It’s been a wild (and heavily caffeinated) ride, but the 2021 WJIers have reached the end of the first week! As I sit typing this, trying to be quiet so as not to disturb my sleeping roommate, half a dozen WJIers are celebrating by hanging out in the dorm kitchen swapping stories about live concerts. Quite a few others are celebrating by going to bed early – many of us have early alarms coming tomorrow morning as we spread out across local towns to profile some of Northwest Iowa’s most interesting characters. We also ran across some interesting characters this afternoon in our latest writing workshop.
If you happened to be hanging out in the science building at Dordt University this afternoon, you would have seen an unusual sight: a couple dozen college students curled up in comfy chairs or seated at tall tables reading picture books and taking notes. Today, we deviated briefly from our rigorous schedule of interviewing, research, video editing, and of course, rewriting, to spend a couple of hours reviewing children’s books. After a hectic week, it was delightful to find a sunny corner and page through a book of beautiful illustrations of happy woodland creatures.
Not to say that this writing workshop wasn’t challenging. We’ve heard variations on the phrase “If you have time, write short, if you don’t, write long” frequently over the past few days. The children’s book review assignment drove this point home. We had 95 words to explain the plot or theme of the book and analyze the author’s treatment of the theme and apparent worldview in an insightful manner. If that sounds easy to you, go try it for yourself and get back to me. Not so easy? I didn’t think so. (Note: If you found this easy, you have a rare gift for brevity and should seriously consider applying to WJI).
As a fellow WJIer said to me a few minutes ago, the book review exercise was the first writing assignment she has ever done that proved to her that every single word must have an essential purpose, or it doesn’t belong in an article. I hear that WORLD allows reviews of books for adults a generous 125 words. Imagine trying to distill Crime and Punishment and the essence of what it reveals about Dostoevsky’s worldview into 125 words! (Again, if you can do that, please apply to WJI and then teach me your ways).
Don’t think that we’ve been hanging around flipping through picture books all afternoon, though. We also had workshops on lighting (with and without light kits), a primer on shooting video interviews, our nightly news huddle, and a chance to “meet” the awesome WORLD writer Sophia Lee via Zoom, to name a few.
With the first full week drawing to a close, WJIers are looking forward to finding out which tracks they’ll be joining for the next week. Thankfully, the weekend schedule is too packed to allow anyone time for anxiety on that point.
- Neva Piombino
Arriving at WJI, there were twenty-five people from across the country who I did not know. I was nervous no one would want to get to know me, but the day of the Tulip Festival quickly changed my perspective.
Katherine Futch and Christina Grube talked and got to know who I was and what I brought to the table. The day of the festival we exchanged phone numbers to ensure we wouldn’t get lost in Orange City, Iowa.
Going our separate ways, we all found ourselves hitting a wall of discouragement at certain times. But we all encouraged each other with uplifting words of wisdom that altered our mindsets. After finishing a reporter's daily work, we met up and explored the town of Orange City together.
Eight days later these two have been by my side. Whether they help edit or simply provide the laughter I need to survive these two intense and sleepless weeks. World reporters did say at the beginning, you not only discover the elements that come with journalism, but you find friends who stay connected and possibly travel together after the program. I firmly believe these two incredibly talented women will thrive in the future.
As of today, at WJI, future journalists ingested, reflected and focused on the positives and negatives of their broadcast clips. Although it may be embarrassing to watch yourself on the screen, it is great to see the courage displayed by my classmates. They overcame whatever their weakness may have been.
Personally, the nerves were definitely there for me, but you must come to realize that we learn and grow from this experience. Yes, it's an awful first cut, but there is always room for improvement, especially if you have motivating friends to uplift you. So, don’t cry, don't be sad, instead take those suggestions and continue on. Remember to have faith in yourself, but most importantly have faith in the Lord. He will never leave or forsake you.
-Abbi-Rae De La Rosa
Do haunted doorknobs exist? After six days on the campus of Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, I am almost convinced they do.
The supernatural frightened me from a very young age, thanks to my early obsession with Nancy Drew. I remember receiving my first book from my mother: a 2-in-1 copy of the first two mysteries, The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase. That first book lit a fire which burns to this day. Even at the age of 21, a collection of vintage Nancy Drew novels sits on a small white bookshelf in my North Carolina bedroom. It may not seem impressive, but I promise you it is. One does not simply order vintage Nancy Drew’s on Amazon. It’s a hunt. Collectors like myself become conditioned to spot tell-tale golden-spines in every flea market, antique store and thrift shop. As truffle pigs nose through the forest floor, foraging for their prize, I sniff out Nancy Drew novels nearly everywhere I go.
Thanks to my grooming by Carolyn Keene, I have a predisposition to finding and pondering mysterious happenings. I suspect this is why I seem to be the only one who notices the apparitions plaguing the doors at Dordt. A few days ago, I began noticing that whenever I went to open a door, the handle seemed to already be warm. This occurred in about 40% of the doors I opened. I haven't run a statistical regression on my estimated data, but this feels statistically significant and not a simple fluke. Metal handles do tend to be good conductors of heat, but can they trap that much heat? That for the 1-2 seconds I hold a door handle, I have time to register that it’s as warm as, or warmer than, 98.6 degrees? Considering we’ve been working 12-14 hour days for little under a week, perhaps I’m simply hallucinating from lack of sleep.
Upon realizing this anomaly, I decided our instructor, Lee Pitts, must be informed. After sharing my tale, he looked at me with a look of confusion, which is understandable (Reformers don’t believe possession as willingly as other denominations). He jokingly quipped “Didn’t you know we have heated door knobs?” Considering we’re in Iowa, I believed him for approximately 1.5 seconds. Hanging my head in defeat, I left the room to the sound of my peers roaring in laughter. No one else sees this phenomenon, but I’m determined to get to the bottom of it.
Update: I have just been informed that because Dordt doors have electronic locks, the electric mechanism (located close to the handles) tends to generate heat, which is transferred to the handles. So….case closed.
I would say that I’m disappointed, but upon further reflection, I should have seen this coming. Pick up any Nancy Drew novel and the plot never resolves with the sensationalized apparition listed in the title; there’s always a logical explanation with a tangible culprit. In the end, I’ve learned a good lesson both as an investigator and a journalist. First, there’s always an explanation and it’s important not to lose sight of that logic in a sensational narrative.
For many students, Thursday morning actually started in the media lab deep in the night: revisions of obituaries that would soon need more revisions and adventures into Adobe premiere, all with the company of a wild raccoon near the GIFT statue.
Like zombies, the WJIers rolled out of bed on Thursday morning—the trampled mushrooms reflecting their exhausted countenance. After trudging to class on a gray but humid morning, a few students started studying the 13 tips, redefined by Nick as rules, of broadcasting and radio. Students ripped sheets of notebook paper and started scribbling shorthand of the rules.
I used a green sharpie and churned out rule after rule. After winning the first day and taking second place the second day—and yet somehow I won nothing either day—the prospects of finally succeeding appeared high. After enduring selfie-shame and shirt-shame, I thought knowing all 13 rules could result in redemption. Alas, as I came upon the final line, number 13, my mind went blank. Paul called out 30 seconds, 15, and then time. Lauren D. won the virtual gold medal by knowing all 13; I forgot ‘use titles sparingly.’
Paul commanded us to tell one another ‘how nice you look.’ The WJI scholars donned ties, suits, fancy skirts and dresses, jackets: all dashing. I, however, wore dark jeans and a short sleeve button up shirt—not the broadcasting journalist aesthetic people look for. At least talking in front of a camera was fun (sorry for the passive voice).
As the morning came to an end, the gray clouds continued. The WJI scholars brainstormed potential Pitts Ps for the night: perspiration, pass-out, pedobaptism, prayer, and pneumonia. The scholars took deep breaths, read their scripts out-loud, and strove to improve their DQ.
Sentimentality is dangerous, but sometimes it’s worth the bad writing it reflects. While this week has been filled with nervousness, discomfort, and lack of sleep, I wouldn’t have wanted to experience it with any other group. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to drive these WJI campers around in a 13-passenger van.
“The world isn’t in your books and maps; it’s out there.” —J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit
For all my fellow WJIers, may we tell the stories the rest of the world neglects,