24 05

WJI 2021, Day 8 PM - What Do People Do All Day?

“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