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Panel of journalists exhorts students to shine their light

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In a panel discussion over lunch at the 2002 Baptist Press National Student Journalism Conference, six experienced journalists gave insights into the world of print and broadcast media and said there is a place for Christians in an industry that suffers from a war of profit versus good journalism.

Panelists were Don Boykin, deputy managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Gary Fong, director of editorial graphics technology for the San Francisco Chronicle and Pulitzer Prize board member; Colleen Rudy, press secretary for the mayor of San Diego; Michael Chute, former foreign correspondent and communications professor at William Carey College; and Dan Howell, senior anchor at WDSI Fox 61 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Matthew Melton, communications professor at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., moderated the discussion.

Much of the discussion involved whether advertisers and big business affect what is reported and what is not.

“Airwaves used to belong to the people. Now they belong to the corporations,” said Howell, who has been in the news business for more than 20 years. “Individually owned stations are now the exception rather than the rule, and most stations are owned by conglomerates or corporations. There are demands that we must be profitable or we will get cut off.”

The discussion also turned to the importance of Christians entering secular journalism.

“During the stormiest time in a newsroom, when news and decisions are changing and being made, for a Christian to be there as a calm [influence] — as a lighthouse — people will recognize that,” said Fong, who knows of only three other Christians where he works. “Colleagues knew I was different, but they didn’t know why until they asked, and I was able to tell them it’s because I’m a Christian.”

“It’s vital for Christian journalists to be in secular markets,” said Rudy, who was a television news reporter in San Diego before taking her current position in the mayor’s office. “We’re the only light to other reporters and photographers and it’s vital that you let the light shine. They’re certainly not shy about letting you know what they’re up to, telling dirty jokes, and what they’ve been doing the night before.”

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  • Sara Horn