Opinion

A letter from the Threefold Advocate Adviser

I love stories that celebrate ordinary people doing courageous things, stories that bring home events from far away, stories that provide context to issues we all struggle to understand.

I also appreciate stories that surprise, delight or shock – “Hey, Mabel!” stories, as they’re known in the newspaper business. As The Threefold Advocate’s new adviser, I look forward to reading all of these stories about people, events and issues at John Brown University.

I am a second-year assistant professor here, new to a Christ-centered work environment and excited to be able to integrate faith in my classes.

I came to higher education from a long career in newspapers, a secular industry with a noble calling. I worked as a reporter, editor, columnist and opinion writer all over the country. Reporting assignments took me from a farm in North Carolina, where I became acquainted with Brangus cattle, to Darrington, Washington, where I wrote about a lovely community tradition: When someone in the town died, residents organized a potluck dinner for the mourners.

I covered courts and schools, state government and politics, plane crashes and hurricanes, but I always looked for stories that showcased the best of humanity, stories of people overcoming adversity with the help of their faith, family and community. Sometimes, those stories lifted spirits. Sometimes, they exposed wrongdoing.

Years ago, as an editor for the Chicago Tribune, I dispatched a reporter to write a sweet story about a college class embracing a little girl whose mom had died and whose dad was fighting in Iraq. Except: The class’s friendship was based on a lie. The reporter’s work revealed that the little girl and her dad were actors playing roles invented by a college student starving for attention. The ruse had gone on for months, duping an entire campus eager for a good-news story.

Journalism is more than human interest stories. It’s ferreting out motives. It’s keeping tabs on how governments spend taxpayers’ money and how public officials determine where to build a road or a school. It’s finding out where candidates stand on tough issues. It’s exposing conflicts of interest and other misdeeds by people in power.

Particularly in these days of fake news and assaults on the media, it’s checking and re-checking facts to ensure that what’s published is the truth.

At The Threefold Advocate, we are Christian journalists. That doesn’t mean we do public relations for the university. It doesn’t mean we shy away from difficult, complex, even tragic stories. When we follow Christ and follow journalism’s principles, our roles complement each other; they don’t conflict.

Marshall Allen, a reporter for the independent nonprofit news organization ProPublica, described it this way:

“The Bible endorses telling the truth, without bias,” he wrote recently. “So does journalism. The Bible commands honesty and integrity. In journalism, your reputation is your main calling card with sources and readers. . .God calls us to publish the truth, not propaganda.”

If you know of an interesting story, get in touch with us. If you have a complaint about the paper, email me. If you have questions, stop by. Let’s chat. The staff of the Threefold is working hard to tell you what’s happening on campus. Our journalists are looking for interesting people to feature. They want to help you understand how global stories affect our community.

They may even slip a story in now and then that causes you to sputter coffee as you yell to your roommate: “Hey, Mabel! Come here! You have to see this!”

 

Candy Hatcher Gregor is an assistant professor of Communication. cgregor@jbu.edu, (479) 524-7177.