WJI — Day 11: Speaking truth to power

Dear Reader,

First of all, sorry for not posting last night! It has been an insane night, ending with me stressing over the fact that J. Dennis Hastert was indicted for a hush money scheme, in a story that ended up on the front pages of major newspaper sites.

I guess, because Denny Hastert is closely affiliated with Wheaton, I should probably do a story on him. More details to follow.

Anyways! Today was a good day, even though it got stressful towards the end. In the morning, we polished our stories pulled from the Associated Press’ website. The beast is hungry, even in the morning.

During lunch, we heard from Susan Olasky, who has been sitting quietly in the back of the classroom nearly everyday. We didn’t know that she was probably the most epic person in the room. 

Susan Olasky wrote an investigative piece on the International Bible Society, which was secretly going to make the NIV Bible completely gender-inclusive. The basic problem with that is that World believes that people shouldn’t change the Bible for ideological reasons.

Well, Susan broke the story about it and got in a whole PR mess, which culminated in ethics charges against World. In the process, she was also named one of the year’s most influential Christians.

It takes a lot of courage to do what Susan did, and I really respect her for that. She stood up for something that she really believed in, and wasn’t afraid to uncover unfairness, even when Zondervan, the publisher of the NIV, was one of their major advertisers. Zondervan withdrew all its advertisements from World magazine. More respect.

Susan Olasky, being her epic self.
Susan Olasky, being her epic self.

The result was impressive. You can read about it online, so I’ll move on to what happened after lunch.

Here’s what we did.

The exciting desk of a student journalist.
The exciting desk of a student journalist.

Not sure if you can see it, but that paper is my book review. And I’m pretty sure my paper got marked up the most out of all the students. I learned a lot about book reviewing, and that is something that I think I can bring to The Record next year.

We ended the day in a park, listening to Lee Pitts’ stories from when he was embedded in Iraq. I don’t think that I’d ever be able to do the things he did.

The staff here at WJI is incredible.


Dear Reader,

I lied. That is, any hint that I might have given off that WJI is not fun was false.

WJI is fun.

I also lied to a few people who have been keeping up with me that WJI was all work, no play, even on Memorial Day. Sorry. Please forgive me.

While it’s true that we worked on our obituaries some more, we stopped at 4 p.m. and travelled to Kevin Martin’s house, the CEO/publisher of World Magazine for a North Carolina-style barbecue cookout.

Now, apparently — and this is news to me — barbecues mean different things depending on which part of the country you’re in. And in North Carolina, barbecue means pork.

Pulled Pork

Ok, that’s not that exact sandwich. (I found that image online. Shame on me for not bringing a camera.) But we did have delectable pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw, cooked up mostly by the generous Mrs. Martin (who I learned reads this blog!!! I’ve made it big!!!) .

We indulged in a little disc-tossing and soccer-playing, which resulted in sweat, blisters, and me wishing that I had brought some sneakers. I think that this very refreshing weekend and overall fun Memorial Day has recharged me and prepared me for another six days of hard work.

Two days ago, my journalism advisor at Wheaton emailed me, asking if I recommend the program to other Wheaton journalism students.

I think my answer is yes.

Guess it’s also true that you can win someone over with an amazing home-cooked meal!

If you haven’t already seen, check out photos of my past week here in Asheville, NC. You can see them here.


Photo credits to John B.B. Photos, at flickr.com. While the pulled pork sandwich in the photo looks great, I have to argue that Mrs. Martin’s was better. 


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 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!

WJI — Day 1: Orientation

Dear Reader,

I mentioned it briefly before — but now it’s time to talk about it in depth! I’m sitting in a beautiful boutique hostel in downtown Asheville, NC, preparing my mind and soul for the first official day of the “Backpack Journalism in a Digital Age” course through the World Journalism Institute. WJI runs through World Magazine, a well-known Christian watchdog magazine.

I’m excited for this! Glancing over the schedule, it looks like I will be learning lots of different techniques and skills that cover both print and broadcast journalism. I cannot wait to be able to list some of those skills on my resume.

Also, being surrounded by a small community — 13 of us — of Christians is a good feeling. I’ve been in community with Christians for a very long time, since I attend Wheaton, but this is a little different, because these are all Christians with similar career aspirations. We all share passions and callings, and I think that this will result in friendships, solid connections, and maybe even collaborations in the future.

Stay tuned these next two weeks as I tackle this program!