WORLD JOURNALISM INSTITUTE
“In previous ages, concepts of truth and discourse communicated through words were the accepted medium of human interaction. Today, however, the nature of truth and the role of words are in dispute. We are witnessing a massive breakdown of confidence in verbal communication,” writes Dr. Robert Case II, Director of the World Journalism Institute (WJI), in the group’s mission statement. “Marshall McLuhan is right; words have become obsolescent. In our post-modern world, language is used not to reveal and enlighten but to conceal, deceive, and obfuscate. Symbols are more important than words.”
In place of the Word and words, “in our post-modern age, non-verbal communication increasingly clamors for attention, and anti-intellectual and existential approaches to life concentrate on sound and imagery to secure emotive rather than cognitive response,” Case writes.
The WJI aims to place young Christians, typically college students or recent college graduates, into the mainstream media. “We tell our students, ‘This is for the mainstream media. It’s not for Focus on the Family, Christianity Today,'” said Case in an interview. “We tell them they must learn to work with other, non-Christian people.”
“The World Journalism Institute provides college-level courses in journalism with transferable academic credit to many colleges and universities, with the view to place aspiring evangelical journalists in the mainstream newsrooms of this country,” says the group. “To that end, the institute holds four multi-week courses annually: January (Los Angeles), May (Washington, D.C.), June (New York City) and July (Asheville, N.C.). Furthermore, the institute provides extensive paid internships with mainstream newspapers for its most promising graduates.”
After the four-week courses, “they go back to their home base, wherever that may be, and write four stories they can try to get published in a local or regional publication,” said Case. “The really ambitious kids, the serious kids, will leave our courses with three or four published. So it’s very practical career-wise.” The most promising young people are awarded six-month paid internships at different publications, said Case, which can be deferred until after graduation. “Our program is not for hobby writers,” he said. “It’s for serious journalists.”
Non-profit WJI, which has an evangelical orientation, draws students from conservative Protestant schools plus a few others including “a small group of Roman Catholic schools, Christendom, Thomas More, and Thomas Aquinas,” he said. “We have a mailing list of 200 self-identified Christian colleges in this country.”
WJI’s faculty includes a large number of working journalists and writers. “Some faculty members ask not to be listed,” said Case. “They work at the Los Angeles Times, AP, the Washington Post.” One Christian who works at the Post says of the paper, “it’s a hostile environment.” Recently appointed Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at WJI was Nancy Pearcey, wife of former HE Managing Editor J. Richard Pearcey, and “one of America’s best-known evangelical apologists,” according to WJI. “Mrs. Pearcey studied under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, followed by graduate work in history of philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.”
Schaeffer, a 20th Century Reformed apologist, took an intellectual and philosophical approach to religion that Case said is often lacking among evangelicals today. He also said that the Christian sub-culture is failing to influence American culture at large. “I think our culture is pretty ineffectual in the broader culture, and the broader culture gets worse and worse,” said Case.
Case said that WJI held its first program in summer 1999. “We first started planning it in 1998,” he said. “I was teaching philosophy at a state college in Washington state. I was on the board of World magazine. We were sitting around lamenting the state of Christian journalism in this country.”
So now Case is doing something about it. He said that 80 to 100 kids go through the WJI program each year. “We are the largest independent school of journalism for Christians,” he said. He said that WJI has met little resistance to accepting its interns on the part of mainstream media publications. “We did have an editor at the Pasadena Sun [a pseudonym for an actual publication] who was homosexual. He told us, ‘I’m not going to have anything to do with you Christians.'” He said that his students have a typical journalistic problem. “Overwhelmingly, our students want to be editorialists. They want to become columnists. They want to pontificate. We tell them, ‘You have to earn that right,'” said Case.
WJI may be reached at 85 Tunnel Rd., P.O. Box 2330, Asheville, N.C. 28802 (828-232-5436; fax: 828-232-5250; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.worldji.com).