Read news, start the riots

I chose journalism on a whim.

My high school, though one of the larger ones in the state of Oklahoma, did not have a newspaper. If I was awake and not busy studying, I would sometimes catch the headlines of the local news at 10 p.m. But really my only regular exposure to printed publications came from the small stack of gossip magazines my grandmother always kept stacked on her end table.

Somehow, though, the decision when it came to choosing a major was simple. I loved to write, I loved talking with people and I wanted to use both to make an impact in this world. And when I met with the journalism professor during my visit day at John Brown University, he assured me that these were exactly the things I would do.

Freshman year brought with it a first-round of news writing classes, and I quickly learned the importance of remaining up-to-date on the latest headlines. I spent countless hours flipping through USA Today, browsing the websites of the BBC and the New York Times and watching all sorts of programming on CNN.

The WikiLeaks scandal. Kim Jong Un taking control of North Korea. Riots in Greece and the rest of Europe over the looming financial crisis. The dramatic rescue of 33 Chilean miners. The engagement of Will and Kate.

Every hour a new story broke. It was never-ending, it was exciting and it was overwhelming.

I had never before been so exposed to the human experience: its joys and its agonies, its successes and its failures. I was left only to wonder how I could help.

As journalists, and especially as Christian journalists, we are taught that sharing stories is a redemptive act – something with which I wholeheartedly agree. Everyone has heard the argument that the pen is mightier than the sword. Words are powerful.

But then again, so are actions.

What, then, if we could yield both?

Almost a year ago, I discovered RYOT, an organization whose tagline is, “Become the News.” Their website offers national and international stories that cover everything from politics, to sports, to science, to entertainment.

My favorite feature of RYOT is packaged on each page in a small gray rectangle called the action box. The staff connects each story with a relevant non-profit or social movement.

A seemingly insignificant graphic gives readers a way to get involved in the issues they care about — through a donation, a signature on a petition or a share on social media.

Through the efforts of RYOT, we are given the opportunity to become more than passive bystanders in our crazy, hectic, wonderful world. We can go one step further. We can become active, knowledgeable, benevolent global citizens.

“We are often moved by what we read and hear, but until now, we’ve struggled to find ways to participate, to actually reach out and change the news,” explains the organization’s website.

As Christians, we are called to go out into the world. Read the news to know your world, start a riot to change it for the better.