Fifth Annual Mid-Career Course: Becoming a part-time WORLD correspondent or a community news website editor/publisher
Feb 9, 2015 - Feb 14, 2015
This 5 1/2-day course in Austin, Texas, is for mid-career WORLD readers and/or Centurions who hope to write occasionally for World News Group publications or create news websites in their own communities. It is not for those primarily interested in writing devotional material, fiction, poetry, or memoirs. Marvin and Susan Olasky provide hands-on training in reporting, writing, and rewriting.
- Class Component - Calendar
- Who can apply?
- Required Reading
- Required Items
- Pre-Class Writing
Application Deadline: October 1
The fifth annual WORLD mid-career course provides intensive training in reporting and writing magazine and website stories from a Christian worldview. The course meets February 9-14, 2015 at the Olasky residence, 4106 Firstview Drive, Austin, TX 78731.
Tuition is free, but students are responsible for their own transportation, lodging, and lunch/dinner expenses. Olaskys provide a continental breakfast.
What to expect
The course does not include instruction on writing devotionals, exegetical essays, memoirs, or fiction. We are looking for reporters, not columnists, and only those prepared to absorb criticism of their writing should attend. The course will also touch on the history and theology of Christian journalism. It provides basic training for WORLD readers who desire to improve their journalistic writing and perhaps become World News Group correspondents or editors of websites in their own communities.
Experience of previous mid-career students
The mid-career writing course expanded my horizons: it taught me to write in new ways, for different audiences, and on topics that need attention from a Christian world view. Sometimes a well-meaning amateur tries to coach your batting swing or tennis serve and ends up disrupting your natural rhythm so badly that you can’t even hit the ball! The mid-career writing course had an opposite effect: coaching by experienced writers sharpened my skills and led to opportunities that I had never anticipated. — Jesse Yow
I draw from what I learned at the mid-career course on a weekly basis. It was a practical exercise in how to think, write, and edit like a journalist. As a small class, we walked through each step of writing and were able to make mistakes, correct them, throw out ideas, and bounce questions off expert journalists. The mountain of journalism became a hill I could climb because of the mid-career course. — Kiley Crossland
I loved the classes and found the seminar to be very helpful. I especially enjoyed being able to critique each other's writing and do the line by line editing together. The hands-on experience was unbeatable. — Julie Borg
WORLD’s mid-career course is fantastic! The course content is outstanding, but even more valuable is the opportunity to learn from one of the Christian world’s most experienced journalists and editors. I gained tremendous confidence through the–fearful–process of Olasky-led group edits. Watching clunky first drafts forged again and again into tight, bracing prose transformed my writing and inspired me to greater success as a writer. I was also impressed by the high-caliber students in the course, men and women who loved the Lord and were serious about improving their craft. Make every effort to attend this course - you won’t be disappointed! — David Sonju
It was immensely helpful for me to be publicly edited and educated at the same time during the course. — Rob Holmes
My prior opinion about World's high regard for truth and clear understanding of the journalist's calling were confirmed. The week flew by and sometimes it felt like drinking from a fire hose, but I managed to hang onto a number of the pearls that Marvin and Susan so graciously shared with us. Best of all, I have been given the opportunity to write on a regular basis for WNG. I must be making progress, because my word processing program rarely corrects my spelling and grammar anymore.— Mark Russell
History of WJI Courses
Many people these days are talking about the usefulness of "citizen journalists," but that practice has a long history within America Christianity. In 1681, a general meeting of Massachusetts ministers resolved that each should be a correspondent, with the responsibility to "enquire diligently into, and Record such Illustrious Providences as have happened" in their towns including "Tempests, Floods, Earthquakes, Thunders as are unusual...Remarkable Judgements upon noted Sinners; eminent Deliverances, and Answers of Prayer."
Over the next 150 years volunteer correspondents worked alongside editors. In 1830, according to observers, three-fourths of American newspapers and magazines were explicitly Christian. That changed over the next few decades as editors often embraced Transcendentalism and "freethought." In the 20th century, theological and political liberalism came to dominate the press.
Today, the World News Group (magazine, website, radio) reports God's illustrious providences for the benefit of more than 500,000 readers and listeners. World has fulltime reporters in New York, Washington, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, and China, and part-timers elsewhere, but our website and the notebook section of the magazine make ample use of mid-career correspondents. Our goal in this course is to find and begin to train a new group of correspondents, and to promote the creation of Christian community news websites.
Class members can stay at the Olasky house for $50 to $110 per night, at the house across the street for $150 per night, or at hotels for $70 to $400 per night.
Informal. For example, jeans are OK.
What to bring
Class Component - Calendar
|9:00||pair interviews||intro to obits and worldviews||edit obits||
worldviews and writing news stories
|editing stories and reviews||individual meetings and World assignments|
|11:00||pair edit||writing||edit obits||editing||editing||(leave)|
story elements: PAMO, haiku
|feature story research in Austin||writing||
rewriting of news stories and features
|editing stories and reviews|
|3:00||ladder of abstraction, group editing||Austin||edting for broken windows||writing reviews||World News Group needs|
|4:00||World style||discussion||news websites||discussion||
|5:00||free time and dinner on your own||free time and dinner on your own||free time and dinner on your own||free time and dinner on your own||free time and dinner on your own|
|7:00||choose book, movie to review||write first draft of features||reading and writing||reading and writing|
Tentative Course Schedule - 2014
Marvin Olasky is the editor in chief of the World News Group, dean of the World Journalism Institute, and holder of the Distinguished Chair in Journalism and Public Policy at Patrick Henry College. He worked at The Boston Globe, taught at the University of Texas at Austin from 1993 through 2007, and was provost of the King's College in New York City from 2007 to 2011. He joined WORLD in 1980.
Dr. Olasky has written 20 books, including The Religions Next Door, Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon, Scimitar's Edge, Renewing American Compassion, Telling the Truth, Central Ideas in the Development of American Journalism, The Press and Abortion, Prodigal Press, and The Tragedy of American Compassion, which Philanthropy including WORLD, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and has degrees from the University of Michigan and Yale University.
Susan Olasky is a senior writer for WORLD, for which she produces radio stories, book reviews, and lifestyle features. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a master's degree in public policy, she founded the Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center in 1984 and has co-authored articles opposing abortion along with a book, More Than Kindness: A Compassionate Approach to Crisis Childbearing. She was a columnist for the West Austin News during the 1990s. The Olaskys have four sons, one daughter-in-law, and one grandbaby.
Susan Olasky is also the author of eight historical novels for children and is an assistant professor at Patrick Henry College, where she and Marvin Olasky supervise WORLD interns and interview newsmakers in front of students. On September 22, 2006, an $800 Jeopardy clue - "Susan Olasky has written a kids' series about the adventures of Annie, daughter of this fiery Wirginis orator" - was a triple stumper.
Who can apply?
Anyone from age 27 to age 72 with writing ability, a record of accomplishment, a thick skin, and a desire to write for a World News Group publication or to write and edit a community news website. To emphasize: It is fine to write devotional material, poetry, fiction, and good public relations copy, but we are looking for people who want to be part-time journalists with an emphasis on reporting, not pontificating.
WORLD Policyguide and other readings, emailed to those accepted to the class
Strunk and White: The Elements of Style
Prodigal Press (25th anniversary edition), by Marvin Olasky and Warren Smith. Available at amazon.com and elsewhere.
Wifi-enabled laptop. We'll all be looking at student writing on Google Docs, so every student should have a free gmail account and know how Google Docs works.
1. Macro-stories: official, corruption, and oppression perspectives. Biblical objectivity
2. Up and down the ladder of abstraction: streets, not suites
3. Story telling with protagonists, missions, antagonists, and obstacles
4. Journalistic humility and the rapids method of applying Scripture
5. Writing with active verbs and concrete nouns
6. Structural and line-by-line self-editing and editing
Student Learning Objectives
1. Learn to write for a popular audience
2. Learn to apply Scripture to current cultural and public policy issues
3. See how events reflect God's glory
4. Deepen understanding of God's holiness, love, and justice
5. Write without using jargon foreign to most readers
6. Become capable of writing a story for WORLD publications
Free tuition, but you should take into account the cost of travel to Austin, food, lodging, and perhaps car rental. The Olasky house is located five miles northwest of the University of Texas campus, but there is no convenient public transportation. Class members can stay at the Olasky house for $50 to $110 per night, at the house across the street for $150 per night, or at hotels for $70 to $400 per night.
In his book No Little People, Francis Schaeffer wrote that "in God's sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God's place for us, at each moment."
Your assignment is to write a 600-word story about a little-known person who faced a hard choice and acted in a way that glorified God but cost him money, friendships, social ease, or something similar. The story should show a protagonist (or several), the protagonist's mission, an antagonist, and the obstacles the protagonist had to overcome. For example, the story of three little pigs has three protagonists. Their mission is building houses -- one of straw, one of sticks, one of bricks. They have an antagonist -- the big bad wolf. The obstacle for two of them is laziness -- they don't want to spend the time to build a strong house.
It's important to have a strong, vigorous antagonist. If the wolf's problem was just big teeth and a pointy nose, Congress could pass a bill giving him free orthodontist visits and free plastic surgery. (Wait -- Congress may already have done that.) But what makes for a compelling story is the wolf's murderous disposition. Even the simplest spot news story has a protagonist, mission, antagonist, and barriers. Here's one:
"Firefighters (protagonist) last night battled a blaze (antagonist). Because of high winds and low water pressure (barriers) it took two hours to extinguish the flames (mission)." Or another "Police (protagonist) yesterday took a bite out of crime (mission) by arresting the East Side cat burglar (antagonist). He surrendered only after he fired two shots (barrier) and yelled, "You'll never take me alive.'"
The Bible has a more complicated structure, but essentially it is a story of creation, fall, and redemption. God's mission is to rescue his people and save them from sin. Christ is the protagonist and Satan is the antagonist who seems to win in the Garden, seems to win at many times throughout the history of Israel, and seems to win on Good Friday -- but loses in the end. Each book of the Bible, sometimes each chapter, has its own drama.
In chapter three of Genesis, for example, Adam and Eve are the protagonists with the mission of continuing to be able to walk with God in the Garden of Eden. Satan in serpent form is the antagonist, tempting the first couple to sin. The fruit of the two trees are the obstacles to mission fulfillment, which occurs through obedience. When Adam and Eve disobey there are cast out, and the next chapter begins: How will they and their children fare in the wilderness?
Further chapters in Genesis and other historical books of the Old Testament could all be charted in this way. The difference between the Bible and the Quran is striking: News and features make up most of the Bible, but the Quran is almost all editorial, telling rather than showing. The Bible tells stories, the Quran gives orders -- so one way that Christian journalism reflects biblical teaching is by emphasizing story-telling.
Even when the Bible moves away from story form, story frameworks are still evident. For example, the "watchers on the wall" in Ezekiel 33 have a calling like that of journalists: in that chapter the protagonist is the watchman and the antagonist is a literal enemy bringing a sword to the land, or a metaphorical enemy -- sin. The watchmen's goal is to warn the people when a threat appears. Barriers to successful fulfillment of the mission include laziness (the watchman sleeping at his post), blindness (not seeing the threat), cowardice (fear that warning the wicked will bring retribution from them), or wickedness (siding with evil).
Your protagonist could be a business leader who chooses to give up some sales rather than violate biblical principles, or one who takes on additional risks or costs to produce godly products. It could be a person who speaks up regarding an unbiblical trend when it would have been easier to remain silent. Whatever you write has to show good story-telling, nor exhortation.