I once heard a story about a woman attempting to swim the stretch of 27.4 miles between the Channel Islands and Southern California’s mainland. The day she set out to swim happened to be blanketed in thick fog, obscuring anything 50 yards away. The icy waters slowly picked away at her stamina and she found herself freezing and exhausted quickly. Her coach beckoned her to press on just a little bit more, but she eventually gave up and crawled into the boat. The boat picked up speed and reached the mainland in a matter of minutes as she was not even a mile offshore. The fog prevented her from seeing her progress, and she did not trust her coach. This initial week at WJI has certainly made many of us students feel like that swimmer—unsure, tired, and overwhelmed.
Humans have always sought and desired instant gratification and this simply is not biblical. In fact, one of the very central tenets of salvation is grace through faith and the author of Hebrews spends forty verses demonstrating the diligence of a people who did not necessarily see the end product. We have been granted tremendous opportunity to be surrounded by mentors in our broadcast, media, and writing classes as well as the testimonies of those who have gone before us.
This afternoon, we met Susan Olasky who instructed briefly on effective reporting. She then sent us out into Sioux Center to report on one of two topics, marijuana use and the 9/11 anniversary. All of the students caravanned out to Main Street and invaded the local restaurants, coffee shops, malls and repair shops with a page-full of questions.
Following this excursion, we enjoyed our second lecture from Mark Volkers on the importance of light composition and video framing. Myrna Brown then gave us some insight into the world of stand-up reporting, which was applied in a short video assignment for every student. This exercise pushed many of us outside of our comfort zone as it challenged us to improve our presence on screen and our stand-up delivery.
Our guest reporter over Zoom was Esther Eaton, a WJI graduate and writer for World, whose anecdotes kept our class both enthralled and informed. Each night has commenced with a “Pitts P,” a lesson shared from the one-and-only Lee Pitts. As a reporter in Iraq, Lee saw firsthand the importance of being present in the territory that he reported, from the nighttime missions to the mealtime encounters with the troops. This presence is a fundamental concept in a journalist's commitment to a story or beat.
The fog is thick and the water is cold, but our boat and coaches have not left our side. We will reach the shore and be better swimmers for it—and hopefully as better journalists too.
- Caleb Bailey