For the first day of our course in Iowa, our handlers decided to loosen our horde of student reporters upon Orange City's 80th Tulip Festival, celebrating local Dutch-American heritage. It was a way to drop us into the deep end and experience covering an event and writing an article about it within the same day.
Before we left for the festival, we had a group briefing, where the instructors handed us beats and reminded us of the elements to include in a story. We were not to write a bland “this and this happened” news story, but rather tell a narrative with a protagonist (or group of protagonists) and their obstacles.
“It’s not about the issue, it’s about the people,” Lee Pitts said.
We would explore the festival for several hours before returning to campus to write out our articles. Mr. Pitts reminded beforehand of what we would need to include to make the story engaging and immersive for readers, such as a theme, relatability and details pulled from all of our senses.
Pairs of us got the same beat, though each of us was expected to come up with an individual story. Beats included broad topics like art, policing, history, immigration and many others.
My prompt was to write an article in the style of People magazine. My mind immediately went to celebrity gossip columns, where the source references sound sketchy and the content is details about someone's private life. I recoiled.
They also do lifestyle articles, Mr. Pitts pointed out to me. Maybe I could work with that.
By the time we arrived at the festival, a little after 10 a.m., I had a hazy plan to focus on the traditional Dutch costumes. Not really People magazine fodder, but close enough, right?
It took me much of the day to gather the courage to stop enough random people and interview them, but it was so rewarding. My first sources kept mentioning a committee of local women who put together sewing patterns for historically accurate Dutch costumes and who made sure the costumes of official people in the parade were up to a certain standard.
“If only I had more than just today,” I thought. “I would definitely contact some people on this committee.”
I decided to get one more interview to round out my story. I stopped an older woman dressed from white bonneted head to silver-buckled toe in costume, and I asked if she would mind talking to me about her outfit.
She was on the committee. She was one of the founding members, who had been sewing Dutch costumes for 60 years and had even personally traveled to the Netherlands twice for research. She was tickled to speak about it with me.
I could not have been more over the moon. Thank the Lord, it was such wonderful, kismet closing to such a beautiful whirl of an outing.
- Rachel McClamroch
The sun finally shines in Sioux Center, and the finish line is almost in sight. WORLD frequently refers to the term “DQ” or “Determination Quotient” as one of the main characteristics of a successful journalist, and they certainly have put our DQ to the test during these past two weeks. Everyone can feel the final crunch time settling in, and even while writing this blog post, my mind wanders to the long list of tasks that must be finished before tomorrow’s dinner.
We’re so grateful for these past two weeks and the test to our DQ’s, but I’m also reminded this morning that DQ can lead to pride. We look at our work--radio clips, news reports, videos, photography profiles--and too often pride comes. I did this, I tell myself. I forwent sleep, food, and so many other creature comforts to accomplish this.
Marvin’s lecture this morning preached the gospel. Before the good news comes the bad news. As Christian reporters, we can’t ignore the bad. Instead, we have to engage it head on, diving into the brokenness that surrounds us. In so doing, we will be pushed into the heart of the gospel, driven to seek hope in a world full of pain.
It’s because of this gospel and our Lord and Savior that we boast in him alone. My alma mater’s motto says strength rejoices in the challenge. We’ve been handed one challenge after another this week, and there has been joy in overcoming. But who gives us this strength? Who sustains our life and breath? Who has brought us to this place, and who can take us from this place?
Should nothing of our efforts stand, no legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive.
To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me what is your life?
A mist, it vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ.
All glory be to Christ the King
All glory be to Christ.
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ.
May all we have received and all we have done these past two weeks at WJI bring Christ glory, and Christ alone.
Lyrics from All Glory Be to Christ by King’s Kaleidoscope
Hustle. We grabbed our notebooks, recording equipment and laptops and spent the afternoon reporting for our various tracks. News, Radio and Feature Stories, we ran here and there this afternoon to gather sound, get our interviews and find stories before tomorrow’s deadline. Some of us hit dead ends, and grins spread across several faces when a lead came through.
After supper, we submitted book reviews and scurried into the auditorium, filling the theater seats. The lights dimmed and our video projects appeared on the big screen. Hours of work in storytelling, camera angles and editing came to fruition. We took our minds off of our stories for a little while and voiced our praises and critiques of each short film. Another deadline met.
Tomorrow, we will pull out the perseverance we’ve been taught to use these two weeks and head toward the last deadline of WJI 2019.
We’ve been reporting hard all day. The majority of the group is scattered across the digital media lab right now—most of us have headphones in, staring into computer monitors, doing slow rotations in our swivel chairs. The radio team is talking aloud to themselves, refining their radio voices and checking their sentences for clarity. The rest of the team is editing their respective video stories—three- to five-minute pieces on the local community. They’ve gotten most of the grunt work out of the way at this point, all the filming story-boarding; Tonight is all editing—shaving milliseconds off clips, snapping between b-roll and talking heads, and color correcting. And all the while there’s that incessant clicking: keyboards and mouses, endlessly clicking. Every few seconds, one of us exclaims something to the whole room, a triumph, a frustration. The longer the night runs on—seven o’clock, eight o’clock, nine—the more we’re prone to side-tracking with irrelevant conversation and jokes. We’re all exhausted, a little stressed, and having a ball.
Tonight is important as most of our assignments are due tomorrow evening: a book review, the video project, news stories, and more. But this is what sets WJI apart. We’ve pushed our reporting skills to the max cold calling dozens of leads, walking across town for interviews, writing up against deadlines, filming local business, recording and producing radio stories about tough issues—the list goes on.
We’re all getting incrementally better, thanks to the tireless instruction of gracious mentors...and it couldn’t feel better.