JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 30, 2009 – Christian journalists should excel at their work and give non-believers reason to consider the gospel, a Baptist newspaper editor told collegiate journalists Oct. 29.
“Colossians 3:23 says, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as unto the Lord and not to men,’’” said Jennifer Rash, managing editor of the Alabama Baptist. “That’s what we’re called to do. If you’re a believer, we’re called to be different. We’re called to a higher standard. We need to work at the best of our ability to stand out and shine.”
Rash and Gary Fong, founder of the Genesis Photo Agency and president and co-founder of Christians in Photojournalism, were the principal speakers for the 2009 Baptist Press Collegiate Journalism Conference hosted by Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
In years past, Baptist Press has hosted the conference in Nashville, Tenn., with attendees coming from several different Baptist colleges. The format for this year’s conference was different. Union hosted the conference in its television studio and broadcast the speakers’ presentations on the Internet.
Students from more than a dozen other colleges participated by watching the Internet broadcast and by submitting questions to speakers through Twitter. Other participating institutions included Baylor University, California Baptist University, Liberty University, Taylor University, Lipscomb University, North Greenville University, the University of North Florida, Shorter College, Corban College, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Excelsior College, Campbell University, Central Baptist College and the World Journalism Institute.
Union University President David S. Dockery welcomed those attending the conference, both at Union and watching on the Internet, and expressed appreciation to Baptist Press for sponsoring such an event.
“It’s a delight to have this conference hosted here,” Dockery said. “We are committed here to being a partner in your work in helping to prepare the next generation of Christian journalists, broadcasters and people involved in photojournalism.”
In his address, Fong discussed his career in photojournalism and encouraged students to be prayerful in all things, because “sometimes God will have things happen before you.”
He described an experience in which he was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and a collision caused traffic to stop on the bridge. As he was sitting in his car, Fong noticed another man get out of his vehicle and climb up on its roof.
“How many times do you see a person standing on their car on the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge?” Fong asked. “Well, you don’t.”
Fong retrieved his camera from his trunk, and the man stayed on his roof just long enough for Fong to shoot three photos. He attributed that to God.
“When I talk to God, it’s like having a personal conversation with him constantly,” Fong said. “It started in 1968, and it’s still going on to this day.” Fong said many of the photos he has taken over the years were the result of watching God work in his life, and he also challenged students to be willing to pray for their subjects.
“God is in the business of answering prayers,” Fong said. “I think the best thing you can do in your life is have a constant conversation with God throughout your careers, whether it be in journalism or not. Let him show you great things.”
Rash talked to students about improving their writing skills and offered tips and tricks for them to be successful in a career in journalism.
“You are storytellers, so tell your story,” Rash said. “But tell it well. And tell it interestingly. Tell it where people want to read it. You want to show the action. You want to move quickly, not be sluggish.”
She discussed the importance checking facts to ensure accuracy and of writers engaging all the reader’s senses.
“Help your reader see the waves as they ripple,” Rash said. “Help your reader hear the screeching tires, smell the charred building, feel that prickly bush.”
One important piece of advice Rash offered to young journalists was for them to realize that “you still don’t know everything, and you still have a lot to learn. Be open to learning and growing and developing.”
As Christians, Rash said students have an obligation to do their work excellently, and not in a shoddy way that would reflect poorly upon their Lord. She quoted Max Lucado in making her point: “A Christian in his surroundings should encourage everyone to be better, instead of being the one who stoops to be like everyone else.”