Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John L. Allen, Jr. - All the Pope's Men

Several years ago the journalist John L. Allen, Jr. spoke at Mount Angel Seminary and shared some of the wisdom he has gained from his years of covering the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter.  His popular blog, All Things Catholic, is among the resources included on our blog.

The introduction to his book All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks will likely be a part of the journalism course this fall.  He explains that his job as a reporter is to serve as a bridge between the world of the Vatican and the English-speaking world for which he writes.

Below is an informative passage from later in this book in which Allen describes some of the background and skills he must bring to his work as a journalist in Rome.  He demonstrates the time a reporter, including our seminarians covering Mount Angel Seminary, must dedicate to his beat:

While it is true that the Vatican is hard for outsiders to grasp, this is less because it's secretive than because it's unique.  It takes time to become familiar with the system and the personnel.  Once that's accomplished, however, there's very little an enterprising observer can't ferret out.  For a reporter to understand the Vatican, one must master three "languages": Italian, the specialized language of the Catholic Church, meaning a knowledge of church history, scripture, theology, liturgy, and canon law; and the language of the Roman Curia, meaning its systems and culture.  One doesn't have to be a genius to crack these codes, but it requires time.  One had to take Vatican officials to lunch and dinner, to attend the sometimes tedious symposia and book presentations and embassy parties where contacts are made and impressions formed, to read the theological journals and news services in several languages where intelligence on the Vatican is found.  One has to have the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of theologians and church historians and diplomats handy, with the understanding that these folks are disposed to be helpful.  It's a beat where personal contacts outside official channels make an enormous difference, and all that takes time to cultivate.  It is essential, however, if journalists wish to accurately open up this world to the public (76-77).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Moving and Remodeling Hilltop Bookstores

This is a big month for the two bookstores on the hilltop, the Store at the Press and the Abbey Bookstore.  The Abbey Bookstore is moving out of the Retreat House and into the Store at the Press to create one bookstore, gift shop, and coffee house for Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.

During the moving and remodeling, the Store at the Press will be closed from June 17th to July 2nd.  Visitors are welcome to stop by and see how the work is progressing.

Beth Wells, the manager of the Store at Press, shares these photos of the remodeling work.

Watch the journalism blog and the Abbey website for more information when the Store at the Press reopens and welcomes monks, employees, and visitors to the new space.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Stories of Mount Angel Seminary

This passage by Jacqui Banaszynski from Telling True Stories will appear in the syllabus for our journalism class this fall and be a part of our first week:

Stories are our prayers.  Write and edit them with due reverence, even when the stories themselves are irreverent.

Stories are parables.  Write and edit and tell yours with meaning, so each tale stands in for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.

Stories are history.  Write and edit yours with accuracy and understanding and context and with unwavering devotion to the truth.

Stories are music.  Write and edit and tell yours with pace and rhythm and flow.  Throw in the dips and twirls that make them exciting, but stay true to the core beat.  Readers hear stories with their inner ear.

Stories are our soul.  Write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves.  Tell them as if they are all that matters.  It matters that you do it as if that's all there is.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Telling True Stories: New Journalism Resource

This week I finished reading Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer's Guide, which is from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call.

As you can see from the many page markers and post-its, this book offered me many readings and ideas for our journalism course this fall.  The Nieman Storyboard, a publication of the Nieman Foundation, is also informative and fun.  The storyboard offers three regular series, all of which explore and analyze the art and craft of storytelling.  Take a look!