During the 2 p.m. session, we had the Writing Workshop class, with Mr. Russ Pulliam where we discussed and worked on profiles. Each member of the class was paired with one other student, where we would then interview each other for the profile articles exercise that was due just two hours later. There was a challenge to get the draft completed by the deadline, but it was manageable. Once we completed our profile article, we then submitted them by email to the editor, Mr. Pulliam.
After the writing workshop, the class went over to Mr. Mark Volkers class: Telling Stories Through Video. Again, we paired up with a partner and practiced with Adobe Premiere, which was new and exciting for the whole class.
After working on Adobe Premiere and the class had come to an end, we headed to the cafeteria and got to converse over dinner with our WJI instructors.
After dinner, we started our 7 p.m. class called Meeting Journalists from the World. We got to meet World Magazine reporter Leah Hickman over a video conference call. It was an interesting Zoom meeting because reporter Hickman provided helpful resources, and at the end of the presentation the class got to ask the visiting journalist questions.
As the day began to come to an end at 8 p.m., we did our News Huddle where we were able to play a game to get to know our fellow WJIers. To conclude the day, Mr. Pitts presented one of his daily Pitts P’s. The first one was “Perseverance.”
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Magician’s Nephew that “what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing.” As soon as I walked out the dorm door this morning, I heard birds singing in the trees.
Then, in our first class of the day, we listened to a clip from one of WORLD’s podcasts, The World and Everything In It. In the clip, WORLD correspondent Jenny Rough shared a story about the effects of manmade noise and an acoustic ecologist who wants to preserve the sounds of nature.
Nick Eicher and Paul Butler used that clip to show us some of the differences between print and broadcast journalism. In broadcast journalism, sentences must be shorter and ambience or tone inflection can bring emotion to the story.
In our final class hour before lunch, Dr. Marvin Olasky began teaching us from his book Reforming Journalism. “Understanding journalism starts with understanding every story has a worldview,” Dr. Olasky told us. Every story has a perspective. Telling a story means choosing which perspective to use and which information is important. Most of us tell a story about the three little pigs, not a story from the wolf’s perspective. Jesus chose to tell a story from the Good Samaritan’s perspective, not the perspective of the priest who walked by the injured man on the other side of the street.
In journalism, objectivity is a big topic. But is it even possible? What if two people approach the same topic from two very different perspectives — as if they’re standing in two very different places?
Many journalists try to achieve objective reporting by giving equal time to different subjective reports, hopefully balancing out the differing views. But is this how a Christian should approach news?
Dr. Olasky argues that only God can have a truly objective view of anything. He created reality, so He knows how to view it. Our best hope for achieving objectivity is to get as close to God’s perspective as we can. We won’t be perfect reporters — just like we will never be perfect people — but we should aim to get as close as we can.
Our perspective of the world comes out in every story we tell. C.S. Lewis was right: where we are standing matters.
We enjoyed an encouraging worship service at Good Shepherd Church in Sioux Center at 10:00. The Reverend Dr. Travis Else preached on the importance of the church body to Christian community. He pointed out several main purposes of the church. The church is created by God to be a caring community, not a competitive community with different church groups opposed to one another. The church is created to be a thinking community as Paul prays for the Colossians that they would be “[F]illed with all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9b). It ought not to focus on what Dr. Else termed “unhealthy spiritual speculation” where Christians focus on minor details while missing the main purpose of the Scriptures. The church is a hoping community that places its faith in God. And lastly, the church is a community of power through Christ.
The service was composed with a liturgical style of worship and had an emphasis on prayer and Scripture reading from various parts of the Scriptures. Some of us had never been to a liturgy-based service before, so it was a wonderful opportunity to broaden our horizons with other denominations. It was good to see Christians worshiping the God I know in a different way than I am used to worshiping Him.
After a lunch of roasted pork loin, nine of us went on a walk with two of the Dordt students in the program leading us several miles around the campus and partly through Sioux Center. The weather was perfect for a walk, and a nice wind out in the Dordt prairie kept the slight nostalgic aroma of the manure from the local corn fields blowing our way.
When we returned from the walk, a couple of students settled down in the lounge downstairs to play around on their acoustic guitars while several of us read or worked on assignments. Another student joined us downstairs later at the piano and the three of them impressed us with some excellent unrehearsed music.
At 3:00 we went on a thrilling scavenger hunt in the local area for about half-an-hour. We split into teams of seven and took two vans around Sioux Center, snapping pictures at the various locations we had been assigned to find. After parking at each location, we would dash out of the vehicle, snap our picture, dash back, and drive off for the next location. For the locations on the Dordt campus we parked on campus and ran to the locations we had to find there, which gave us all a good after-lunch exercise.
After working ourselves up on the scavenger hunt some of us decided to sit down for some intense rounds of Dutch Blitz until dinner.
The day was capped off with a viewing of “Spotlight”, a 2015 movie that follows several Boston Globe reporters as they work on a case. It provided a good presentation of the excitement, stress, and reward of effective journalism.
It has been a good opening weekend for us at the World Journalism Institute.
Today, as I wove between tourists in summer shorts and Orange City residents dressed in wooden shoes and long skirts, carrying a notebook in one hand and a freshly-made stroopwafel in the other, I thought a lot about fear. This isn’t the musing you might expect to have at a tulip festival full of friendly Iowans. It’s probably the least threatening environment you could imagine. The streets were packed with singing, dancing, windmills and plenty of tulips. It was also packed with people, with not a facemask in sight.
My intention is not to make a political stance. We all come from different environments and have adopted different attitudes about face coverings in the context of our individual experiences with the COVID-19 virus. But since we are still in the throes of a pandemic, albeit with a vaccination at the end of the COVID tunnel, I couldn’t help wondering. I wondered if these people felt no fear, packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a time where some have even avoided at-risk family members for fear of getting them sick. I wondered if these people felt no fear, talking and breathing in each other’s faces without any sort of protection. These things never bothered us before March of 2020 and maybe I was the only one who felt unsure. When the crowded streets made me feel compelled to temporarily put on my own face mask (I’m only half-vaccinated at the time of writing this), I felt marked and judged.
I also grappled with my own fear today. For an aspiring reporter, it is surprisingly difficult for me to ask questions of people. Not because I can’t think of questions. Not because I don’t want to ask questions. Rather than coming from a lack of curiosity, my difficulty asking questions comes from a place of fear. I’m at risk of making this sound more profound than it is. At worst, I suffer from mild social anxiety. At best, I’m merely shy and it takes me a little while to “put myself out there.” Approaching strangers and asking them about themselves, inviting myself temporarily into their lives, is something that excites me, but makes me a bit queasy. I got a little bit better at it today, and I expect I will continue to grow in this area as I continue to push myself. But it wasn’t easy, and I am ending this first day at WJI feeling a mixture of satisfaction and regret. I’m satisfied with the work we did, and I feel regret as I wonder how much more I could have done and learned if I only had a more outgoing personality.
I admit it would be nice if I could snap my fingers and exchange my personality - and the quirky fears and anxieties that come with it - with one that seems better suited to on-the-street journalism. But this, aside from being impossible, is not what God would have me do. This year, I have been meditating on 2 Corinthians 12, where God tells Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I know that God has given me a passion for storytelling and listening to people, and I saw reminders of that today. I also saw reminders of my anxiety, one of many thorns in my life. Like Paul, I have pleaded with God to remove it, but I also know that like Paul, God can make me strong where I am weak. So here I am, boasting in my weakness. God, make your power evident this week and for the rest of our lives. Amen.