Existing in humanity

I spent this afternoon transcribing an interview I did six months ago in a quiet mountain suburb in Quito, Ecuador. I was speaking with a fifteen-year-old girl (we will call her Yamileth) who had an eight-month-old son and was living in Casa Elizabeth, a home I have talked about frequently in other blog posts. That afternoon, she told me about her family, her life, her high school classes and her dreams for the future.


I’ve sat here this afternoon 2,000 miles away in a Starbucks. And I can’t get one simple sentence she said out of my head, “I never thought [before coming to Casa Elizabeth] that the love of God existed in humanity to help those who are ‘condemned.'”

Later this week I will share more about Yamileth’s story, but for now I will simply say, she found in Casa Elizabeth a group of people that gave unconditional, unconservative and uncondemnatory love to a pregnant fourteen-year-old.

I never thought [before coming here] that the love of God existed in humanity to help those who are ‘condemned.’

And isn’t that what God’s love should be? Every time I reflect on my summer in Ecuador I am overwhelmed by the truth that it is the radical, incomprehensible love of God existing in ordinary humans that makes all the difference. In the down-on-their-luck, victims-of-society, least of these.

But also in me.

Glimpses and Mopping

Deep thoughts for whatever reason often hit me late at night. Tonight it was while mopping the floor.

I have loved my time working in Ecuadorliving with, interviewing, and sharing the lives of five beautiful single teen moms and their childrenbut chores are definitely not my favorite part of the experience.

And twice a week it falls on me to sweep and mop the floor after dinner. So what do I usually do? Put on music, sing out, and mop away.

David Crowder’s “How He Loves” came on just as I began, and suddenly, I had a glimpse of the tremendous and extremely personal love of God:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us… How He loves us all!


I’m pouring cleaning solution on the floor, and I realized that’s how God cleans usby pouring his blood. I’m scrubbing away, and I realized likewise God sometimes has to scrub harder for the dirt to come off.

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Then I thought, these girls. Their pasts. Things that I can’t even imagine, and yet God too cleans them out of His great love and jealousy for them.

And then I realized, eclipsed by glory, how truly beautiful He is and how great is His love for us all. A God who takes abused or abandoned, or simply lost girls and brings them into a home where many of them are experiencing love for the first time. A God who has brought them to a place where they are respected so that they know they are valued. 

When He cleans and when He washes, it is out of great love and jealousy. He wants us clean! He wants us free! He wants us to know love and family and worth. He wants us to know Him. 

Wherever the Story Takes Me: My Journey as a Journalism Student

I’ve been a closet nerd most of my life. I say closet because I’ve always been the personable, class events, party-throwing friend. But I was also the friend who informed anyone who would listen what was going on in Syria. I was the one who followed politics, economics, and social issues, trying to figure out the why behind the what. So when it came to choosing a major, the answer was easy: journalism.

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Enter freshman me, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on a world of current events, social injustices, and scandal. All in a blazer and pair of fabulous heels.

Just a year and a half later, I was ready to give up. I was overwhelmed, burnt out, and not even sure I liked journalism anymore—let alone ready to dedicate my life to it. When someone said the word journalism I felt stress, boredom, and an overall feeling of dread.

Thankfully, the young rise again and love gets a second chance.

It started with my summer internship in Dallas during summer 2013, where I worked for WFAA Channel 8. I didn’t want to go. Like I said, I didn’t know if I liked journalism, and I definitely didn’t like TV news. I’ll be honest; for some reason I had a bias that TV journalism pandered and was somehow a lesser medium. I basically went because I had to do something to fill my graduation requirements.

Then I discovered the power and fun in telling a story visually. I watched these reporters who had been working in the field thirty plus years, day in and day out, find stories people cared about, ask hard questions, and do it all with excellence. I learned that each medium has its own point of view to share. However, I knew that while I enjoyed video, broadcast journalism probably wasn’t for me.

Fast forward to Spring 2014, to little ol’ me sitting in Multimedia Storytelling. I had no idea what I was walking into—a class that would stress me out, challenge me, excite me, and reignite a passion for a field that’s always been a first love.

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I’d spent this entire year wondering where I fit in journalism. Thankfully for me, the answer fell in my lap: online multimedia.

In my skewed view, I had felt limited by the different media, seeing them as competitive instead of collaborative. In this class, I discovered that in multimedia journalism there is incredible potential to tell stories and make people care. By combining text, video, infographics, links, audio, photography, etc., I can show people more fully why I get so excited about news.

And the best part? I don’t have to do it alone.

One of the biggest take aways from this class is that news at its most excellent is covered in a team. I collaborated with other students—students who were often better at writing, taking video, making infographics, or researching than me—while still keeping my personal creativity and voice. I learned from others while contributing my strengths. And the results were something I think we can all be proud of.

So the end to my story? I for one have re-fallen in love with the field of journalism.

Now when I hear the word journalism, I get excited. I once again devour current events hoping one day to cover them myself. I see local stories as a way to impact someone’s life. I am filled with passion when I face the challenge of explaining a complicated story simply and engagingly. And now, I have so many more tools to do it.

From closet nerd to hard-nosed journalist, now more than ever, I’m ready to take on the world in whatever platform or medium the story takes me.

Stay until the last play is made: A glance at photojournalism

I love studying journalism because it’s practical. My journalism classes can be intimidating, challenging, or exhilaratingbut they always seem to practice what they preach: show not tell.

Last Friday’s class was no exception. BJ Jurivich, local photographer, came in to share his expertise in photography and specifically, photojournalism.

He’s owned a his own studio for over 28 years, has taken photographs extensively for The Kankakee Daily Journal, and now teaches photojournalism as an adjunct professor.

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Jurivich’s passion for the field was as evident as his skill taking photographs, and he was eager to share that knowledge with us. He gave several great pieces of advice:

1. Photograph honestly. The most important element of a good photograph is integrity. A photograph that honestly shows the environment and context of an image has the ability to move people both emotionally and ethically.

2. If you don’t have pride for what you do, someone else will take your place. Over and over, Jurivich emphasized the importance of pride in your work as a journalist, whether that is as a reporter, photographer, writer, or editor. Pride, passion, and commitment keeps you going when the stories get tough, or the days are stressful.

3. Stay until the last play is made. He was talking specifically about sports photography, but the core of this advice is about commitment and work ethic. When you are committed, you will persist until you get the best source, image, or quotethings which make the difference between a good story and a great one.

Practical advice for a practical field. Honesty. Pride. Commitment. All summed up in one final word from Jurivich, “If you want to stay in the business, you have to always do your best.”

“Crowding the Planet:” A Look at Visuals Enhancing, Not Hindering

The package is not simple—there’s a photo gallery with captions, a story with other photographs interspersed, an accompanying short video, and a link to a larger five part series by another author—but it seems simple. Perhaps it is the stark black background in contrast to white print and vivid pictures. Perhaps it is layout (the story reads like a news story). In analyzing “Crowding the Planet” on the LA Times’ multimedia blog Framework, I noted three aspects at which they excelled their visuals were extremely engaging, the text easily read, and the placement of media drew the reader deeper into the story.

The multimedia package “Crowding the Planet” is a news story written in a personal narrative style. The main journalist, Rick Loomis, both wrote the piece and took the photographs for it. The story discusses world overpopulation and the varying issues that come with that: starvation, malnutrition, pollution, lack of resources, polluted water, etc. Loomis beings simply with the phrase, “Seven billion people,” remarking that it is an incredibly difficult number to get your head around. He then discusses how his travels for this story allowed him to see what “seven billion people” look like first hand.

Arguably, the most important piece of this package is the photo gallery. It consists of photography taken by Loomis on his travels to many countries (including India, China, Egypt, the Philistines, and Somalia). The purpose of this photo gallery lines up with the purpose of Loomis’ story: to show what seven billion people actually look like. The very first picture is of a young girl from India, probably around fourteen. She is holding her infant daughter. The background is almost completely dark. You see her and her baby in very bright orange clothing in a very obvious reference to the Virgin Mary.

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I saw this picture and simply looked at it for a good five minutes. The simplistic yet expressive photograph created not just an intellectual interest, but an emotional one as well. I scrolled through photographs ranging from barefoot children in slums, to political protests on overpopulations issues, to the modern city of Shanghai, whose pollution is so high you often can’t see buildings. What I found even more helpful was that below each picture was a meaningful caption. Even though only a sentence or two long, the captions successfully gave context and meaning to the photographs. Even after just looking through the photo gallery, I felt I had absorbed the basic tenants of the story.

The story itself was very engaging because it was told from a personal perspective. I felt as it I was visiting those countries and meeting those people for myself. It gave me statistics while putting it into perspective. It gave me personal story while still being fact filled.

About half way through the story there was a video called “The Challenge Ahead: Raising numbers, shrinking resources.” Like the photo gallery, the visual aspect of the video was beautiful and colorful. However, it also gave fresh information and perspective, adding to the concept of “showing seen billion people.”

The placement of this video and the other media elements within the story were excellent strategic moves. I’ve already discussed how starting with the photo gallery instantly captures the readers’ attention. However, by holding back their video until halfway through the story, the package keeps their audience for longer.

Interestingly enough, many multimedia packages do this the opposite way: they start with the video, followed by text, and then, when they feel the reader might get bored, insert a link to a photo gallery. The problem with this approach is that many news consumers view videos as an alternative means of reading. They watch the video instead reading the words accompanying it. However, a photograph creates an emotional connection with the words. Then, just when the reader might get bored with text (because today’s Americans get bored after about two paragraphs), they place a video. To be honest—not many Americans can pass up a good video. By placing their media in this order, photograph, text, video, Framework both extends the reading time and plays to the strengths of the particular reporter (in this case, photojournalist, Loomis).

“I felt as it I was visiting those countries and meeting those people for myself.”


This multimedia package was a very successful one and for two main reasons. First, it successfully captured difficult subjects such as disease and poverty in a way that was both beautiful and informative. Also important to note, it was done in a very respectful manner towards the human subjects. This is extremely important when dealing with social issues, such as over-population and poverty.

Secondly, each element of this package successfully added to the overall story without simply regurgitating facts, photographs, and information. As I explored, I felt like I learned more. Even with such an extensive package, the repetition was kept at a minimum. This also increased the time the news consumer stays on the site because they feel as though they are learning new information.

The main angle of Rick Loomis was to inform about overpopulation by showing what seven billion people actually looked like, through photography, video, statistics, and personal narrative, and his package was largely successful at doing that. As I explored, experienced, and learned, I realized: perhaps this is what multimedia journalism is best at. Perhaps that is why multimedia news is exploding—because it can show the story, whether that be through video, through photography, through maps, through links, in a way more engaging, informative, and understandable than media. And for someone who wants to be a journalist to inform—that fact makes multimedia journalism incredibly exciting.

Out of Context: The Social Media Conundrum

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It was late at night. I was in my apartment after a long school/work day for some mindless surfing of facebook. Lo and behold, I came across something else that night–another news article shared completely taken out of context.

And the question that comes to my mind is how long? How long will we continue to share stories, news bits, photos, and videos without checking source credibility, source agenda, or even stoping to consider the larger context of the issue?

A major issue my generation complains about is the way political sides are both divided and divisive. I wonder if one cause might be that our society uses social media to “share news” without bothering to read or understand the actual issue at hand.

The problem is two-fold. In our busy schedules we don’t take the time to read the four articles the New York Times have published about an issueyet complain when the media doesn’t give context.

What social media needs is this millennial generation to use what they know to start making intelligent posts about the news, social issues, and politics. I know out generation can. And only when this happens will I be able to skim facebook, or twitter, or whatever other social media sight, without cringing over the context conundrum.