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Telling true tales

Now more than ever, the world needs Christians in media

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(Cue J.S. Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.)

I hasten to say I love everything about World Journalism Institute: the mission, the students, the staff. But each May at Dordt University in beautiful Sioux Center, Iowa, a strange phenomenon occurs. I call it the Inverse Law of the Conservation of Matter.

(Cue Toccata and Fugue, again.)

You may have heard of the Law of the Conservation of Matter, which holds that in any system that is closed to the transfer of matter in and out, the amount of matter in that system remains constant. For example, burning logs on a campfire may seem to destroy the logs. But in fact, the same amount of matter remains—the logs have just been converted into ash, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. That’s what’s meant by the conservation of matter in a closed system.

But, alas, despite the wishes of both the Republican and Democratic national committees, the state of Iowa is not a closed system. And for two weeks each summer about 50 of us staff members and students spend big chunks of time converting pork products into adipose tissue, which we later export via interstate and air.

This is what I mean by The WJI 5: the byproduct of wondrous campus cafeteria food served by wondrous people in wondrous portions. When I left Iowa last year, I took several pounds of converted matter with me. All told, over the seven years we’ve been holding our summer college course at Dordt, I estimate WJI staff and students have exported 1,750 pounds of converted matter—the equivalent of about 13 additional humans, according to the World Health Organization. If we’re not careful, we’ll have to start issuing additional W-2s.

It’s a small price to pay. After 25 years, World Journalism Institute is by any measure an astonishing success. The number of stellar writers we’ve trained and sent into the world—and into WORLD—is beyond counting. This year for the first time, we broke the century mark—meaning more than 100 college students applied for entry to our flagship summer course.

I asked WJI Executive Director Lee Pitts what he’d say if he had the opportunity to write you all a letter. I thought his response was as wise as it was inspirational.

“A lot of people in Christian circles think the media is the dark side,” Lee told me, “but I try to get students to see that it’s a great mission field, someplace we should run to, not run from, if we are curious about the world and like to tell stories.”

The media are not going away, Lee notes, so ignoring them is not going to be what makes a difference. Besides, given Jesus’ affinity for storytelling, telling stories is not an area of human endeavor we Christians should surrender.

In fact, it’s a time for those who may be hearing the vocational call of journalism to explore that calling under the guidance of professionals. Journalism is a job best learned by doing, and the mentoring that WJI students receive from people who’ve been in the reporting trenches for a long time is invaluable. In addition, students get to meet and bond with peers from around the country who share both their faith and a love of storytelling. It’s astonishing, really, how people who come in as strangers build bonds that last for years and even decades.

A healthy media isn’t something us journalists want selfishly, just for the sake of our profession, Lee told me. Instead, a healthy media contributes to a healthy country. When done correctly, journalism helps foster community. And in an era when Christian voices are being purposely and systematically marginalized, it’s encouraging for us WJI instructors to welcome wave after wave of students who are willing to get the training that helps prepare them to stand courageously in the gap.

To learn more about our journalism courses for all ages, please visit And be prepared to take home more than you brought with you—in more ways than one.

Lynn Vincent

Lynn is executive editor of WORLD Magazine and producer/host of the true crime podcast Lawless. She is the New York Times best-selling author or co-author of a dozen nonfiction books, including Same Kind of Different As Me and Indianapolis. Lynn lives in the mountains east of San Diego, Calif.


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