Article by Northwest Iowa Review
Mar 18, 2017
Below is an article written about WJI in the Northwest Iowa Review.
SIOUX CENTER—College-age students will gather in Sioux Center in May to learn about the world of journalism.
Dordt College is partnering with the World News Group to host the World Journalism Institute May 14-27. Students selected will explore the life of a journalist by expanding reporting and writing skills.
Dordt journalism professor Lee Pitts is excited about the opportunity. He’s been involved in WJI for the past several years and has previously been a teacher in the program.
“This World Journalism Institute is a way for me to combine my two special passions of teaching and journalism,” Pitts said. “The first summer I was involved was when it was in New York City. It was neat. I was struck by what a great opportunity it was.”
The course is geared for students to learn about journalism for print, radio and television.
“They learn under the mentoring of professionals who do this for a living,” Pitts said. “Journalism is one of those fields best learned by doing. The teachers at this program are on the front lines and in the trenches.”
Pitts said President Donald Trump has put the role of journalism on the front pages.
“Most of the people who teach at WJI have a good traditional grounding on what the responsibilities and obligations of a journalist are,” Pitts said. “It’s about helping them think. Journalism is a powerful profession; it helps people learn about what is happening in the world around them. That sometimes gets lost in the social media age.”
The program combines new and traditional forms of media.
“Today’s journalist have to sometimes be like a one-man band with a bunch of different instruments,” Pitts said. “You can’t just be a print reporter or radio reporter or TV reporter. Even newspaper websites today have video clips attached. Giving students exposure to the tools of journalism gives them skills.”
WJI, which hosted its first summer training program in 1999, also provides a Christian template.
“The speakers who come in have one thing in common — they might have different beats and work for different publications and might have different focuses — but the thing they have in common is that they are people of faith,” Pitts said. “Some work in Christian media, some in secular media but all they all understand that their faith plays a role in their reporting. They understand the Christian mandate of holding the powerful accountable and giving voice to the voiceless.”
The program will include about 19 different instructors. The 25 participants will be reporting in and around the community during the session. The group also will be attending the Tulip Festival in Orange City.
“One of the goals for the program is for young people to think about how their faith should direct the stories they write,” Pitts said. “Your life isn’t in a silo where your faith is here and your work is there. It combines things together and shows how your faith impacts your writing.”
There is no cost to participants. In the past, the group has included students from many different areas of the country from private and public colleges and universities.
“We like to host this in May— right after most schools have exams and before students start summer jobs,” Pitts said. “It attracts students with professional foresight. They make connections with others who have shared interests.”
Dordt College senior Ashley Bloemhof attended last year’s session.
“It was very formative for me,” Bloemhof said. “It was a very good experience.”
World Magazine, a bi-weekly news magazine written from a Christian perspective, sponsors the event. Before becoming an instructor, Pitts wrote for World Magazine.
“It started with Christian journalists who want to see more Christians in the field of journalism,” Pitts said.
Previous WJI events have been in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Austin, Texas., and Ashville, N.C. Pitts said Dordt is a good fit. Program alums are working at the New York Times, Washington Post and Des Moines Register.
“Dordt’s facilities are well suited to hosting an event like this,” Pitts said, pointing out the up-to-date technology and science facility are well suited for the event.
Dordt vice president Howard Wilson said the college and WJI are natural fits with both organizations’ emphasis on the role of faith in the exploration of truth.
“We resonate with World magazine’s vision for preparing young Christian journalists to serve in the media,” Wilson said. “We believe it is important for members of the press to do their work through a Christian worldview, like all other areas of study and callings.”
A theme of the program will be how those answering the call of journalism should seek justice, liberty, and fulfillment for all people as they report on society in truth and love.
“We’re glad to partner with Dordt as we train students not to be part of the religious right or the religious left, but to practice Biblically objective journalism that informs, educates and inspires,” said Marvin Olasky, World’s editor-in-chief and WJI’s dean.
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