The Secret To Good Communications–A Well Told Story!

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We will sit on the edge of our chairs, laugh until we cry and forget the time of day when someone tells us a good story.

There are many ways to tell a good story–my favorite is the cinema and running a close second is the theater. Both of these use more of the senses than the printed page.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love a strong “decisive moment” with a still image. I even love a good story around the camp fire or bedtime story, but when all the elements are there I am transported out of my world into another realm.

Some of my favorite movies have been the ones dealing with a cross cultural experience. I love the movie “Finding Forester.” I love how the classic story where two people from different cultures find a common ground and through this interaction become better people for the experience.

“Remember the Titans,” is another movie which also compels me to re-exam my own life.

Great stories don’t just entertain–they change us. They help us to be more human by making us see our faults and frailties. It is through the storyteller that by being transported for a while into another world that as I return to the reality of the present I am different and look at my own culture in a new way.

Sometimes I appreciate my life more and other times I am reminded of my pride and lack of compassion for my fellow man.

What is exciting for everyone is hearing another person’s personal journey. We can hear the passion in the voice which awakens our on souls to respond. Our response is what can move the relationship to the intimate. A dialogue is started where our story is requested.

As we get older we are able to polish our story because the spectacles we use to look back over our life have had time to examine and focus on the details to see the colorful thread which is in the fabric of all our lives.

We can see our gifts and how they have been used to bless others. At first we didn’t know we could do anything really well and now we see we are not better than those around, but unique. The combinations of those things we do well and don’t do as well make us different from those around us who may even have a similar profession.

The cool thing for me is when I see how my story is more of a development of a character in the bigger story of community. It is when we come together in community to share our individual journeys we are able to see how we each are part of everyone’s story.

Trauma

It has been over 20 years, but those images still haunt me. The images are from plane crashes, car wrecks, fires, lost children and others which I was covering as a newspaper photographer. It was my first job right out of college at the Hickory Daily Record.
Having just graduated with a degree in Social Work, I was probably better prepared than my colleagues who went to journalism school. Social work had trained me to deal with emotional issues. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying had introduced to me the stages of grief. She outlined the following stages in her book:
  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
I actually was using some of this to process the traumatic events. Probably the best thing I was doing was talking with other photographers about my experiences. I was processing.
Today we understand even more about these events and how to avoid Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Processing these events through journaling and talking with someone is very important.
The Dart Center(www.dartcenter.org) was setup to help journalists know how to deal with trauma and cover trauma. It still is not being taught in most journalism schools, so today there are many journalists suffering from PTSD. We need to raise the awareness of this problem and get journalists prepared so they do not become the victims of PTSD. We also need to help many heal from the disease.
Here are some ways to treat PTSD:
Behavior Therapy
The goal of behavior therapy is to modify and gain control over unwanted behavior. The person learns to cope with difficult situations, often through controlled exposure to them. This kind of therapy gives the person a sense of having control over his or her life.
Cognitive Therapy
The goal of cognitive therapy is to change unproductive or harmful thought patterns. The person examines his or her feelings and learns to separate realistic from unrealistic thoughts. As with behavior therapy, the person is actively involved in his or her own recovery and has a sense of control.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Many therapists use a combination of cognitive and behavior therapies, often referred to as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. One of the benefits of this type of therapy is that the person learns recovery skills that are useful for a lifetime.
Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques help people develop the ability to more effectively cope with the stresses that contribute to anxiety symptoms, as well as with some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. The techniques taught include deep breathing and exercise.
It is best to seek professional counseling. If you are a journalist, then prevention is also a good course of action. Check out the resources at the Dart Center.

The Truth Needs No Ally, However Conservatives May Need One

The conservatives see the American Media’s role as Public Relations for the Executive Branch of Government. Pat Buchannan on NBC’s Today Show said the media’s role was to help bolster the troops’ and the country’s moral.

The media’s role isn’t public relations for the conservatives. However this is the problem with this group in power. They have continued to bash the media. I believe if the media shows them in negative light they believe the media is wrong.

The media has pursued telling the facts. They are giving Americans the facts about the conservatives and liberals.

Throughout the Clinton years the media uncovered Clinton’s infidelity. Today the have uncovered the false statements for invading Iraq.

Weapons of Mass Destruction was one of the main reasons we invaded Iraq, to be sure these weapons were not used against the rest of the world and predominately the US.

One of the flaws with this was in the best case scenario they couldn’t directly launch missiles to deliver these on America.

Another fact uncovered by the media was the 9/11 terrorist were not from or connected in any way to Iraq or Sadam Hussein.

The conservatives would like you to believe they were the silent majority due to the media. This is easily dismissed as false. They have always had a voice and been visible. Today their tactics are not to only be heard, but only their perspective heard by all the media.

The conservatives could not elect a candidate of their own without a media. They got their message out through the media.

The conservatives see by the “media” exposing our flaws to the world as a way we become vulnerable. The cause is important to pursue and if the “media” would show the positives (PR role) then we could accomplish our objective.

The ends justify the means. Therefore if there is flaws in the process this doesn’t matter as long as we establish a democratic state in the Middle East to help bolster Israel.

I believe what is finally starting to happen with the conservative’s media bashing and sticking to their mission no matter the flaws is the American public will not support blindly as they have done. The number of lives being lost daily is causing people who believed in the ideals of the conservative movement to question their validity for the first time.

Bush cited how many of Iraqis Sadam killed (Kurds for example) is one of the reasons he is labled a terrorist. By using this reasoning, we have killed more civilians than Sadam due to our preemptive strike in this last war with Iraq.

“Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday (March 23, 2006) that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity should be killed regardless of whether a court decides to free him.” Now Americans are upset they sent their boys and men to fight for a group who will put to death a person for becoming a Christian. Finally America is getting they cannot force another culture to accept our culture of freedom of religion.

It is quite ironic that we believe the only way for democracy to prevail is by preemptive force.

Light: The Photojournalism of Don Rutledge

Don Rutledge has worked in 143 countries and all 50 states. His work has included assignments from the world famous Black Star picture agency in New York; to civil rights efforts (including documenting the work of John Howard Griffin for Black Like Me); to photo stories in Associated Press, Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Stern in Germany, and Paris-Match in France; and numerous publications in Canada, South America, Europe, and Asia.

It all started back in 1955, Don frequently wrote Howard Chapnick, the president of the Black Star Photo Agency. Don had observed the bylines of the photog­raphers in magazines and saw that Black Star represent­ed many of the photographers. Black Star told Don they wanted to see a portfo­lio before giving him an assignment. Don didn’t have a portfolio. During the time Don was corre­spond­ing, he gave them story idea after story idea.

Black Star was frustrated with the person who kept writing them so often. He had some good ideas, but can he take a photograph? They wrote back letting him know that they liked one of his ideas. They contacted the parties to see if they were interested. That first story was for Friends magazine. This was the magazine of the Chevrolet Company.

Don was so delighted with the response, he imme­diate­ly contacted the people, shot story, wrote the material, and sent the package of contact sheets and material to Black Star. Black Star was quite upset. “We haven’t even talked to them and you have already shot the story,” was the reply Don received. They also informed him of the many holes in the story and how it would not work. This was their mistake.

Don contacted the people again and went back filling in the holes. This was Don’s really first time to have someone cri­tique his work and guide him. The Friends magazine not only liked the work but wanted to use Don again.

This was the beginning of a close relationship of Don with Black Star and even more so with Howard Chapnick. Howard Chapnick is considered the “Dean of Photojournalism”, and is highly regarded worldwide in the photography business. “His strength over the years was his high sense of ethics and his religiosity, if you will,” commented Chapnick. “This carried through into his concern for mankind and the important issues. He tried to use pho­togra­phy to make people aware of the great problems in the world. He used it as a force for change; changing public perceptions and alert­ing the world to the prob­lems that the world suffers like poverty and sickness.”

“One of his great strengths is that he was very observant of the world around him, not only in terms of the big stories, but the little stories, too. He had this happy faculty of being responsive to visually translatable ideas which could be made into saleable entities.”

Rutledge says, “Photography … forces us to see, to look beyond what the average person observes, to search where some people never think to look. It even draws us back to the curiosity we experienced in our childhood.

“Children are filled with excitement about their surrounding world: Why is the sky blue? Why is one flower red and another yellow? How do the stars stay up in the sky? Why is the snow cold?

“As the years go by that curious child matures into a normal adult with the attitude of ‘who cares anymore about those childish questions and an­swers?’ The ‘seeing beyond what the average person sees’ fills us constantly with excitement and allows us to keep the dreams of our youth.”

Dan Beatty, photo quality coordinator at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, worked with Don Rutledge on The Commission magazine where together they won numerous awards for the magazine.

“Don is the one person who has complete­ly influenced the direction of the magazine. Before Don came we knew that there was a certain way we wanted to present the missions material in the magazine. None of us had a firm grasp on what direction we should go to achieve our goals. Don really provided the direc­tion for us to go. Don never expressed any strong feelings about—in a critique type way—on the mag­azine. Just Don’s presence and constant example of someone who always strives for the best is what guided us along. He was constantly putting us into contact with different individuals in the field of photojour­nalism and lay­out and design. He felt these would be good influences on the maga­zine or influ­ences that would help us along the road where we wanted to be with the publication.”

Beatty says, “I would not be doing what I am doing, at the level I am doing it if it hadn’t been for Don. He is an example of con­sistency and integrity in a field where that is not always a constant with the different people that I’ve met. He represented something that I wanted to achieve myself. He has been the biggest influence that I can think of on me personal­ly and the different photographers that I have worked with along with Don.”

Joanna Pinneo based in Longmont, Colorado, is one of the nation’s top magazine photographers. She has won third place in the Magazine Photographer of the Year competition and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Her career started in the lab for The Commission and today continues to shoot assignments for National Geographic Magazine.

Pinneo says, “Don spent hours with me, going over my contact sheets and helping me see which pictures were successful and how others could be improved.”

“He worked with me on depth and layers and meanings. What to include and what not to include. He showed me how a millimeter can make the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph.” “It was just the kind of nurturing a young photographer needs to help figure out what’s important visually, as well as emotionally, when taking pictures.”

The foreword is written by Tom Kennedy, former director of photography for the National Geographic Society and now managing editor for multimedia, Washingtonpost.com Interactive, states in his foreword to the book that “Don’s photos sparkled with examples of human joy, tragedy, and daily life in between. . . . Don’s photos convey the power of God’s handiwork and His presence in our world. . . . I’m proud to have had him as a mentor on my life’s journey.”

Don is retired and lives in Midlothian, VA.

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It’s all about me or is it?

Deuteronomy 8

14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 1

6 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Earlier in my career, I was quite cocky about all I had done to get where I was. It was all me and all my hard work.

My first two jobs I didn’t even apply for, but was asked to come on board. I thought it was because I was really a lot better than every one else. Of course I never said this out loud to anyone.

Just six years into my career I lost my full-time job due to the economy and was laid off. It was then I cried out to God why? I could have easily seen God wondering why am I asking him to intervene, since I had done it all myself. Just like the scripture says, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”

The next three years were ones where I had my wilderness experience. I was just surviving and not having lots of fun. But I was grateful to be paying the bills. I decided to go and get my seminary degree during this time. My experience was only 3 years of turmoil, not like Israel’s 40 years.

My job right out of seminary I was hired without ever having met my employer face to face. This time I knew it wasn’t me but God who was in charge of this journey.

Today when I get jobs I still want to celebrate about my talents being honored. However, today I am even more aware of how many other photographers could have been hired to do the job. Now when reading the scripture, “…remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today,” I pause and remember my three years.

If I had not experienced the layoff, I doubt I would have come to understand how much I accomplish not due to me but because of my God who has given me blessings of health, opportunity and relationships which allow me to succeed.

While I would like to say I learned my lesson—I didn’t. There are times as a full-time freelancer the phone doesn’t ring. I have thought of everything I can to promote myself. I have consulted professionals and taken there advice after much prayer, but I am still finding myself every once in a while sitting up at night and wide awake.

This is when I am reminded of what hope is all about. Hope is the assurance of things to come (it will all work out) because of looking in the past of things done (Jesus’ victory over death) that is now a settled, unshaken, well-grounded, immovable persuasion and certainty.

When we forget where God has brought us from we will loose hope. Remember all he has done and is doing.

20/20 hindsight?

I am not sure the American people would have authorized our government to invade Iraq some three years ago, knowing how many innocent people would die.

We know today that 188,896 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 340,012 seriously injured (March 2006 figure).

There are more and more indications that more citizens are being killed than when Sadam was in power. This is not even considering the military losses:

    2,299 U.S. TROOPS KILLED
    33,094 SERIOUSLY INJURED March 2006
    30,000 IRAQI TROOPS KILLED
    90,000 SERIOUSLY INJURED Aug. 2003

Our problem wasn’t America’s Intellegence Agencies, it was the abuse of them by the administration which put us in this situation.

    “The blueprint for the … Bush policy had actually been drawn up five years earlier by three of his top national security advisors. … they were Richard Perle, Doublas Feith, and David Wurmser. Ironically, the plan was originally intended not for Bush but for another world leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    “At the time, the three officials were out of government and working for conservative pro-Israeli think tanks. … The Perle task force to advise Netanyahu was set up by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Politcal Studies, where Wurmser was working.

    “… the centerpiece of their recommendations was the removal of Saddam Hussen as the first step in making the Middle East into a region friendly, instead of hostile, to Israel.”

    — A Pretext For War: 9/11, Iraq, and the abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies, by James Bamford

Another aspect of the public’s ignorance is believing the mainline media isn’t telling the whole story. Actually, everyone who says this is over looking the most obvious question which undermines their statement–How do you know? The answer to this points out they are getting their information through mainline media.

The media’s role is not to support the government or any particular party. They are to give the facts they have to the public. To expose all the information they uncover and can support. The media’s role is to not be the advertising arm of the government.

Health Care

Today we took our son Taylor in for knee surgery. He had dislocated his knee cap. This made me flash back to Nalerigu, Ghana where hundreds of people were in line to see one doctor. We were in and out in just a few hours.

While I am thankful for the medical care available here, I pray for those in Africa who are not getting the care. They need more doctors. The 2 fulltime doctors are seeing 400 patients a day. Hopefully others will feel the call to serve in Africa.

West Africa

In October last year I had the rare opportunity to go to West Africa for three weeks. The people of West Africa were so kind and wonderful. Here is a Foulani boy who is watching the families herd of cattle. Marlboro has given many of the Foulani herdsmen hats like this one being worn by the boy.
Earlier the children learn to carry things on their heads. The posture of the people is incredible.

Since they do not have sugar in their diets like Americans, their teeth are in better condition.

Complete Acceptance

This is the season of weddings. Weddings are one of the highlight events of our time here on earth. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding and he used the wedding as a metaphor in his parables.

John 3 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

There are very few people who can interrupt whatever I am doing and have my full attention. Each of these people is what I call my closest friends.

You can even know when someone else is interacting with a close friend. The mood changes and you are seeing a glimpse of the joy in their hearts when they interact with their friend.

Jesus talked about what friends will do for one another.

1 John 3 16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

What is so special about friendships that we stop what we are doing and give our full attention to these relationships?

Forgiveness is at the core of friendship. Tom Peters says corporations should actually reward people for failure, because failure means risk; and without risk there can be no success. In Laura Beth Jones book, Jesus CEO she relates a story:

I was once in a self-discovery group where people were not mincing words. One man, sitting very stiffly and quietly, was a candidate for promotion within his organization. His body language was a picture of caution and fear. Finally, a woman gave him this sound advice: “You just need to fail a few times. Then you will understand that people are going to love you even when you are not perfect.”

We have all taken risks with people in the past and for many of us we have been sorely disappointed. We found out who wasn’t our friend for sure. Most of us then learned to take fewer risks so we would not feel the pain of the disappointment.

God did not rest until he created mankind in the Garden of Eden. He wanted relationships. Being his workmanship we were created in his likeness to desire relationships as well.

As we read through the Bible each story centers on the character’s relationship to others and to God. God allowed Job to be tested because he knew how strong the relationship was to begin with.

James 2 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[a] and he was called God’s friend.

The footnote in my Bible for “God’s friend” says, “This designation (see 2Ch 20:7) further describes Abraham’s relationship to God as one of complete acceptance.

It has been said to have a friend you must be a friend.