A journalist likes to know. Their profession is dependent upon it, after all. Because, in some ways, the news is just knowing things either first or better than anyone else.
At WJI, there's a lot of journalists-in-training who like to know things, too. There's one of us who knows exclamation points are entirely unnecessary; there's twenty-five of us who know to use them sparingly. There's one of us who knows the plot of Mama Mia doesn't make sense; there's another who hasn't seen the movie but knows the music is great enough to make it good.
We think we know things until we don't. We hold the world to work a certain way until someone tells us it doesn't.
Yesterday, as part of our daily discussions with WORLD Editor In-Chief Marvin Olasky, we considered the ethical responsibilities of publishing journalism's most famous images. In 1985 in Bakersfield, California, a reporter photographed a family in grief. Their five-year-old boy had drowned. At the bottom of the image, the boy laid dead in a body bag. The boy's mother and brother appeared to be screaming. The father knelt at his son’s body, his head in his hands.
The editors of the local paper knew the image could reduce drownings in the upcoming summer months. We thought the same. We also knew the publishing of a dead body could traumatize those who knew the boy, especially children. These were two truths in their own right. The paper ran the photograph.
That's the difficulty of journalism. The pursuit of the truth isn't so much as finding a needle in a haystack but finding two needles in two haystacks and having to choose between the two needles.
Though our Biblical objectivity helps us navigate the "rapids," as Mr. Olasky puts it, the truth is never handed to us on a silver platter. We have to find it. That's the difficulty, that's the job.
Through it all, though, I am confident in these things:
That the world needs Jesus
That the world needs storytellers
That myself, my twenty-five friends, and my additional instructors are committed to these tasks.
- Sam Landstra
We finished our first week of WJI, and what a full week! From attending the local Tulip Festival and writing stories on Saturday to finishing our stand-up TV project Thursday night, I could tell my capacity was stretched, even in just a week.
After a restful Sunday taking lots of walks and playing volleyball, I was excited for this week because we shifted into focused tracks: broadcast, feature writing, and hard news. I’m in the hard news track. I’ll admit, I felt nervous about it at first. The fast pace of a traditional newsroom keeps you on your toes.
First thing this morning, our student team of eight gathered in the morning with Mr. Pitts and an editor with the N’west Iowa Review for a newsroom budget meeting. It didn’t take long before I caught the bug — the excitement of seeing an interesting story idea and realizing the possibilities for an assignment.
I get to talk to all kinds of people and learn about topics I wouldn’t usually think to study. One thing that stood out today was learning about the local newspapers. They are committed to stories that mean something to the residents of North West Iowa: stories about businesses, students who excelled in school, and residents’ successes. They’re stories that make a town a rich and vibrant community. At a time when local print journalism is increasingly rare, The Sioux Center News and other local papers embody the strong values of the communities they serve.
I’m grateful I get to spend a week participating in their work. Our team jumped right in, making phone calls and setting up meetings. My assignments range from local news on ballparks and soccer leagues to the more broad topic of social media. The day flew by as we spent the afternoon gathering material. I look forward to seeing all the pieces fall into place tomorrow as I head off campus for more interviews!
- Anna Timmis
This afternoon we traded our business casual clothing for t-shirts and shorts to enjoy the Iowa sunshine. Some people took naps, some read, some watched movies. Lots of us took advantage of the warm weather by walking around the neighborhood and playing volleyball on campus.
At dinner, I reflected on how quickly new friendships can grow. A week ago, we filled the awkward silence with small talk; tonight, we laughed so much that we lost track of time. I’m thankful to have another week to laugh and learn together.
When we finished eating, Dr. Olasky split us into our tracks for next week. Our group of 26 was split into three smaller groups: feature writing, broadcasting, and newswriting. For the second half of WJI, we’ll be focusing deeper on each of these subjects.
For movie night, we watched All the President’s Men, a movie about the journalists who reported on the Watergate Scandal. It reminded us of the impact that persistent journalists can have on history. The world needs more truth-tellers.
The long days and late-night deadlines are teaching us how to work hard. Today reminded me how important it is to accompany hard work with good rest.
Genesis 1 tells us that even God rested from His work. If our Creator rests, it’s prideful for us to think we don’t need to. The Sabbath theme weaves throughout the Bible, calling God’s people to acknowledge how much we need Him. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”
Rest makes us take a step back from our work and acknowledge that we aren’t productivity machines. It allows us to look back on the past week’s work with satisfaction and anticipate the next week with renewed energy and excitement. Alongside our hard work, we’re learning to rejoice in rest.
- Stephanie Morton
“Nothing human is foreign to me.” Humani nihil a me alienum puto. A professor’s parting quote from Roman playwright, Terence, stuck with me at my college graduation. He used it to explain the purpose of degrees earned in the humanities: to understand what it means to be human as a means to promote human flourishing. Through WJI, I’m finding that journalism relies on this understanding.
The second Saturday at WJI sent us out into nearby cities for reporting on “What People Do All Day." We wanted to watch them at work, and we wanted to understand the people behind the work.
I met Piyapit “Pete” Utthachoo. He introduced his family’s Thai cuisine to Sioux City, IA, fifteen years ago. This afternoon he prepared Pad Thai with homemade tamarind sauce. He adjusts the sauce’s flavor by taste, since he has no measurements for any of his recipes. I asked him about coming from Bangkok to Sioux City. In the first winter, he couldn’t wait to catch snow on his tongue.
As in today’s assignment, recognizing human dignity is a theme in our journalism training. Mark Volkers instructs us, in video interviewing, to build a human connection with the interviewee. Lee Pitts teaches us about personhood from his time in Iraq. Sarah Schweinsberg tells us to stay curious. Sophia Lee encourages us learn the stories of people who experience homelessness. Susan Olasky says, in each story, to find what makes the person tick.
A little downtime this afternoon meant we students could become more human again. I might have made my bed for the first time all week. When WJI is over, I will make my bed more often, but I will also, hopefully, be a better journalist: more honest about the human condition and hungry to represent it well.
- Elaina Bals