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
This morning was fast-paced. We started out with broadcasting. Paul Butler told us all to get out a sheet of paper to try to remember all the broadcast rules we’d learned the day before and write them down in two minutes. It ended up being a helpful intro recap.
Around 10 AM, we started prepping for the press conference tomorrow. Everyone had questions. “How do we ask good questions to the press conference leaders?” “How do we find good clips from the conference to put in our video?” “What are we trying to get out of the press conference?” These are just a few of them, but everyone engaged well. We all want to make sure no critical detail is left uncovered, just as any good journalist would.
Marvin Olasky talked at 11 a.m. about how journalism used to be meant for making the King look good (PR) and no other reason. I enjoyed his story about John Peter Zenger, an editor who reported against the current person of power, William Cosby. Zenger reported what Marvin called the corruption story, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But Cosby wanted him to only report the good sides of himself. So, Zenger’s case went to court, and the jury ruled in favor of him. After that, no one in colonial times made a case against freedom of the press. Cool, right?
I think sometimes it is easy to take for granted our free speech as reporters, but, at WJI, I am learning just how much has gone into that right that is in the first amendment. Not even just free speech, but how many different worldviews there are and how to navigate them all through the lens of Scripture.
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.