PROGRAM DESCRIPTION & HIGHLIGHTS
In May 2008, The Media Project partnered with Christians in the Media to sponsor, “Access All Areas,” a conference for journalists in Australia and South East Asia. The Media Project financed all South East Asia participants as well as a portion of overall conference costs. The conference took place May 22-24, 2008, at Sebel Resort in Hawkesbury Valley about an hour’s drive from Sydney.
With a theme of, “Kingdom, Power, Glory,” the conference aimed to help participants consider the following question, “How do we respond to the opportunities and responsibilities of being in the public arena to know and serve God and our community?” The keynote speakers included both ministry leaders and accomplished journalists.
The Media Project Board Member Jody Hassett Sanchez opened the conference with her keynote speech on, “News Narratives and Spiritual Stories,” which drew parallels between the way a news story unfolds and the way our spiritual lives unfold.
Mark Scott, the Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation addressed the issue of “Delivering Big,” about the importance of being a journalist who says little but really delivers in terms of assignments.
David Aikman, calling on his years as a Foreign Correspondent for Time, spoke about the importance of treating those we report on with respect at all times even if we believe they are in the wrong.
And Peter Doherty of Brisbane, Australia’s Channel 7 News did a talk on, “Silk Treatment in a Sandpaper World,” about how our attitudes in the workplace can have an “amazing impact,” on our colleagues.
In between keynote speakers, Dominic Steele spoke from a journalist turned minister’s perspective. For example, for the session on, “The Power,” he explored answers to the question, “Where’s God in an anti-God industry?” Steele also explored answers to issues such as pride, humility and dealing with pressure. One of Steele’s key points that if we don’t stand up for the small issues we’ll never stand up for the big issues when we are in a position of influence.
CONFERENCE IMPACT SUMMARY
Several of the journalists from South East Asia also played a key role during a panel discussion on issues facing journalists around the world. In addition to the main sessions there were Elective Sessions on various topics including: “Reporting History,” with David Aikman; “From Daily Deadlines to Documentary,” with Jody Hassett Sanchez; and, “International Tensions in Islam,” with Arne Fjeldstad.
In some ways this was a conference within a conference, the 21 journalists from South East Asia were able to meet in several exclusive sessions as well as participate in the larger conference with journalists from around Australia. The journalists from South East Asia were both participants and presenters at the conference which facilitated new relationships. Most of the first day included a gathering by the international participants with country presentations on the media situation in their country, highlighting key challenges and opportunities. The international participants gathered for several shorter sessions during breaks in the main conference. They also met for a concluding session.
Feedback from the international participants indicates they were encouraged by the way the conference interwove the practical with the spiritual. A possible follow up to this conference would be to sponsor a conference in South East Asia and include some of the Australian participants.
FEEDBACK FROM PARTICIPANTS
- Very well coordinated considering the number of countries, journalists, time zones involved.
- Well prepared. Logistics and background materials. Could give out a synopsis of various seminars and topics.
- It has reinforced my faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ that the conference taught me the value of humility in this troubled world of ours. It had given me further the value of being a Christian.
- Loved the combination of spiritual and practical
- Conference content was very consistent with the gathering of international Christian journalists. It allowed panels enabling greater interactions and understanding.
- Conference schedule was generally excellent – but at times too tight. A mildly lighter schedule would help.
- Some of the speakers (Jody, Aikman, Glenn) have stood out. Otherwise Dominic’s daily sermons have been very well done;
- Mark Scott and real input on real life situations and decision making;
- Witnessing international Christian journalists holding onto truth again all adversities will have the greatest impact on me.
- I hope next time there would be a time for church services, especially if it falls on a Sunday for participants to attend a Mass or other church services.
- It was very well organized conference. A visit to a media house perhaps might have been included.