If you were to spend one morning next week visiting the editorial offices of the Amsterdam News in New York City, and then the next morning the offices of WORLD magazine in Asheville, N.C., you would swear the two publications had nothing at all in common.
And you would be wrong.
Different as the two publications might be-and they are indeed very different-there is a thread that connects them. That strand is called the World Journalism Institute.
WJI got its start six years ago when I began to worry about where WORLD magazine was going to get its reporting, writing, and editing staffers for the future. Under the leadership of editor Marvin Olasky, WORLD practiced a distinctive kind of journalism. It was journalism interested in reporting the truth, but doing so with an allegiance to the Truth as well. It was a kind neither understood nor supported by traditional journalism schools in America. To develop such understanding and support, I reasoned, we needed to establish our own little educational enterprise.
To do that, I turned to a long-time friend and member of our board of directors, Robert Case. At the time, Bob was running a business in the state of Washington, while teaching philosophy at a local state university. He was both an entrepreneur and an academic-a combination this vision very much needed.
Little did I know then what an entrepreneur Bob Case would be-or how his energy would stretch my original vision.
For within WJI's first two years, we found ourselves dealing not just with a handful of WORLD magazine wannabes, but with scores of Christian young men and women eager to discover a legitimate path to journalistic service with mainstream newspapers. WJI started courses in New York City, in Washington, D.C., and in Los Angeles.
And as they completed WJI's course of study, these able students began finding their way to paying jobs with a growing variety of America's newspapers and other media. All this new direction called for revamping WJI's original curriculum, since the editors of these mainstream newspapers had journalistic expectations quite different from those of the editors at WORLD. Could we be true to our original distinctive calling and still compete in this vocational marketplace?
Such has been the sharp challenge to WJI, and to its director, Bob Case. But ironically, the very nuances of that test have proven an unexpected boost to WJI over the past year. National publicity-on National Public Radio, in the Columbia Journalism Review, on the Canadian Broadcasting Network, in Christianity Today, and on a wide-reaching internet discussion-has repeatedly highlighted WJI's determination to remain distinctively Christian while at the same time equipping its graduates to be trustworthy craftsmen with the news.
Which brings me back to the Amsterdam News in New York City. Among its staff of interns this fall is Kanette Worlds, who last spring attended a WJI first-of-its-kind conference for African-American Christian journalists, and who then went on to attend WJI's July course in Los Angeles. Kanette is one of two dozen WJI graduates to be provided generous internship stipends this year intended to open employment doors at secular media companies.
The strategy is working. Personally shepherded by WJI's director Bob Case, WJI graduates even at this early date have found internships and/or employment at more than 60 different media outlets (for a complete list visit www.worldji.com /media.asp). They have been equipped by WJI not just with competency skills that have prompted their bosses to come back to say: "Send us some more like that!" Beyond that, they have been equipped with an understanding of how best to conduct themselves as Christians in sometimes profoundly secular settings. And as WJI grads, they are part of a continuing network to keep touching base with their peers.
In this exciting role, WJI has moved far beyond its original vision. A few of its graduates will come back to use their talents and experience for WORLD magazine itself. But most will seek to apply their competencies as faithful Christians in largely secular settings.
As such, these young people and this program deserve your support. You know and appreciate WORLD's distinctive journalistic voice. Let me also enthusiastically recommend World Journalism Institute as an appropriate target for your generous, end-of-the-year, tax-deductible gifts. A handy addressed envelope is attached for your use.
Take it from me, and learn from my own experience: The results might be substantially larger than what you intended.