The Inside Scoop

In Iowa, the smell of manure hangs in the air and the highway is sandwiched between two empty fields that disappear over the horizon. I’m a midwest girl, but spending two weeks in drizzling rain in what seems like one endless cornfield was a little too much, even for me.

But when you get the opportunity to work with some of the best Christian journalists in the country, you go anywhere, including the cornfields.

World Journalism Institute is a program for young Christian journalists (like me). This year’s program focused on “backpack journalism” and was essentially a crash course in print, audio, video, and photo journalism.

And although getting to work with experienced writers was amazing, one of my favorite parts of the trip was something much less grandeur.

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These girls are as sweet as the dessert

It turns out that just a few towns over from Sioux Center, Iowa, is Le Mars, the ice cream capital of the world. The program director had promised to take us there to visit the Blue Bunny parlor. So, we put a pause on our finals presentations and stuffed ourselves into vans. The Blue Bunny store was cute, with a penny press and a little gift shop.

But this story isn’t about ice cream.

After a cone and a quick photo-op, we piled back into the vans. With 26 students to get back to Sioux Center, each van was packed tight.

As the van rocked back and forth past the dark cornfields, I realized I had fallen in love with these people.

I listened to the row of girls behind me scream-singing to pop music and watched a boy marvel at the country stars. One girl had fallen asleep with her head rested against the seat in front of her and her blond hair was spilling over her shoulders. The guy next to me saved space by sitting on the floor, wedged between the seat and the van wall. It was a mix of chaos and joy and exhaustion and maybe a little too much sugar.

And I loved every second of it.

Two weeks is not very long to fall in love with someone, let alone 25 other someones. Yet that was somehow what had happened.

Perhaps it’s the fact that we are all connected by our love of stories. We all take some form of solace in words. We all want to be better Christians, people, and writers. We all want the same thing.

I’m trying not to paint this as a profound moment. This wasn’t a life-changing van ride through the country or the first step on some sort of journey.

It was a small slice of community, a taste of joy.

And, sometimes, that is the only story that needs telling.

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In times of breaking news

In times of breaking news

The two-week journalism intensive I am currently attending requires each student to write a blog post for the institute’s website. The guidelines are loose at best, and I was originally going to talk about the power of audiovisual stories, since we had just completed our video crash course.

Instead, here is what I submitted.

This blog post was originally going to talk about the power of video, since video is what we talked about today.

I was going to string poetic phrases together and try to capture how I think audio and visuals can sometimes be more impactful than words, how they add another dimension to a story.

Then I opened up Twitter.
Then I saw news of Manchester.

Some quick facts, as of 1 a.m. central time: An explosion outside an ending Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, left 22 people dead and 59 injured. Police are treating it as a terrorist attack and have confirmed the attacker was a suicide bomber. Transportation in the area has been closed.

Two hashtags have already sprung out of the attack: #missinginmanchester is to help reconnect those who may have gone missing in the confusion and #roomformanchester is for people to offer shelter to stranded concert-goers.

It’s times like this I remember why I want to be a journalist.

As I scroll through the twitter feeds of both U.S. and U.K. publications, refreshing for updates and new information, I feel a tug in my gut. I want to be there to help.

When news breaks, it’s the journalist’s job to get information to worried parents and friends. It’s our job to help protect the vulnerable by spreading the truth. It’s our job to make sure people know what is happening.

When news breaks, it’s our job to be there.

Being a journalist is more than fun feature pieces. It’s more than being paid in experiences or getting to travel the world. It means being first on the scene to crises like this. It means staying up all night waiting for the press conference, for the body count, for the number people can call.

Being a journalist means dedicating your career to serving other people.

Even as Manchester settles into investigation, it’s still our job to be there. To follow up and continually ask, ‘why?’” To see the story through. To provide information for frantic family; to facilitate truth.

Some quick facts, as of 1 a.m. central time:
22 dead, 59 injured.
Two hashtags, no transportation.
News is breaking. Be there.