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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

The ministry of WJI (speech: The Gathering annual meeting)

(Note: The senior staff of God’s World Publications were invited to present the work of GWP to the Christian fellowship, The Gathering at its fall meeting in 2008. There were several presentations and this was my talk introducing the World Journalism Institute.)

Amelia Island
September 2008

If you curse the media darkness…

If you are tired of the way Gov. Sarah Palin is treated by the press…

If you think the mainstream media is indifferent or hostile to the concerns and worldview of evangelicals and traditional virtues, then the World Journalism Institute is what you are looking for.
WJI is the nation’s only independent school of journalism that is purposefully religiously evangelical, politically conservative and theologically rigorous. That is why we have the Francis Schaeffer Chair of Cultural Apologetics, the John McCandlish Phillips Chair of Journalism, and our offices located in the heart of media land—–Manhattan—to pursue our mission to “recruit, equip, place and encourage Christians in the newsroom.”

If we Christians want to influence our culture, we need to be a part of the cultural conversations. WJI works to be an insider to the media conversation because we are in America’s newsrooms as reporters, designers, editors and bloggers.

The Church sends missionaries to the Near East, doctors to Africa, teachers to South America and pastors to the Far East. As she should.

But the Church also needs to send journalists to Manhattan, Washington and Los Angeles, and then on to London, Paris, Berlin and Rome. The Lord’s instructions are to go first to Jerusalem, and then to the world. Currently, our Jerusalem – Western Christendom – is largely neglected by the Church as not part of the “10/40 window” of frontier missions and future possibilities. The great cultures that gave us Luther, Calvin, Savonarola, Bunyan, Edwards, and Schaeffer are consigned to the dust bins of has-beens and lost causes. And yet it is still the West that has the world’s great cultural institutions – universities, corporations, and media empires.

WJI has taken a thin slice of the majority culture—news media—and begun to aggressively engage that culture in a winsome way. Engagement is not easy, quick or cheap. We have a lot of ground to make up, since a hundred years ago we Christians retreated into our safe Christian ghetto. But things can change. Our God is not without resources.

From small beginnings in the mountains of North Carolina in 1999, the institute has morphed into a national journalism training program that has equipped and encouraged over 800 young and seasoned Christian journalists to be better at their calling, and thus take their rightful place in the newsrooms of America.

Journalistic opinion is cheap, plentiful, and commonplace. But verifiable facts are expensive, hard to get and precious. WJI is committed to raising up investigative reporters who understand that they are called as Christians to shed light into dark places and expose that which is hidden.

What specifically does the WJI staff of two do to accomplish this mission?

1) Multi-week Course
The jewel in the WJI program is our multi-week, college-level journalism course in New York City. The course begins with a worldview component taught by our Francis Schaeffer Scholar. This year, the Schaeffer Scholar is Dr. Anthony Bradley (Covenant Theological Seminary and the Acton Institute). Our conviction is that if you can’t think Christianly you can’t write Christianly.

We then bring in prominent journalists to teach for several days each. This year (2008) we will have teachers from CNN, the Miami Herald, Biola University, the Indianapolis Star, and Ebony magazine.

WJI luncheon talks are a unique occasion for our student journalists to interact with nationally known journalists and authors, such as Nicholas Kristof (New York Times), Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker), James Fallows (The Atlantic Monthly), Rich Lowry (National Review), Mike Gerson (White House), Richard John Neuhaus (First Things), John Fund (Wall Street Journal), and Fred Barnes (The Weekly Standard).

2) Workshops and Conferences
We conduct weeklong workshops and weekend conferences around the country for college journalists, working journalists, and minority journalists. We piggy-back our conferences with national journalism conventions in order to be a part of the mainstream journalism culture. For instance, in July, we held a daylong conference during the Unity convention in Chicago in which 5,000 minority journalists participated. Our conference line-up included Juan Williams (FOX News) and Manny Garcia (Miami Herald).

During all our conferences we bring in prominent Christian journalists to interact with the participants. Very often it will be the first time these veteran journalists have the opportunity to speak publicly about their faith and how it impacts their calling as journalists. These WJI conferences are not times of deep instruction because they are so short, but they can be times of profound encouragement and edification to the participants.

While all our conferences are somewhat unique, our racial and ethnic minority conferences are particularly unique in the journalism world. We have prominent African-American and Hispanic Christian journalists speak and teach at these conferences which we have held in Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

3) Conventions
We participate in the major journalism conventions with a booth at which we distribute books and monographs, provide encouragement to the Christian journalists in attendance, and make new media contacts. We are the only specifically Christian exhibitor at these multi-thousand participant conventions, and therefore we are a solitary and important voice in these annual events. We meet with WJI speakers and other Christian friends from major news outlets and encourage them to stand fast in their faith.

4) Monographs
Finally, WJI is the leader in publishing works of integration of Christianity and journalism because we publish and distribute unique monographs dealing with the intersection of Christianity and journalism. We print and freely distribute thousands of these essays to college students and working journalists around the country. You have been given a book with selected WJI monographs, giving you an idea of what we do in this area.

Conclusion

Over ten years ago, WJI began its media work. At that time, there were several organizations involved in helping Christians in the newsrooms. Today, we are the most vigorous as we continue to fund internships, conferences, instruction, dinners and events, all to encourage Christians in the mainstream newsrooms. Through this work, we are a major lifeline to Christian reporters in America.

Some of you in this room have helped fund this vital work, and I and all the hundreds of young journalists trained by the institute thank you.

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