Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bullock's Redemption

About six months ago I gave a rather critical review of "The Proposal," a flimsy romantic comedy. I was disgusted by Sandra Bullock's performance - and her portrayal women. My opinion on that movie has not changed.

Tonight, however, Bullock demonstrated her "serious" side of acting in "The Blind Side." She plays a soccer mom with a high dose of Southern sass. It was great to see Christ's love portrayed in a mainstream movie with high-profile actors.

To be fair, NPR's "Tell Me More" asks if "The Blind Side" isn't really another story about "The Great White Hope" (a black male saved by rich, white people).

But I digress. I still give props to Bullock for a daring and mature performance - she's even up for a few awards.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

All Religion Considered

NPR's All Things Considered does a weekly tech segment. This week I was fascinated to learn that it had a religious topic: "Religion finds home on iPhones, social networks." (You can also listen to the three-minute piece).

Reporter Jessica Alpert gave additional commentary on NPR's All Tech Considered blog (which I was able to contribute to throughout my semester at NPR's Social Media Desk).

According to Alpert, there are over 200 bible iPhone apps. And one devoted couple created the iRosary. Another app reminds Muslims of the daily call to prayer.

One of my Twitter friends, Matt Lipan, is a United Methodist pastor in Indianapolis. He's a great example of someone who's engaging people online. He has an active Twitter account, blogs about his sermons, and is launching a video/chat forum called "Outside the Walls."

Can technology bring people closer to faith (and each other) - or does it distract? On the other hand, maybe using technology and social networks can work together to bring believers (and non-believers) into more intimate conversations. That's one topic I'm interested in exploring further.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Church Facades, In Pictures

The above photo appears to be a Werth's department store. But in fact, it is a church. (There is a small, white sign that indicates it is the First Baptist Church of Hammond - in Indiana.)

Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara captured church facades - like the one above - in a recently published essay ("How the Other Half Worships") and exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Many of the photos on display featured run-down churches in city settings. But I took my time through the exhibit to read the captions. If you read carefully enough, you'd find fun nuggets of humor, like this quote about a Kentucky - Fried - Chicken - turned - Hispanic - Pentecostal - church.

Church pastor Hector Rodriguez said, "When it was selling fried chicken, it went bankrupt. Now that we praise God, it is more popular."

Some observations about the collection of photos:
  • Many churches boarded up doors and windows when not occupied.
  • The names of churches took on phrases and sentences, such as the America Come Back to God Evangelistic Church. But Publishers Weekly praised photographer Vergara (literally) on his storytelling method, saying: "Rather than holding forth about [the churches'] unusual names, he lets the clergy explain the origins and import of these names."
  • Painted murals of Jesus are colorful and common
  • At Traveler's Rest Missionary Baptist (on Racine Ave. in Chicago) hangs a neon sign about the altar: "Jesus Never Fails." How about that for a blunt message?
The photographer is a Chilean-born photo essayist, writer and documentarian who lives in New York City.

The church I've been attending has its own unique story.

Ebenezer's Coffeehouse used to be a crack house just east of Union Station. It was renovated several years back and is now a full-service coffee shop (free Wi-Fi, too!). Church offices are upstairs, and weekend services are held in the basement, which has an edgy-urban warehouse look to it.

How's that for an interesting facade?

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Today's theme, in word: catacombs.
Not sure what "catacombs" are? (From
1.Usually, catacombs. an underground cemetery, esp. one consisting of tunnels and rooms with recesses dug out for coffins and tombs.
2.the Catacombs, the subterranean burial chambers of the early Christians in and near Rome, Italy. underground passageway, esp. one full of twists and turns.

The Holy Land of America

About midday I took a field trip to the Franciscan Monastery, in northeast Washington, D.C. It's called the Holy Land of America, because the grounds represent a smaller version of the Vatican in Rome.

The monastery took me by surprise. I've seen several different cathedrals - stateside and abroa
d - but this monastery had pretty extensive and well-kept grounds. A Rosary Portico surrounded the main church. There were gardens for St. Francis, Saint Anne. There was a tomb for Mary and a grotto of Gethsemane.

The coolest part of the tour was the walk through the underground catacombs, also a representation of Rome's (nearly 90) miles of tunnels. (Note: This monastery does not have 90 miles of catacombs. I'd have gotten lost!)

The Spiritual Catacombs
I revisited the idea of catacombs in a more abstract way this evening. National Community Church held a Catacombs Service - a reflective evening of worship followed by the baptism of 18 NCC members. My friend Jess was baptized - Pastor Mark submersed her in a pool right in the worship space at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse.

I'm not entirely sure why the evening was called 'Catacombs' but if we use the definition "a passageway full of twists and turns" then that's a pretty accurate depiction. Worship is an intimate experience - a time to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going to.
"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4)

When Crisis Hits

What do citizen journalists do when crisis hits? Above is a video from This American Life, a radio show based out of Chicago. The video gives an example of what happens when covering a crisis surpasses the importance of assisting in the crisis.

Tech Crunch posted a great analysis of using media (and social media) in times of crisis. If you've been following the news, you know that this past week, thirteen lives were taken at Fort Hood in Texas.

What the article asks is: When does our "iReporting" interfere helping at the scene of a disaster? Those communication devices we carry around called "cell phones" should be used, first and foremost to get help. They can be useful during emergency responses (I'm thinking of the Mumbai bombings, 9/11 attacks, and the Iranian protests/elections).

It's a fine line for ethics - so how do we know how to use these tools in the best way, given the situation? I can't say I've ever been put to the test (I don't even have a smart phone to begin with) but it's something to think about.

The Tech Crunch article cited a tweet that read: "The poor guy that got shot in the balls" - and then included this photo of a Fort Hood soldier rolling into the hospital on a gurney.

I think citizen journalists are an important part of spreading news, but that privacy and respect are still considerations in the iReporting process.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Life Just Goes On

One of the first ways I came know Jesus more personally was through encouraging music.

I was in middle school, and a religious ed teacher from my Catholic church had given me a holiday gift - a CD from artist Steven Curtis Chapman. I'd never heard of him, but at 13, I was all about building my CD collection - back when CDs were actually cool.

I still listen to his songs pretty regularly - even though some date back to before I was even born. Here's one that really resonates - especially living in a big city (here's the best Youtube version; bonus points if you can read Spanish).

Today I watched in silence as people passed me by,
and I strained to see if there was something hidden in their eyes.
But they all looked at me as if to say,
"Life just goes on."
- "More To This Life"
Vacant eyes.
Sometimes I wonder if I will look like some of the very tired people I see on the metro every day - if my face will look just as vacant. I'm starting to understand what that Daily Grind looks - and feels - like. Time has worn their faces. Suits are wrinkled from the hustle and bustle. Mp3 players become a method of isolationism. When I see those people - and start think I'm the same way, I remember the hope I have in Christ.

Always have, always will.
If you know me, you might describe with positive adjectives, or attribute my youthful energy to naivete. But I know I'll never get bored of the idea that God saved me from myself. I just won't. That energy I have now? It will radiate to the day I die. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" - after all, that's what faith is, isn't it? (Proverbs 3:5)

Grounded. Steadfast. Secure.
It's easy to align our faith with our feelings. But if I've learned anything, it's that feelings can't be trusted. When things aren't going right for me, I know that it's not because God can't see or hear what's going on - he knows it all. And God isn't a "fair weather" friend; he's the most dependable friend I have, because I know he won't ever abandon me.

And to those listless people on the metro - I'm praying that you'll find more to this life.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

PubCamp Weekend

What does it look like when public broadcasters and social media rockstars come together? It looks like PubCamp - short for "Public Media Camp."

Folks from NPR, PBS, their affiliates (and a those from a multitude of other organizations) gathered last weekend at American University to discuss how to strengthen relationships with the public through collaborative projects.

The Format
It wasn't a conference, it was actually an "unconference" (no joke, that is what it's called). There is no committee that pre-plans every session. Participants come ready to lead a session. During the first hour, leaders plot out sessions on a large chart - based on suggestions from peers. Participants are free to move about the unconference and attend whichever sessions they like. Radical, huh? It was modeled after events like CongressCamp and PrivacyCampDC.

My Role: "I Am Sponge"
On my first day at NPR, my supervisor, Andy Carvin asked me: "Can you help me at Public Media Camp?" (Have I not had "intern" stamped across my forehead for the last 18 months?) Of course I could volunteer, I said. After all, my supervisor Andy Carvin was one of the main collaborators of the first ever PubCamp. Not to mention I find this whole idea of "unconference" plus public media absolutely thrilling!

This was going to be epic.

Following the spontaneous style of unconference, as a volunteer, I showed up - coffee in hand - to help with registration. I sat in on sessions mostly as a sponge - then as a notetaker to contribute to the Wiki.

The Sessions
Getting Seniors and the Underserved Online - This one intrigued me, simply because my family is always trying to understand what it is I do online - and why I think it's so important. Mark Ryan from a Fort Wayne station discussed his experiences helping senior citizens navigate technology. The second half featured folks from PBS Kids, who talked about interactivity for the Web's youngest audience and participants.

Using Social Media for Story Ideas - This session was led by Maria Carter of KCUR (PBS affiliate in Kansas City). I volunteered to be the official note-taker for the discussion, and my notes are on the Wiki.

iPhone Apps Contest - This highlighted the results of a contest done through iStrategy Labs called Apps for Democracy. The session highlighted the successes of that contest and asked, "How can public media harness that to help their audiences?"

Some cool apps that came out the original contest: Stumble Safely. It points out all the watering holes in town so you can have a safer bar crawl. For those looking for something more civic-minded, Are You Safe? organizes demographic information into a user-friendly format. Moving to a new town? Use the app to find out the safest neighborhoods.

I - along with nearly 300 participants tweeted all day Sunday with hashtag #pubcamp. If you follow the tag, you can see the conversations that started this weekend.

The People / Follow PubCampers!
Finally, it was great to meet people with similar interests, and fascinating jobs. Here's a few noteworthy people who were in attendance (they're famous in my book):

Craig Newmark, of Craig's List (@craignewmark)
Jonathan Coffman, PBS social media guy (@jdcoffman)
Aaron Ginoza, NPR Business Affairs Coordinator (@ninjaclectic)
Jeri Eckdahl, with NYU's School of International Affairs (@misspolitica)
Andy Carvin, NPR social media guy (@acarvin)

...Not to mention folks from the Center for Public Broadcasting, The Sunlight Foundation and neat stations like WNYC and WBUR.

Follow Up
So what happens next? What resulted from these spontaneous discussions? At the end of the unconference, the large group reported back with pros and cons. The idea is that many people from this group will take what they've learned and head up a PubCamp in their area. There are already five planned for the near future. I'm not sure of exact details, but I know several PubCampers plan to continue discussions that will result in concrete projects. For example, @misspolitica hopes to spearhead a singles group in New York City.

Since participants are so active online, there are several great reflections posted to personal blogs. "Jessie X" wrote an excellent post on her "take-away" that was "retweeted" several times on Twitter - I think, because of her great analysis of conflict between traditional jouranlists and Gen X'ers.

Bloggers from We Love DC, a local blog, gave an excellent overview of the experience on their site.

On my first day at NPR, Andy asked me, "Can you volunteer?"
Of course, I said.
Thus begins my journey into public media...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lacking in Truth

It was a spur of the moment decision. Several other interns were headed out on the town, and it included a trip to see "The Invention of Lying."

In short, it is a satirical romantic comedy -- with a surprise thematic element of anti-religion.

The Office fans know that Ricky Gervais (original star of the British version of The Office) plays the leading role of Mark Bennison, an unhappy documentary script writer. (His writing specialty is for the uneventful 13th century.)

The story takes place in an alternate universe where everyone tells the truth. This results in most of the humor in the movie.

Romantic interest Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) tells Gervais flat out, "This will probably be our last date. You are not my genetic equal. Our children would inherit 50 percent of your genes, and we'd have fat little kids with snub noses."

Gervais does not seem fazed by the blunt comments he receives day in and day out ("You're such a loser.") But his luck changes one day when heads to the bank so he can pay the landlord. The computers are down, so Gervais lies about the amount of money he has in his account. Now, since everyone tells the truth, the teller believes that he has $800 when he actually has $300.

"Of course, our computers must have made a mistake," says the teller. And with that, she hands him the excess cash.

Viewers see an inside look of Gervais' brain, whereby he finds the genius discovery of lying. He describes it to his friends as "Have you ever said something that wasn't?" His friend are, no doubt, confused. For in fact, they have never lied -- and don't know how to.

In a particularly tender moment, Gervais says goodbye to his mom; she subsequently dies in a hospital room. To make her feel better he (lies?) about what the afterlife will be like. She dies in peace - or so we believe.

But suddenly everyone wants to know what heaven is like. Thus begins a series of fibs about the afterlife to help make people feel better about life and can see how this would complicate things.

After a late night of writing the "Nine Rules" (Ten Commandments, anyone?), on the back of pizza box containers, Gervais describes to crowds of people about the "Man in the Sky" who lets you do up three bad things in your life. In heaven, everyone gets a mansion. And you can eat your favorite ice cream whenever you want.

The movie has been described as a subversive chick flick. And that it is. The romantic mush begins when Gervais tries to show Anna there is more to a person that the outward appearance. While that is a main plot, the religious (or anti-religious) undertones blare pretty loudly throughout.

News outlets have praised it, others have criticized it and called it heresy. Reaction ran the gamut:
  • The Flickcast thought it was middle of the road. "(Gervais) pokes a bit of fun at religion."
  • Focus on the Family's Plugged In was suprisingly light on the criticism of a film that outright assaults Christianity. Rather, Paul Asay extends a call for more Christian moviemakers (Gervais is a committed atheist) who might make movies that "tell all of us Christianity might not be such a lie after all."
  • Variety said Gervais' film "never tops the explosive hilarity of its first 20 minutes."
The movie does poke fun at religion. There are no churches, but instead pristine buildings called "A Quiet Place to Think About the Man in the Sky."

It demonstrates that lying can actually be useful, but also reminds viewers that there is more to beauty than meets the eye - even if you have to lie to get someone to love you.

Funny? Yes. Controversial? That too.

Friday, October 2, 2009

News About The News

Just two years old, the Newseum stands at Pennsylvania and 6th as a tribute to journalists - and to history.

The building itself is visually impressive. I'm no architect, but it's clear the building was designed to last just as long as the

I spent four hours perusing the Newseum. Just enough time to see the exhibits at a casual pace and make a stop at the gift shop for a cheesy shirt labelled "News Junkie."

The museum is strong on audio-visuals (it better be). Each floor has interactive video booths or touch screens to learn about journalistic "firsts."

The Berlin Wall exhibit displays the largest piece of the Berlin Wall (out of Berlin, that is).

The September 11 was perhaps most haunting. The display included a
crumpled radio antenna that stood atop the one of the towers. One wall displays over 100 front page covers from that fateful day. And the video that showed the events of 9/11 from the reporters' perspective.

One photographer - Bill Biggart - died during the Twin Tower attacks. His last photo was timestamped at 9:00 - the exact time the second plane hit. There's a tribute video to him. His remaining camera equipment was on display.

Most viewers left the video gallery close to tears, myself included.

Almost as if to apologize for the churning memories from the 9/11 exhibit, the museum route guides patrons to a hall hailing the music journalism that developed from Woodstock.

Anchor-wannabes can report the news from a teleprompter on a mini news set, complete with green screen and mike (Just like I did).

And, as I'd hoped, there was a brief tribute to the journalism's future: the Internet, and yes, even a brief mention of Rick Sanchez on Twitter.

There's even a great balcony view of the Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue. The Newseum staffer graciously offered to take my picture, adding that she got her picture with Conan O'Brien when he visited, too. She listed all sort of celebrities who have visited. The Newseum rakes in thousands when groups organize a private event. "You'd never recognize this place," she said. "It turns into a nightclub at night!"

The building is impressive inside and out. Just step up to the front door and read the front page of a newspaper from every state. And they're updated every day.

Of course, there exists plenty of skepticism and criticism - by journalists, no less - about this building that commemorates the work of journalists throughout history.

Newsbusters called it a "Shrine to media self-obsession."

A humorous look at the gift shop, from Fishbowl DC.

And the Huffington Post says the Newseum gives itself a "big, wet sloppy kiss" with the monument to itself. Nathan Robinson writes:

The Newseum constantly feels as if The New York Times is desperately trying to preserve its reputation in the face of competition, and rekindle the flame of a dead era. Blindsided by the Internet Age, and finally coming closer to realizing that Blogs Can Do It Better, the Times has reacted in the only way it knows how: building a gigantic monument to itself.

Love it or hate it, that's the news for ya.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Science & God

I'm in the middle of reading a book called "Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality."

Since when did science and spirituality mix? Or did they?

I was intrigued.

Luckily, the author works at NPR. So last week I emailed Barbara Bradley Hagerty and asked to meet with her. So we met in the cafe for some coffee talk.

Hagerty is NPR's religion correspondent and has spent about 10 years with the organization. She previously worked at The Christian Science Monitor.

It's funny meeting with another journalist; we like to ask questions so much that there never seems to be enough time in the day to finish talking.

Hagerty's spiritual exploration stemmed from an early upbringing as a Christian Scientist (Not to be confused with Scientology). But in her early thirties she began her own exploratation into the world of faith.

She began asking questions like “Is there a God gene?” and "Are there spiritual virtuosos?” It’s these questions and more that she explores in her 285-page book. Her adventures took her to a variety of places - including a Peyote ceremony and a meditation ceremony in Wisconsin.

Hagerty reminded me about the Religion Communicators Council chapter in Washington, D.C. (I attended the annual conference last spring in Boston - an event that kick-started this blog.)

Fast forward a week. Hagerty and I took a cab over to the the Baha'i office near DuPont circle. Hagerty was the guest speaker for the RCC (DC chapter) meeting. She explained to other religion communicators her adventures in researching the Divine. I was able to reconnect with a few folks I had met in Boston, while Hagerty signed books.

The book has been a really great read for me (I have to admit, I haven't finished it yet, but I've listened to the podcasts on NPR's website).

Hagerty's advice to me - which she wrote in my book - "To Meg: May the search bring great answers - and more questions."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Your Faith Life: Personal or Private?

I've found it intriguing to meet people who view faith in many different ways.

I've moved to Washington, D.C. for the semester while I complete an internship with National Public Radio. The other day I visited one of the many Smithsonian museums: The National Portrait Gallery. I was struck by one particular portrait, called "Untitled (Man Praying)" by photographer Jocelyn Lee.

No doubt the man knew he was being photographed. But in a way, the photo made me feel like I was intruding on something private - like I was eavesdropping on a conversation.

It made me ask myself, if someone saw me praying, what would that photo look like? Would I appear vulnerable? Would I look contemplative, or joyful? Is prayer something private or does my faith extend outside my four walls?

I have devout friends who firmly believe their faith is a private matter between God and an individual.

Others are more open about their faith and have no problem discussing the topic with others.

Yet others risk their lives for the sake of their faith; holding to it so firmly that they face death for their beliefs. Rifqa Bary, 17, has gone to court because she says her father threatened to kill her after she converted from Islam to Christianity.

What about you? Do you prefer your faith to be private or are okay "going public"?

Monday, August 24, 2009

LinkedIn [To The Church]

When I came to college I didn’t think I’d be going to church every Sunday. But when all that changed, I found out one thing: It’s hard to stay put at church when you're a college kid.

You've got holiday breaks, weekend trips, and the potential semester abroad. Summers are spent at home, traveling or completing an internship. This makes connecting to a church kind of like visiting long-distance relatives. You know there’s a familial connection, but it can be spotty at best.

I’ve made it a point to stay in a bible study at school, stay plugged in with campus ministries, and keep a group of friends who are supportive. But what about the local body of Christ? There's something to be said for mixing with people of all ages - hearing their stories - and working side-by-side on service projects.

Sunday's message at Harvest Bible Chapel hit just that topic. The current series is "United We Stand."

One song from Casting Crowns (and 1 Cor. 12:12-26) echoes my desire for a fuller church experience.

If we are the Body

Why aren't His arms reaching?

Why aren't His hands healing?

Why aren't His words teaching?

Within the context of a church, people have the power to do things. To build strong relationships. And church is not just about bricks and mortar, either.

My friends at the United Methodist Church launched the "What If" campaign this year that demonstrates how church is a verb - not just a noun.

So even if you are socially networked in cyberspace, are you physically "LinkedIn" at church?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Risky Friendship

Watch CBS Videos Online

This is what happens when you take a chance on another human being. And not only that, it's beautiful storytelling.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Disciple Spotlight: Ashley

Ashley leaves for New Zealand in September. She's a friend from ResLife and Campus Crusade, but our friendship has developed far beyond those activities.

This summer she invited me to be part of a bible study. A mixed age group of college women gathered every Friday on campus to study from Beth Moore's "Stepping Up" study.

Her next adventures takes her to New Zealand to be part of a long-term mission project with Campus Crusade. I was going to tell her story, but she tells it her own way quite well!

When I was a freshman in college I became a Christian in college. The Lord used many people and circumstances to show me His abundant love for me. It was through Campus Crusade for Christ that I was able to get involved in Bible Studies, be mentored by older women, and to share my faith with others. It was in this environment that the Lord truly drew me closer to Him and opened my eyes to the rest of the world's need for Him.

New Zealand is the 3rd most politically liberal country in the world, one where truth is relative and because of that hope is scarce and apathy is the norm. This is evident in the high suicide and domestic abuse rate. These are only just a few of the reasons that I feel called to share the gospel on college campuses in New Zealand's capital city.

Because Campus Crusade for Christ has no central funds for paying salaries and missionary expenses I must find a team of 15 people who can give $100 a month or some other amount to support the ministry.

If you are interested in hearing more about my heart for the Kiwi's (New Zealand-ers) or if you have questions about the ministry and how we specifically impact students in New Zealand please email me at If you are interested in giving, you can visit my ministry website.

In Him,
Ashley Kohl

Please be praying for Ashley as she embarks on this year-and-a-half journey...halfway around the world. I am so proud of her courage and know she will change lives.

Disciple Spotlight: Michelle

Here's another great disciple in my life; she even formally discipled me!

Michelle will join the Campus Crusade staff at the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO) this fall. Michelle was an integral part of my faith at Butler. 

As my discipler (mentor) and bible study leader, she has a gift for leadership and being a patient teacher. That's not surprising, though; she majored in education at Butler University, and has a ballet background (that's where all her patience comes from!).

She'll be leading the freshmen and sophomore women's bible studies on campus and developing a branch of CCC geared specifically towards Greek students. She joins Elizabeth McKinney, a former CCC staff person at Butler.

In her prayer letter to me, she explained the challenges students face at college:

"In the midst of academic achievement there is a competition for students' hearts - a battle of the flesh against the will of God...there is a great need for light to be shed in the middle of this darkness."

Michelle has been an awesome impact in my life. She is direct and honest, and keeps me accountable in my actions. I know she will do the same with students at University of Missouri.

You can contact Michelle at and also give online.

Friday, August 14, 2009

SOS: The Internet is "Down"!

On Wednesday morning I woke up to discover the Internet was down. The service provider wouldn't be able to come out to the house for at least 24 hours. My mom snickered and said, "Are you going to be okay?"

Regaining my composure, I said yes, of course I'd be fine. It was only 24 hours. Surely I wouldn't miss anything vital. But while waiting in the doctor's office that afternoon, I realized: I didn't need the Internet -- I could text my Twitter update. (Thank goodness the 'rents caved into an unlimited texting plan). So I did just that.

Throughout the day, though, I felt disconnected. I couldn't see my home page (NPR), nor could I read up on what my peers in the Twitterverse were doing. And when I wanted to find out who that actor was on that particular TV-show....I could not search the Internet Movie Database. While this all seems very trivial, I had to wonder: what would life be like without the Internet?

What are your thoughts? How could you handle 24 hours without the Internet? What would you do with your "free time"? Serious, trivial, ironic - I'd love to hear it all!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Disciple Spotlight: Helena

This week features a series of disciplers in my life - those who are actively pursuing the Great Commission. They are dear friends, mentors and sisters in Christ.

Helena is a pharmacy student at Butler. It's one of the most renowned programs in the nation, and requires six years of hard work and dedication. But luckily, Helena incorporates a healthy dose of comedy into her daily life. I rarely see her without a smile :)

While our college peers interned, worked and enjoyed vacations, Helena took part in 3 different mission trips. One involved working with Christian medical professionals. 

The program is called Whole Person Care Preceptorship, and includes 4 weeks of training medical students on the spiritual care of patients. It is joint program through Campus Crusade for Christ and the Medical Strategic Network

Helena said: "It was really cool to see how our career is our ministry and that patients not only need spiritual care, but many of them want it and were more than happy to talk to us."  

She learned to take the 'spiritual history' of a patient and to "identify the laments of the soul." The students learned how to pray with patients by shadowing Christian doctors. 

"Talking to patients was scary and cool all at the same time, but it was great to practice what we were learning."

Sure hope I can have a pharmacist or doctor in the future who cares about me that much!

Helena writes her own blog, The Adventures of Torpe. She loves Jesus, Diet Dr. Pepper, and kittens.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Images of Summer

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Summer on the Knoll

Knoll (noun): A small rounded hill, a hillock.

This was a summer of many firsts and lasts. My first summer living in Indianapolis, my first experience at a TV station, my last summer as a college kid.

I had the chance to live where many Butler students call "The Knoll." While it may sound like a ritzy golf course, it's simply the off-campus housing neighborhood that surrounds Butler University. In fact, while the street is called Berkley Road, the street is actually paved with grass (see photos in my next blog post)!

Why was this summer so fun? Maybe because it was summer, or because I got to work with journalists everyday or because - as my mom would say - I was just "enjoying my twenties." I guess it was a combination of all of that. Here are some of my favorites memories from Summer '09, in review:

1. Friends. I got to see old friends, go on bike rides along the canal, take picnics with my RA gal pals, build up friendships with roommates, and bond over home-cooked meals, many cups of tea and a midnight showing of Harry Potter No. 6. 

2. Life on Berkley Road (aka The Knoll). After three years of dorm-style living, I had the chance to stretch out a bit. Living in a house exposed me to the joys of a kitchen and the not-so-joyous calls to the landlord, clogged toilets and many "friendly" critters.

3. The Intern Experience. I worked in the 25th largest television market this summer. I met and worked with seasoned journalists. The experience opened my eyes to the wonders of television journalism. In the process I got to meet a few celebrities, interview fellow Butler colleagues and help the Web team with Twitter and Facebook endeavors. My work aired on the evening and daybreak newscasts and I developed a portfolio reel of 10 news packages. It was exhausting and always busy - but definitely rewarding. 

4. Creating an internal GPS. Whether scouting out a story for WISH or visiting friends around the state, I've come to develop a stronger sense of direction - although I still can't always tell N/W/S/E on my own. My many adventures took me to a wedding in Attica, a few outdoor concerts in Fishers, and various news stories in Edinburg, Columbus and Carmel.

5. Field trips. Living in Indianapolis this summer was like a series of mini field trips. I had an extended period of time to enjoy the beautiful campus, eat Yats (a local Cajun favorite) and venture to new places like the White River State Park. The creative spirit in me indulged in many trips to Mass. Ave - the theatre and arts district of Indianapolis. Another guilty pleasure was the library. I not only learned about borrowing entire TV series (I highly recommend "Veronica Mars"), but I got to enjoy the snazzy new downtown location that feels like a hip new museum more than a city library. 

My summer was jam-packed. It was flavorful. Freeing. And, if you couldn't tell, it was fun.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Indy In August

Apparently August is when the really cool events happen in Indianapolis. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer here, I have to leave next week to prepare for my semester in Washington, D.C.

Therein lies my task for you, dear readers.

The following are some extremely cool events, and I need you to enjoy them for me, since I can't. Okay? Here we go:
  • Indiana State Fair (August 7 - 23). I have always wanted to go to the state fair; I guess I have fond memories of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. This year they're serving up Kelly Clarkson, MercyMe, Keith Urban and Jason Mraz as just a few of the headliners. Plus there's the 4-H culture. Side note: growing up in the Chicago suburbs does not prepare you for any intelligent discussion of 4-H, so please don't judge.
  • Indy Fringe Festival (August 21-30). My amazing roommate Christina is knee-deep in her work as an intern for the festival. If you see her at this ten-day theatre fest, give her a high-five for the program she designed. She's even spearheading a "radical marching band" that will perform. Insane creativity is sure to be afoot. It's happening on Indy's eclectic Mass Ave - a haven for the spectrum of artists.
  • Society of Professional Journalists National Convention (August 27-30). This is my first year as a member of SPJ, and of course the 100th anniversary convention is being hosted right down the street, and headquarters are in Indy. Colleague Alyson Ahrns and myself just started up Butler's chapter this past fall. 
  • Blog INDIANA (August 13-15). This is something I stumbled upon while sifting through Twitter. But the conference sure sounds cool. And when social media guru Brad J. Ward is speaking, you know its going to be good. Blogging + social media + socializing = amazing.
I am wincing as I write this - I cannot believe what I'm missing out on! But there you have it. 

Now your schedule is packed with awesome things to do, see and hear. Go! Register! Buy your tickets! I'll expect a full report when it's all over.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Too Much Girl Talk

Excuse me while I stand on my media literacy soapbox for a moment.

I can't tell you how many times I seen the same plot line delivered over and over again. You know exactly what I mean:

Boy meets girl.
Girl is high-strung and works as a [fill in glamorous career].
Boy must "tame" her to win her over.
Girl realizes error of her ways and falls madly in love with boy.
The end.

Here are a few variations on that plot: 27 Dresses, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 10 Things I Hate About You, When Harry Met Sally, The Wedding Planner, You've Got Mail, 50 First Dates, The Holiday, Made of Honor, The Devil Wears Prada catch my drift.

I will openly admit I own several of these movies. But what do they offer? A brief escape of reality. Unrealistic expectations about men. Guidelines on how men and women should behave in a relationship.

If I took anything away from MDA245 - Media Literacy it is this: movie companies will continue to write the same "formula" of movies because it sells. Not because it is original.

The chick flick/romantic comedy is one such formula.

I fault myself for not being more adventurous in my movie screenings. But when you gather with a group of gal pals, it's so easy to choose the classic "chick flick" because it seems like something "everyone" would like.

Watching a chick flick is equivalent to making Easy Mac. You're too lazy to try anything that might be too challenging or might not taste the same.

A series of events emboldened me to write this particular post:

1. "Confessions of a Shopaholic." At a dinner party, the entertainment was "Shopaholic," a movie based a popular novel. I had vaguely recalled seeing previews and thinking: "We're in a recession. What a time to promote credit card debt." The movie appeared to portray women as ditzy and focused only on shopping endeavors. The movie did have a good message in the end, but went about it all the wrong ways.

2. "The Proposal." At the invitation of a friend, I agreed to see one of this summer's chick flicks. Was I expecting too much because I'm a fan of Sandra Bullock? Yes. Same plot line, different actors. Must a woman always be type-A, control freak and devoid of any romantic history in order to find her one true love?

3. This movie review. This put the nail in the coffin. NPR called "The Ugly Truth," very simply, "not a pretty picture." I couldn't agree more. I haven't seen the Katherine Heigl movie, and I certainly don't plan to.

So why must I stand by and accept the movies advertised to me? While movies - and entertainment in general - are essentially a form of escapism, this does not mean we have to be fed the same story over and over again. I know I won't.

Carolyn McCulley wrote in the webzine Boundless: "The tool or the medium is not the problem. The content or the message — and the way our hearts respond — is the problem."

Consider Proverbs 4:20-27

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27 ESV)

So how about going for something different the next time around? Try an independent film, foreign film or just a different genre altogether. Fireproof does a great job of demonstrating the real "work" (read: romance) that goes into a relationship.

I'm going to bet it will taste better than the Easy Mac.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interns Spur Discussion

"What is the future of journalism?"

The summer interns at National Public Radio wanted to know.

And after three years of journalism and media arts classes - including law, ethics and literacy - I felt like I had a lot to say. So yesterday I submitted an essay in an attempt to answer this question.

To my delight, the essay was published this morning at the "NPR: Intern Edition" blog under the section "Consider This Journal".

But I'm not the only who had something to say. As of today, almost twenty aspiring journalists have posted their thoughts. They have posted theories, business models and rationale for attending graduate-level journalism programs.

The NPR interns also post their experiences on the blog site, and produce an entire multimedia show that is set to 'go live' in about a week. Want to keep up with these cool kids? You can also follow them on Twitter (You have an account now, ever since you read my last post, right?), @NPRinterns.

And while we're talking about NPR, check out their Web site on Sunday. That's when they reveal their new redesign.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twitter Turmoil

Ever feel left out of the digital conversation? Stumped by status updates?

Status updates are used on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But what is their purpose? Sure, it's a way to "keep in touch" with friends and family. But then updates can turn into mini snippets of bragging material. "Laying out in Mexico! This is the life!" or "Headed off to an awards my honor." 

And then there's a different kind of update. I'll call it the "members only" status.

You read a twitter status and can almost hear the Twitterer saying, "Oh, sorry, guess you had to be there. You missed out. How can you not know that [insert clever, obscure factoid or joke here.]"

I recently perceived the effects of my Twitter updates (which are automatically forwarded to Facebook). My Facebook friends responded to one of my updates with mass confusion.

A few days ago, I was participating in a live chat with the Poynter Institute, a non-profit that trains journalists. I was excited to ask questions, which could be submitted via Twitter. So, employing my clever Twitter abilities, I posted a question that looked like this: "#poynterchats What the best way to keep in touch with former internship contacts?" 

If that looks like a foreign language to you, read on.

In my example above, "#poynterchats" was a search term I created while doing a live chat with the Poynter Institute. Poynter suggested I add this prefix to my twitter status so they could search for my status and then post it in the live conversation.

That day two Facebook friends who commented on the post because they were confused. "I never really understand what your status is about. Is that normal or am I just being really stupid?"

Yay for reality checks. It reminded me that not everyone uses Twitter, and therefore not everyone knows why @, #, and RT are used in sentences. 

One follower, @copyblogger, said in a post, "How about you add value instead of engaging in veiled "conversation" you mistakenly think makes you look good?"

Well gosh darnit, he's right. The Twitter elitist in me needs to think more carefully about the "conversations" I have with others in the so-called Twitterverse. It may make sense to me, but not to others. And then, this vehicle created to help with communication, is actually putting up walls.

Duncan Alney, of Firebelly Marketing in Indianapolis, posted some social media etiquette tips on his company's Web site. Not a bad thing to review. 

Brief Twitter Jargon Decoding

@ - place this symbol in front of a person's Twitter name. Use this when you want to mention something to that person. It's a direct, but public, message.

# - place this symbol in front a word. Then if you search that word in the search box, your update will be included. This helps define "trending topics" which are the most tweeted about subjects on Twitter. 

RT - means "retweet." I use RT when I see a status I like (usually with a cool link) and want to share the info to others. 

Links - when you post a link into Twitter, it compresses (remember, there's a 140-character limit), so the URLs look funny. For example:

And there it is, in a nutshell! Feel free to post comments or other questions you have.