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.

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.

An Update in Three Chapters

heard

Well, have you?

 

Consider this your update. It’s really more of me acknowledging I have not written anything in three solid months.

It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to write about. Quite the opposite, actually. So here it is: A Comprehensive Update on the Life of Jordyn Pair.

You’re welcome, grandma.

 

Chapter 1: Finding my (radio) voice

When I took a radio class last semester, I never expected it to be anything more than an obligatory rounding-out of my journalism skills. I never expected to take a second class, and I certainly never anticipated eventually taking charge of three separate shows.

That’s right, folks, Jordyn Pair is on the air.

Getting my first radio show, Have You Heard? on the airwaves was a long process, mostly due to my lack of diligence. I didn’t know who to talk to or how to edit what they said. But now you can hear the unusual stories, passions, and experiences of Hillsdale College students at seven in the morning, provided you are in town. Otherwise, you have to wait for the Soundcloud file to make an appearance on the Facebook page.

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Although I also produce The Devil’s Advocate, and will soon be hosting The Collegian Week in Review, my first show, Have You Heard? is my fun project. I’m in journalism to tell the unknown stories, and, at Hillsdale, that’s the not-quite-newsworthy-but-still-cool students. There might not be a news hook, but there is passion.

And, in my case, passion fed passion.

Although I have worked with words for so long, learning to work with them in audio format has been a new challenge. These shows are a different beast than ones I have approached before, but it’s a beast I love tackling.

The radio shows I work on are creative. It’s not just straightforward journalism, and they’re more personalized. Although journalism does occasionally lend itself to flexing artistic muscles, the radio shows I work on are more like a time for me to play. It’s a chance to sit down in front of a microphone and just have fun.

Chapter 2: Small town girl, meet big city

I have a love affair with travelling, but am rarely able to.

Which is why I am absolutely stoked that I get to spend the summer in Washington, D.C. After I finish a  two-week stint in Iowa for a journalism intensive, I will immediately turn around, cram everything I own (plus my parents and me) into a car, and drive down to D.C.

Although I am unsure of what my journalism internship holds, I’m thrilled to be in a town where the main occupant is not corn.

Yes, I am sharing a room. Yes, I will be stuffing myself into pencil skirts all summer. Yes, I will absolutely love every second of it.

And if you have any “Top Ten Places to Visit in D.C.” listicles, send them my way.

 

Chapter 3: The one where I write a million headlines

I have spent every Wednesday of the last year in the Collegian office. Apparently, I am a glutton for pain and the AP Stylebook, because that is where I am spending every Wednesday of this coming year, too.

Dearest readers/fellow students/grandma, meet the Hillsdale Collegian’s next News Editor.

Being an editor is difficult work. It’s long hours and managing new writers and harassing old ones. But it’s work that I will find fulfilling, rewarding, and so, so worth it.

 

I know my second two chapters are so much shorter than my first, but it’s only because they haven’t been fully written yet. This is just a preview of me throwing myself into the deep end of the journalism pool.

Pen to paper. Sink or swim.

 

I’d do it for free 

My co-editor copyediting on a Wednesday night

“All you get is $200?” My friend asked incredulously. “Why would you work for so little?”

I leaned against the wall. “I mean, I guess I just love doing it. I would do it for free.”

“Still!” She said, spinning slightly in her chair. “It’s the principle of the thing.”

“Well, I don’t know. I guess I just really like it. I mean, journalism is what I want to do. Working for the paper is part of that.”

I walked home that night from the newsroom at 2:30 am.

This year, I will spend every Wednesday night locked in a back room of the student union, furiously reading, editing, re-reading, re-editing, panicking slightly, then reading again. Once the paper is sent to the printer–sometime between 11 and midnight–we start uploading the stories to the website, scheduled to be published in the morning.

At 1 am, it’s often me and my co-assistant editor blearily copy/pasting stories into WordPress, our editor-in-chief sticking it out with us until the end. The room is quiet, except for a few questions and maybe some soft music.

For some, there is nothing appealing in these long nights, and I understand. Sneaking into your room at 2 am leaves little time for homework or sleep. Stuffing interviews between classes and rewrites into scraps of weekend means your calendar is your best friend.

But I can’t imagine doing anything else.

It becomes addicting. I have the opportunity to attend events and speak with people I normally wouldn’t. I get to poke around in the inner workings of people and places and times.
Journalism is not just about politics or crime or the latest news. It is about stories. Those aspects are part of that, but journalism is essentially story-telling.

Well-written, fact-checked, AP-stylized storytelling, but storytelling all the same.

Journalism has granted me the privilege of telling the stories of the people around me. I am a voice for those who need it, a lens through which people can read about the interesting bits of life. Even when I write on things that aren’t of explicit interest to me, I still love it. When you get the opportunity to talk to people passionate about what they do, about what they love, you cannot help but get excited too. You cannot help but want to tell their story.

Journalism feeds my sense of adventure, but gives it a purpose. The adventure is no longer for its own sake, but to share it with others, too.

Seeing people read my articles, knowing I told a story they hadn’t previously heard, that I possibly inspired action or brought up emotion, is why I want to be a journalist. Through journalism, I am a storyteller, and stories are a powerful tool.

Being a storyteller makes the odd hours, late nights, stressed rewrites, long events, and, yes, even the low pay worth it.

All of it, somehow, means my favorite place in the world is the little back room on Wednesday nights, stuffed to the brim with papers and people, sipping on coffee, sharing stories with the world.

Perhaps, they pay me too much.