dordt, many of us are relaxing, sleeping in, and putting in 200 pages of light reading for book reviews!