WJI — Day 7: $2,000 worth of thread spotted on wall, photographer finds photo-op

Dear Reader,

Five days of hard work and then a weekend of rest, right? Not at WJI. Another 24-day means another 24 hours that we could be using to make another journalistic project!

In all seriousness, though, I am very glad that we undertook this project. That’s really only something that I can say now that I’m done with it.

Here’s what we did today:

1. In the morning, we had our general meeting at 9 a.m., and listened to each other’s radio pieces from the day before (the one with the attorneys — this will make a lot of sense if you’ve been following this blog for the past seven days) and critiqued them. Lesson learned: ambience audio is invaluable. It smooths transitions between studio and field clips, and it makes the entire piece more believable and easier on the ears.

2. We were assigned to create SoundSlides presentations (photographs with self-recorded audio overdubbing them) on subjects of our choosing. That gave us a lot of freedom. I visited the Kenilworth neighborhood, after hearing rumors of an art walk. I’ve never experienced an art walk before, so imagine my surprise when I was told we were supposed to enter people’s houses in search of their art. To be honest, it sounded like a huge invasion of privacy — and maybe it felt somewhat invasive to some residents — but I’m very glad that it was structured the way it was.

3. I stumbled across Kathleen Lewis, who I took pictures of and wrote about a little more in depth here. She welcomed warmly, and led me around her studio, excited to explain her business to a student journalist. In the process, I learned a good deal about the modern textile industry, the Asheville neighborhood, and I made sure to ask about the $2,000 worth of thread that I noticed on her wall. I took photos, asked questions, and might have even bought one of her wares for a special someone 😉 Here is a shot of her studio:

Kathleen's studio, complete with a very intimidating sewing machine.
Kathleen’s studio, complete with a very intimidating sewing machine.

4. Stumbling back around 4 in the afternoon, we began to compile our images, write our scripts for the SoundSlides presentations, and record our voiceovers. I’ll be honest — this process was very hard for me to complete, for various reasons. The editing was like none I’d experienced before, but I’ll attribute a lot of the slowness and frustration to my own lack of sleep and general impatience. Lesson learned: get sleep, be persistent and trust your editor. 

Once I figure out how to get media other than pictures up on this blog, I’ll happily upload my radio piece and this SoundSlides piece. Would love to get feedback on them!

WJI — Day 6: Drums, gaggles, and bad questions

Dear Reader,

When I pictured a drum circle in my mind, before today, I definitely envisioned a sort of ordered, stately ring of neo-hipsters with turbans beating small djembes and a string of women in flowing robes dancing in line to a choreographed beat.

If you have not experienced a drum circle, let me enlighten you: it is not so. It’s more like this.

Yes, all the neo-hipsters were there. There were two or three turbans present and accounted for. But in the inky blackness of Asheville’s downtown, with only two or three street lamps keeping me from tripping over the craggy town’s center, there were no such stately rings or choreographed movements. It was sweaty. The drums were not in sync. I couldn’t name half of the instruments being abused over knees, under feet, and against rocks. It smelled pretty illegal. But it was visceral, human, tribal. It was refreshing.

That was our destination tonight, right after feasting on prime Asheville pizza at Mellow Mushroom. I was in the middle of the dance ring, up in the drummers’ faces, and perched on top of rock outcroppings trying to capture the intensity of the moment. You can be the judge of whether I did that or not.

But right before leaving the World News headquarters for the Mellow Mushroom, we were with the slow-to-speak, quick-to-listen Nick Eicher. In the morning, we formed what I was told is called a “gaggle”: a huddle of reporters all fighting tooth and nail to get the best position for their microphones and shouting over each other to get their questions in. Our victims: Jordan Lorence and Matt Sharp, two real attorneys working on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) case in North Carolina. Upon further research, I have discovered that the term “gaggle” is also used to describe a group of geese. I wonder what that says about journalists.

Using the sound bytes that we captured in our pseudo-gaggle, we were supposed to craft our own radio news stories. But we ran into a slight problem. In the set up, the attorneys were supposed to be walking out of a North Carolina Senate Committee hearing (yes, these two full-grown, esteemed attorneys were playacting for our benefit), and us students were all so bent on asking intelligent, soul-searching questions that none of us ended up asking, “So what happened during the hearing?”

Thus, we all had to scratch up different, creative angles on the story that we were supposed to write about.

I plan on adding a sample of my radio broadcasting, and I’d love to hear feedback, as soon as I can figure out how to post audio files onto my website.

What a day, though! I’m tired, but very, very grateful to have learned what I learned today. I’m branching out and exploring very different areas of journalism, and was even commended for my work by the amazing Nick Eicher.

Here’s to learning more!

WJI — Day 5: Sued and tortured?

Dear Reader,

I’m not sure which one is more terrifying — the threat of being sued or the prospect of hearing your own voice over and over again, every day.

Today, we learned about how journalists could get involved in both of those worlds: investigative journalism and radio journalism.

Warren Smith, an incredibly down-to-earth guy, spoke to us first about investigative journalism. One would not assume, from looking at his bald head, wide smile and friendly disposition, that he has single-handedly yanked down corrupt pastors and leaders from their high thrones of influence, for the sake of justice, truth, and, well, Jesus. He is, in a nutshell, awesome.

I took from his expertise in digging around, special places where we could follow the money trails of organizations with ease. And while he was talking, I couldn’t resist looking up Wheaton College’s financial documents online. Looking good, Wheaton! (Just a few questions, though, that I’ll definitely ask at some point.)

Nick Eicher commanded the room’s attention next with his deep, soothing baritone voice, as he instructed us on how to tackle radio journalism. I can’t say that I was, or am now, very interested in the radio journalism world, but let’s just say that for the night, I kind of have to be.

Let me explain.

Tomorrow morning, World Magazine has somehow wrangled two real-life lawyers who are both working on the hot-button RFRA case to come to the World News headquarters, to essentially role play for us aspiring (or pretending) radio journalists.

Just like we’ve all seen in the movies, we’re supposed to elbow our way past each other and get the best quotes we can, while shoving microphones into the lawyers’ faces. In short, the exact kind of journalism I try to avoid.

But for tonight, that means learning up on the entire RFRA case, as much as I possibly can, and that means tons and tons of reading. You can guess what I’ll be doing for the next couple of hours.

WJI — Day 4: Asheville

Dear Reader,

There are so many adjectives to attribute to Asheville, but one that stands out is: hipster.
As AJ Pyatt described his town, “It is just so hipster, but it knows it and embraces it.” AJ Pyatt is an African American street performer with a smile that catches the eye and a tenor voice that breaks through the twang of his red acoustic guitar. He was one of the dozens of buskers who we encountered on our excursion to downtown Asheville today, led by the fearless Tiffany Owens, photography and journalism extraordinaire.
Her quirky humor and smile put us at ease, and her ruthless honesty kept us grounded. And with her guidance, we discovered a city right under our noses that some of us had discarded as “small-town.”
AJ had it right. Asheville is incredibly hipster, meaning something that “follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.” Bam. Asheville in a sentence.
The city’s off-beat, but up-tempo mood gave birth to some interesting outfits, cleverly named bars, and beautiful scenery, with the North Carolinian mountains as a backdrop.
It’s impossible to only talk about Asheville and photo-taking, so here are some of my photographs for your viewing pleasure. All of the photographs have been critiqued and guided in some way by Tiffany Owens, who offered her professional advice and skills to make us better, well-rounded journalists.
Tiffany Owens teaches us the tricks of the trade.
Tiffany Owens teaches us the tricks of the trade.
One of the many narrow streets leading out of downtown Asheville.
One of the many narrow streets leading out of downtown Asheville.
One of the DOZENS of buskers dotting each street corner. Talk about a one-man band!
One of the DOZENS of buskers dotting each street corner. Talk about a one-man band!
Had to. Couldn't resist.
Had to. Couldn’t resist.
An eye-catching mural decorating the side of a pet store.
An eye-catching mural decorating the side of a pet store.

WJI — Day 3: Pulliams and Profiles

Dear Reader,

Today we were graced by the presence (no sarcasm) of Russell Pulliam — associate editor of the Indianapolis Star and director of the competitive, nationwide Pulliam Fellowship program.

And even though I had been emailing him well before the course began and was aware of him, I hadn’t realized that he was the father of Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a past Wheaton Record editor in chief, until Dr. Marvin Olasky introduced him to us. Sarah now is a reporter for the Washington Post.

Russell’s father, sister, and daughter are all successful journalists, in their own respect. Talk about a family trade!

It was a true honor for me to witness him tear my writing down. Not only did he tear it down, though, he saw interesting angles that I hadn’t considered — something that I’m assuming comes with decades of reporting and editing.

Today, we wrote 600-700 word profiles for each other — I wrote mine on Faith Auslund. Condensing someone’s entire life into less than 700 words is impossible, but trying to do so is an interesting and mind-stretching exercise.

I was impressed with my fellow students’ work. They are poetic and their sentences are clean. Hopefully I can improve my writing to get on par with the rest of my classmates!

Tomorrow, I will be writing the class blog, and will therefore not be writing on this blog. I will post a link all the same!

Where am I writing?

Dear Reader,

I’m a columnist with The Wheaton Record and a journalism student at Wheaton College (IL). This means that I’m publishing on a weekly basis, and pushing out stories rapidly. If you’d like to keep up, check out the following websites!

The Wheaton Record: I write weekly about world issues that concern Wheaton’s student body. This means that I interview campus experts or individuals who have some experience with the topic at hand. It always makes for an interesting interview, and I’ve been passionate about each story I’ve written in this column.

Millennial Influx: I take a Global Journalism course with Professor Timothy Morgan, the senior editor of ChristianityToday and my advisor. Our class posts weekly articles about topics that range from sports and entertainment to social justice. At the link listed before, you can see my archived articles, but heading to the main website will let you see all my fellow students’ work as well!

Thank you for reading,


My kind of journalism

Dear Reader,

My name is Kirkland An, and I am a business/economics major pursuing a journalism certificate at Wheaton College in Illinois. I’ve started this WordPress site to publish all my journalistic musings and to push my printed publications as well.

The quiet suburb of Wheaton, IL isn’t known as a thriving hub of media activity, but my searching has led me to a group of ambitious, clever individuals that makes up The Wheaton Record editorial staff. I started my sophomore year as the associate editor of the newspaper and stole a 700-word space in the News section of each edition for my weekly column, “Closer Look into World News.”

Those two activities keep me busy. As associate editor, I edit each article that is published in the Record, manage the copy editing staff, and act as the resident AP style expert. Consequently, this website may — unintentionally — end up AP-consistent. It wouldn’t be surprising; I text in AP style.

As a weekly columnist, if I’m not writing, then I’m researching, planning or interviewing possible sources for next week’s article.

All that being said, being busy doesn’t mean that it’s overwhelmingly exciting. Wheaton College was rated the #1 safest campus in the United States and The Record’s weekly public safety blotter acts as a running gag — more often than not, public safety, as hardworking as they are, are most called upon to stop water leakages and stave off the odd idling car. This also explains why the latest death to shock campus was a squirrel’s — it encountered a key generator that unfortunately shut down the campus power for a few hours.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t intriguing news to cover at Wheaton College. My fellow students, thanks to the opportunities presented by our marvelous international relations, travel across the globe to conduct research and network with world leaders, and I get to tell their poignant stories to the student and staff bodies through my world news column.

But my degree and studies don’t make up all of who I am.

I’m an Taiwanese/Chinese-American male journalism student at a small Christian liberal arts college in the midwest, which puts me in a very, very small demographic niche. 8.6 percent of the Wheaton College student body identifies as “Asian,” which includes a whole slew of nationalities including Indian and Southeast Asian. I personally know of three other Asians in the journalism certificate program, all of whom are Korean, and all of whom are female.

What does that mean? It means that I am unique and I identify myself as a unique individual. I recognize the fact that I am different from my peers. My writing reflects the observant, analytical eye of a stranger in alien land, a non-conformist style in the face of overwhelming uniformity (I’m talking about you, my dear midwest), and my resolve to cling to Christian values.

My writing has been molded by inhabiting a world of “different.”

So hello world! (Thanks, default WordPress title.)

I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and that after reading, you can say that I have stuck to my guns. Thanks for reading!