King Abdullah II of Jordan story — why Wheaton people are amazing

Dear Reader,

This last week, I wrote a story which ended up being titled, “King Abdullah II’s approval high, students say.” I was pleased with the title because it simultaneously captures the subject, the event, who I interviewed and how it applies to the student body.

It was published in The Wheaton Record’s Feb. 13 issue 20, and you can read it online here.

I learned about the event during a car ride to Minneapolis, MN — the editor in chief and the managing editor were discussing the week’s upcoming issue during the 6-hour trip — and knew that I wanted to write about it. Here’s how our managing editor pitched the idea:

“So the King of Jordan said that he’s going to personally lead airstrikes against ISIS!” (Or something close to that.)

How could I not be interested? Imagine Barack Obama picking up a rifle or jumping in a cockpit to teach the IS a lesson! If the leader of Jordan was going to be spearheading a bombing run, it meant something huge about the difference in value placed on honor and military displays of power between the US and Jordan.

Those rumors turned out to be false, but still pointed to the level of approval that King Abdullah II enjoyed.

The story also promised great interviews with students who studied or worked abroad in Jordan over the last few semesters (our managing editor being one of them — shh!) so I took on the story and was not disappointed with the material I collected from the dialogues.

Perhaps the most substantial lesson I learned from writing this story is that Wheaton has some amazing people. Four of these students travelled to the water-poor and threatened state of Jordan to pursue what they individually loved. Terrorist activity is high in Jordan — mostly targeted against US citizens — and violent demonstrations break out frequently. But Wheaton was still willing to send them there — one student went through a HNGR (Human Needs and Global Resources) internship, which means that Wheaton trained her specifically for her experience in Jordan. For all the talk about Wheaton being the safest place in the world, it sends its students to some of the unsafest places for the sake of experience, learning and spreading the gospel.

Much respect, Wheaton.

-Kirk

Photo credits to The Royal Correspondent

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Behind the scenes of “Closer Look into World News”

Dear Reader,

Every Wednesday is publishing night for The Wheaton Record. Usually, I’ll stay up into the lonely hours editing, finalizing the latest edition with the managing editor and the editor in chief. Once we’ve uploaded our PDFs to the printer, it’s finally time to drag ourselves to bed — usually after a treacherous walk back to our housing in below freezing weather — and to prepare ourselves for the next day.

Thursdays start with thinking about what I’ll write about for my “Closer Look” column. When I come back from classes, I’ll groggily check my go-to news sources, including New York Times, CNN, BBC and USA Today. One source I periodically check is Christianity Today, because their content relates to an evangelical community like Wheaton’s.

The topic I write about is usually the first one that piques my interest. If there’s not an aspect of the story that I don’t find interesting, I’ll hate myself for writing it. That being said, it’s very easy to get me interested in something that affects the world, so I’ve written about topics ranging from the drug cartels in Mexico to street children in Manila, and I’ve done so happily.

After touching base with my News editor and researching the topic, the next step is to find intriguing interviews. Sometimes, the interview comes before I’ve even decided on a topic — an editor might mention that so-and-so has an opinion about this-and-such, and the process may commence from there. I always like doing face-to-face or phone interviews better than email interviews because the interviewee doesn’t have as much time to craft their responses, leading to a more honest, off-the-cuff answer to my questions.

Then comes the writing process. Since every time I sit down to write, something completely different happens, I can’t generalize and say, “This is how I write my articles.”

That being said, some things stay the same. More often than not, there are dozens of tabs open in my Internet browser, including other news articles, email and a thesaurus, with three or four Word documents cluttering my laptop desktop. Spotify frequently blocks out background noise with classical music turned up high — I can’t concentrate wholly on my writing when other ideas and words are being sung.

When I finish polishing the article, I’ll email it to my managing editor, editor in chief and news editor, and await their feedback before printing it off for the copy editors. The next time I see my article, it’s been through at least three copy editors and pasted prettily on page 3 of News. Then, we rinse and repeat for the next week!

-Kirk

Closer Look into World News: getting up to speed

Dear Reader,

For your viewing pleasure, I have listed all of my articles that have been archived on wheatonrecord.com for The Wheaton Record, my college newspaper. The majority of them were written for my column, named “Closer Look into World News,” so I listed those first as they reflect my approach and voice in news writing. In “Closer Look,” I examine headlining world issues (or lesser-known ones) and connect them to the Wheaton campus by multiple means, including interviews. The last three articles are from my general assignment news articles, which cover various, equally intriguing topics. To clarify, these stories are only ones that were put online. The many others I’ve published are in only print. Let me know what you think!

President Ryken establishes connections in South Korea — I remember writing this article clearly because of the interviews they contain. I had the exciting opportunity to interview the president of my college, Dr. Philip Ryken and the director of the Men’s Glee Club and Women’s Chorale Mary Hopper.

Boko Haram: a growing threat to Nigeria and the Church — My journalism professor and advisor, Timothy Morgan, first notified me about the horrific massacres carried out by the terrorist organization, and I felt compelled to write on it. I was fortunate enough to contact graduate students at Wheaton who were from Nigeria and were personally affected by Boko Haram.

Pope Francis fights corruption in the Philippines — The pontiff doesn’t get much face time on the flagship evangelical college’s newspaper, but once I caught wind of the distressingly ironic rumors that street children were being incarcerated to clean the streets for a pope who spoke against governmental injustice, I knew I had to cover the story.

ISIS’ new currency: doomed but powerful — There are times when all the stars align, and I can write about nearly all of my interests in one article. This was one of those times — I was thrilled to be able to write about a headline-dominating organization making an economically foolhardy move (putting that almost-obtained business degree to work!) and even more excited to link it to Wheaton.

What you should know about Ebola — This was my first article I wrote for my column, and it was the one that proved my mettle, cementing my position as weekly columnist for The Record.

Andy Crouch: the 2014 Ivan Fahs Memorial Syposium speaker — Here’s another great interview story! I was fortunate enough to grab the famous editor of ChristianityToday Andy Crouch to interview him in The Record office, and even gained valuable insights about the Christian journalism world, off the record.

Wheaton students showcase their talents in the annual talent show — In print, this article was titled, “Wheaton students refuse to bury their talents.” Get it? That’s why I love Wheaton: it’s one of the only places in the world where obscure Biblical references will not go unnoticed!

A sincere goodbye to Chappy Mac and an earnest welcome to Chaplain Blackmon — This was my latest above-the-fold story, and my coverage of it led to many more great interviews. I learned so much about the inner workings of the Wheaton chaplain search committee (over the last year, Wheaton has been searching for a new chaplain) and interviewed our interim chaplain and the director of the Office of Multicultural Development, Rodney Sisco.

Photo courtesy of Bella Naija.