Saturday, February 28, 2009

A book looks at the life of Mary Magdalene

In The Towerlight's article Better Read Than Dead: 'Mary, Called 

Magdalene' a secular look at sacred tales, Jennifer Tanko reviews the 625 page novel by Margaret George that examines the life of Mary Magdalene in the bible.  She confronts common misconceptions about Mary and tries to give a more accurate depiction of her life before, during and after the life of Jesus.  

Although I have not read this book myself, I have read the stories of the bible about her and have heard a few of the conspiracy-type theories surrounding these people.  I still stand firm to my own beliefs and base my judgments from the bible, but it is always interesting to me to hear other people's views and interpretations.  Whether I disagree or not, it helps me analyze a person's ways of thinking, how they analyze things and try to prove to themselves they are right.

Tanko's analysis of the book was a little broad for me.  I think she could have given more support on exactly what Margaret George says about certain conspiracies or maybe more examples of Mary's life that are sometimes inaccurately perceived.  

The lengths of the paragraphs were also a bit lengthy and I almost didn't feel like reading the full article because of this.  I also think she could have found more balance of the different views with supporting evidence.  The paragraph about Mary's possession, although a good example, doesn't seem to add anything for me because I haven't read it so it probably could have been taken out.

This was a good example of a student on campus expressing her spiritual beliefs.  She doesn't go into detail what religion she is or anything like that, but she lets the reader know that she is knowledgeable of some of the stories of the bible, specifically Mary Magdalene, and she stands firm in her opinions, regardless of what Margaret George has to say in the novel. 

Photo courtesy of Google images


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who shall speak?

My first feature story is going to be a profile on a student at Towson University who is open to sharing their spiritual beliefs.  I'm going to highlight their beliefs and how they express them, what they do in their everyday life that will help relate them to the readers, possibly something out of the ordinary about them, their opinions of Towson's religious groups and opinions on other students' expression or lack thereof.  

I'm still making some final decisions about who this will be, but I'm quite excited about starting off with an interview.  I will most likely arrange to meet the student somewhere relaxed and low key, hit record on my Olympus and listen to all he or she has to say.  This is a profile of them expressing their beliefs to me.  Once I start the interview, I think I can feel out what kind of angle I want to go with and start asking more direct questions to form support for my story. 

Pictures will most likely be of the student doing something that expresses their spirituality and possibly of them doing something that means a lot to them in life to connect with the readers. 

I’m super excited to get started and just go with this!  Any other thoughts on my ideas or questions you might want me to ask let me know. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feature full o' goodies

I've been doing some brainstorming on how I'd like to approach my feature story.  This story needs to be a treat, full of goodies for my readers to feast their eyes upon.  I may even add a little twist to my angle on the story so my readers won't know what to expect.    
These are my ideas so far:
1. Profile Towson CRU and what their organization is all about
2. Profile a religious leader/figure on campus: Larry Kelly, Campus director for CRU; Kenneth Krivitzky, Campus director for Hillel.

Any other ideas, feel free to comment or talk to me.  If you know anyone with a great story about their spiritual expression and who's open to talking about it let me know!  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Perfectly packaged

Searching through The New York Times, I stumbled upon this photo. I first assumed it was just an advertisement.  It led me to reading the whole story, which was a perfect example of The Wall Street Journal formula. 

The story begins with a narrative lead introducing Terry Gardner to the readers through a story about why she shaved her head.  It includes a quote, the message that Air New Zealand wanted to send through these temporary tattoos, and it also sets up the rest of the story that goes more in depth about the company, its actions and other companies’ efforts at similar endeavors.

I felt the fourth paragraph served as the nut graph for this article.  After reading it through, the last line is what really drew me in to read the rest of the story: “when co-workers or strangers behind them in the grocery store line asked about New Zealand, they could speak enthusiastically right off the top of their heads-so to speak.”

The rest of the story is full of support material including quotes by contestants who went through the experience, examples of a variety of similar marketing campaigns, successes and failures of these campaigns and a little history about tattoo-related ads.

Finishing off with another anecdote and quote by Terry Garner, the story is wrapped up quite nicely fulfilling the criteria of a perfectly packaged Wall Street Journal formula. 

Photography from The New York Times

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spiritual or religious?

Walking into my Anthropology class on Monday, I quickly plopped my bearings by my desk and straightened myself to make an announcement.  While grabbing my stack of surveys and explaining to the students that it was for my blog, I handed them out with a smile and then sat back to observe. 

As I watched, some students fidgeted in their seats (did this make them uncomfortable?) and others had their pens racing with each answer. In the end, I received 15 students’ responses on how they defined the terms “spiritual” and “religious,” and which term they classified themselves to be.  

The majority agreed that being spiritual meant believing in a higher power or being in touch with yourself or nature.  Ben Pfeffer, anthropology major, said it was “one’s feelings of connectedness with a non-physical, even ethereal plane.” 

To these students, being “religious” also meant believing in a higher power.  The other majority said it is following a set of guidelines such as praying or worshipping and regularly practicing in a form of organized structure like attending a church or bible study. 

By these definitions, I would say that I am both because I believe in God and I also pray and attend church/bible study weekly to keep my relationship with God strong.  Most of the students considered themselves both or just spiritual.  I feel many students are still trying to figure out what they believe and the years spent in college are an opportune time for that.  You shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to express what you believe.  So next time you see Towson Hillel hosting JHOP, why not stop by and see what they have to say; plus, who doesn’t like free pancakes?

Photo by Melissa Hale  Subject: Trinity Church in Lutherville, MD

Friday, February 13, 2009

The posies of language

I’m a huge fan of flowery language.  When I read something, I find it quite enjoyable when the words play with my imagination and images immediately fill my mind and draw me in to read more.  Features leads do just that. There are a few differences between feature leads and summary leads from chapter six worth mentioning. 

Summary leads are short, concise and to the point.  They consist of the 5 W's and H to be as specific as possible. It is also wise to avoid backing in (placing an introductory clause before a subject) because readers don't like someone who rambles on and on and sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Also, keep it 30 words or less and always in active voice to grab the reader's attention.

We can take these same principles and tweak them to suit feature leads through a variety of lead forms. Anecdotes are short stories, often with a surprise ending that grabs the reader’s attention.  Narratives go a step further by presenting the story along with dialogue, quotes, or setting up scenes.  Next, descriptive leads “focus on a specific place, person or group of people”(Lieb).  Question leads are simply that: they pose a question.  There are many other feature leads that do not fit these categories and belong to “other,” but could be perfect as attention grabbers.

Two examples of feature leads from The New York Times:

For Dinner (and Fast), the Taste of Home By: Leslie Kaufman

Undoing the Cover-Up By: Mimi Zeiger 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Connections with shabbats and pancakes

Many people have found that their religous beliefs often derived from their cultural background or their family history.  For students at Towson, primarily those in Towson University's Hillel, they were given the opportunity to return to Israel to explore their Jewish faith.

A Towerlight article, Undeterred by violence, shared the experiences of the students' 10-day journey.   They had the opportunity to explore the land of Israel, meet with American soldiers and make connections with their religious backgrounds.  

"My biggest wow moment was while we were taking a hike around Jerusalem. We were taking this hike and they asked us to close our eyes. When they told us to open them again, we were staring at the Western Wall. Some of us started crying," [Emily Shevell] said.

On campus, I am always seeing something on the Daily Digest about Hillel hosting an event for students.  Sometimes its the Jewish House of Pancakes they hold on Tuesdays, other times its one of their creative Shabbats.  All of the events are open to any student and most of them are free.  This seems like a great way to reach out to students on campus.

Just yesterday when I was covering a story for the Towerlight, I attended one of their events.  One of the members of Hillel I interviewed just began to open up to me.  She talked to me about her experiences of transferring to TU, future plans with her communications major and her beliefs on Hillel’s efforts through the event. 

This is just one student who decided to openly discuss her beliefs.  I’d like to think more students on campus would be as generous to speak about their spiritual beliefs, but that is yet to be discovered.  Through more investigation, I’m determined to see how else students are speaking out and expressing their spiritual beliefs.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

God on campus?

Spirituality is often a controversial topic on a college campus.  Some feel uncomfortable discussing their religious beliefs while others are happy to express them.  For my beat, I have decided to observe and report on spiritual expression on campus.  I plan on attending a few meets of Towson University's religious organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, attending Towson Hillel events, and interviewing students on their expression.

My parents are both pastors so spirituality has been a part of my life since I could remember.  For this reason I thought it would be an excellent choice of a beat topic because it allows me to express my opinions as well as learn about other students' opinions on religion and spirituality.  I am hoping to learn a lot about a variety of religions present on TU's campus and how students express their beliefs.

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature-trees, flowers, grass-grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...We need silence to be able to touch souls."-Mother Theresa