Students at BP conference told to 'pursue the passion'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--"Pursue the Passion" was the theme around which more than 150 students and faculty gathered for the fourth annual Baptist Press national Student Journalism Conference Oct. 7-9 in Nashville, Tenn.

Conference workshops focused on news and feature writing, photography, broadcasting, graphic design, yearbook design and public relations. Conference attendees participated in worship led by Christian recording artist Jason Ingram and heard keynote addresses from such Christians in the media as Holly Thompson, James Patterson and Anacleto Rapping. The conference also featured a panel discussion on current issues in journalism.

The conference's "Pursue the Passion" theme encouraged students to develop a passion for their craft and their relationship with Christ.

"We experienced an awesome time of inspiration, skill-building, worship and professional networking," said Will Hall, executive editor of Baptist Press. "Jason Ingram and David May set the tone spiritually. The workshop faculty offered incredible insights and David Limbaugh concluded the conference with the right emphasis on being salt and light in the public square."

Jill Martin, a student at Union University, won the top award -- the President's Award -- for overall excellence.

Holly Thompson, co-anchor of morning and midday shows at WSMV-TV in Nashville, told students that Christian journalists must reflect the character of Christ in a market dominated by negative news.

Because 30 percent of all television news deals with crime and 10 percent deals with calamities and natural disasters, Christian journalists must prepare themselves to face darkness when reporting current events, Thompson said.

"You really do see a lot of the darkness that's out there, so much of it, because you encounter it personally, especially in television," she said.

Christian journalists can alleviate the depressing effects of bad news by interspersing positive news throughout a broadcast, Thompson said.

"We are working with our morning show ... to try and at least group [the negative stories] separately or move them around or not necessarily make [them] our lead story," she said. "... We're also trying to do what we call 'joy stories' or something that offers hope to newscasts. Mix in the brighter stories or other interest stories, more of a focus on people making a difference."

When negative news must be reported, Christian journalists should deliver the news fairly and with a caring attitude, Thompson said. Television reporters must take special care not to show unnecessarily graphic content in their reports, she said.

To ensure that negative news is reported in the most appropriate manner possible, reporters should ask themselves such questions as, "What is the journalistic purpose behind broadcasting the graphic content?" and "Is the use of graphic material the only way you can tell that story?" Thompson said.

Above all, Christian journalists must pray that God would guide them in their work and provide them with opportunities to share the love of Christ with hurting individuals, she said.

"The Lord puts you in so many different circumstances. And do you know why?" she asked. "He puts you in those so that you can be that shining example. There's a reason ... and you need to always look at your life and realize that."

James Patterson, editorial writer and columnist at the Indianapolis Star, said that Christian journalists have a responsibility to use words in a manner that glorifies God.

Drawing from James 3, Patterson told students that words have the potential to infuse either destruction or life into a culture. Journalists must select their words carefully if they hope to positively affect culture, he said.

"As a journalist, you can use your position to further the Gospel message," Patterson said. "... It's all based on words. Words are powerful."

One way that Christian journalists can further the Gospel message is to meditate on Scripture and then allow the worldview of Scripture to inform their work, he said.

Christians must be "a different kind of journalist" and have a "deep and abiding faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," Patterson said.

He concluded, "Let us bear all our worship in our work as journalists."

Anacleto Rapping, a photographer at the Los Angeles Times, showed students photographs he has taken around the world and stressed the necessity of displaying Christ-like character in the world of secular journalism.

At times displaying Christ-like character requires Christian journalists to make moral decisions that are radically different from the decisions of their unbelieving colleagues, Rapping said.

"I define success as what is most important to me, what is most important to my life," he said. "But I'm using God as a reference point."

Applying God's standards to photojournalism has required Rapping to bring a loving attitude to all projects and treat people with respect, he said.

"I wanted my photographs to be characterized by love ... not just the romantic kind of love, but love in all its many different sides: compassion, empathy, caring, diversity," Rapping said. "I wanted my photographs to change people in a positive way."

Occasionally journalists will find themselves in stressful and frustrating situations, he said. But handling such situations in a godly manner will build Christian character and reflect Christ to non-believers, Rapping said.

One of the primary ways in which photographers can reflect Christ to the world is to treat all photography subjects with kindness regardless of their fame or social status, he said.

"You treat your neighbors like they're a celebrity," Rapping said. "And you treat celebrities like they're your neighbor."

Bill Mattox of USA Today encouraged the students to make a difference in the lives of their co-workers as well as those they'll encounter on the job.

"All the clips in the world do not matter nearly as much as the relationships that we build along the way," he said, referring to the newspaper "clips" journalists use to build resumes.

Mattox noted that Christ impacted the lives of "ordinary" people -- for instance, fishermen and tax collectors.

"[H]e loved them and he transformed their lives and they in turn went and loved others. And we're a part of that legacy," Mattox said. "The challenge for us … is to never rely solely on words to do the work that we want in advancing the Kingdom."

A panel of experts discussed such issues as the need for fairness in news reporting, the effect of Internet weblogs on the future of journalism and the recent controversy involving CBS news anchor Dan Rather.

The panel consisted of Terry Mattingly, syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News service; Joni B. Hannigan, managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness; Lawrence Smith, vice president for communications at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Berta Delgado, religion reporter at the Dallas Morning News; Robert Case, director of the World Journalism Institute; and Michael Smith, chair of the department of mass communication at Campbell University. Matthew Melton, director of the Honors College at Lee University, moderated the discussion.

The panelists said that every journalist brings a distinct worldview to the task of news reporting. Consumers of news must recognize the worldview differences among various news sources and read news with a discerning eye, they said.

"There is no such thing as an unbiased journalist because there is no such thing as an unbiased person," Lawrence Smith said. "Everybody has a worldview. It's a matter of what the worldview is. ... The problem is when we don't know our biases and admit what they are."

Case noted that a journalist can develop "methodological objectivity" regardless of his or her worldview.

"Methodological objectivity is possible by doing good journalism," Case said. "Metaphysical objectivity, on this other hand, is impossible because of our finiteness and the fall. ... Everyone is biased. Everyone is subjective. ... But that still doesn't mean that we can't understand reality."


2004 Excellence in Journalism Contest Winners

PRESIDENT'S AWARD

Jill Martin, Union University

INDIVIDUAL YEARBOOK

Art/Illustration

Jincy Kunnacherry, Houston Baptist University, first

Michelle Attaway, North Greenville College, second

Best Overall Single Spread

Elizabeth Schirmers, Lee University, first

Cindy Costa, Lee University, second

Sarah Belcher, Union University, third

Club/PortraitAcademic Copy

Chincy Cunnacherry, Houston Baptist University, first

Celeste Mayo, Ouachita Baptist University, second

Lauren Farabough, Ouachita Baptist University, third

Graphics/Infographics

Meghan Baumgardner, Houston Baptist University, first

Sarah Belcher, Union University, second

Portrait Spread Design

S. Hillis, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, first

S. Hillis, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, second

Elizabeth Schirmers, Lee University, third

Sports Copy

Clint Pumphrey, Ouachita Baptist University, first

Clint Pumphrey, Ouachita Baptist University, second

Sports/Club Design

Benjamin Diffenderfer, Lee University, first

T. Turk, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, second

Michelle Attaway, North Greenville College, third

Student Life Copy

Christi Snow, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, first

Danielle Whiddon, North Greenville College, second

Mary Lynn Burns, Ouachita Baptist University, third

Overall Yearbook

Vindagua, Lee University, first

The Angelos, California Baptist University, second

Blue Bonnett, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, third

Overall Broadcast

Tennessee Illustrated, Union University, first

Patriot News, Cumberland College, second

PHOTOJOURNALISM

BW

Academic/Organization

Scott Holston, Gardner-Webb University, first

Lindsay Stavish, Union University, second

Kristan Nicole Sayres, Union University, third

Creative Artistic

Tiffany Turk, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, first

Travis Donley, North Greenville College, second

Personality

Amanda Eady, William Carey College, first

Rachel George, William Carey College, second

Jacob Sais, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, third

Photo Spread

Jonathan Blair, Union University, first

L. Helms, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, second

Tiffany Turk, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, third

Sports

Michelle Attaway, North Greenville College, first

Scott Holstein, Gardner Webb University, second

Travis Donley, North Greenville College, third

Color

Academic Organization

Justin Veneman, Union University, first

Jonathan Blair, Union University, second

Amy Visser, Western Baptist University, third

Creative /Artistic

Jonathan Blair, Union University, first

Lindsey Stavish, Union University, second

Personality

Lindsey Stavish, Union University, first

Justin Veneman, Union University, second

Rachel George, William Carey College, third

Photo Spread

K. Sayres, Union University, first

Lindsey Stavish, Union University, second

Sports

Jonathan Blair, Union University, first

Justin Veneman, Union University, second

Overall World Wide Web

Union University, first

Southwest Baptist University at Bolivar, second

INDIVIDUAL NEWSPAPER

Cartoon/Infographics

Leslie Helms, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, first

Kevin Boyd, Liberty University, second

Sarah Mann, Southwest Baptist University at Bolivar, third

Center Spread Design

Brett Swihart, Ouachita Baptist University, first

Melinda Eckley, Union University, second

M. Smith, William Carey College, third

Front Page Design

Amanda Eady, William Carey College, first

Ben Eppard, Liberty University, second

Natalie Kaspar, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, third

Feature Writing

Allison Staly, North Greenville College, first

Andy Robinette, Union University, first

Amanda Dickinson, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, second

Hannah Wadefalk, Campbell University, second

Alicia Porter, North Greenville College, third

H. Haygood, Union University, third

Indepth Writing

Natalie Kaspar, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, first

K. Sayres, Union University, second

G. Byrd, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, third

News Writing

James Cogdill, North Greenville College, first

Mitchell Smith, William Carey College, first

Reece Murphy, Campbell University, second

Tiffany McCarty, Ouachita Baptist University, second

Pete Marozzi, Campbell University, third

Bobbi Bourne Smith, William Carey College, third

Regular Column Writing

Caressa Lattimore, Baylor University, first

Natalie Kaspar, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, second

Chris Price, Liberty University, third

Sports Writing

Jenny Eastman, Union University, first

Jenny Eastman, Union University, second

Emily Wade, William Carey College, third

OVERALL NEWSPAPER Division II

University of Mary Hardin Baylor, first

The Cobbler, William Carey College, second

The Baylor Lariet, Baylor University, third

OVERALL NEWSPAPER Division I

Cardinal & Cream, Union University, first

The Bison, Oklahoma Baptist University, second

Hilltop News, Western Baptist College, third

Download Story