August 31, 1996 in Features

‘Big Story’ Former Journalist-Turned-Seminarian Now Finds Her Passion In Sharing The Biblical Account

Lauren Stanley Knight-Ridder

For the past month, since finishing an eight-week church internship in the Shenandoah Valley, I have been back at Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, working as a sports and news editor. I left here two years ago to go to the seminary as part of my journey toward Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church.

Coming back, I’ve found, is hard to do.

I spent nearly two decades as a journalist. I know the thrills of working the “big story” and the boredom of waiting for something - anything! - to happen.

I had come back once before, for a part-time stint last summer, but that was made up of six hours here, six hours there. It wasn’t really full-time work, back in the old job.

I found it difficult to continue the work because I also was a hospital chaplain during the day. The transition from chaplain by day to editor by night was rough, but I thought it was because of the hours and the many sick people with whom I worked.

This summer, I thought, would be different. It would be full-time work, five nights a week - even more during the Olympics. I was hired as a copy editor for the Atlanta Olympics, and as a backup news editor for the Republican Convention. Been there, done that, I thought. I’ll be all right.

I knew when I left two years ago that it would be hard for me to make the transition from editor to student, and from student to minister.

But I never dreamed that it would be hard for me to step back in time, as it were, to my old job of sports and news editing full time.

I never dreamed that the thrill of the “big story” would turn me cold.

I never dreamed that, but it sure became a reality, the second day back on the job.

My first days back were to be retraining, really - calling the old skills back to life. And I was supposed to work on pre-Olympic stories and graphics, learning something about the World Wide Web and generally just helping out until I was comfortable back in the saddle again.

And then, on July 17, at 10 p.m., the news flash arrived: A plane was down in the Atlantic Ocean. An explosion had taken the lives of 230 people.

On any other July 17 in the old days, before I entered seminary, I would have raced to the phones to call our newspapers, would have worked with the photo and graphics folks, would have stretched to the limit to present the best possible news package in the shortest amount of time.

On this July 17, I walked over to my borrowed desk, sat down, and prayed.

“Into your hands, O Lord, we commend your servants. … Watch over them. Bless and keep them. Grant them peace.”

There was nothing more I could do or say, yet doing and saying that certainly seemed more powerful, more appropriate, than worrying about who would get a story to us when, and whether the art would be any good.

The point for me is not how the media work, and it’s not about the rights and wrongs of the media chasing a story.

The point for me is how much I have changed, how far I have grown from what once was my profession and my vocation.

Did I still want to see a story on TWA Flight 800 done well? Yes.

I just didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

Just as I don’t want to be a part of the political conventions anymore.

Just as I don’t want to be a part of murder stories, tax stories, feature stories, or just about any other stories anymore. (OK, I admit I love sports so much that those stories are tempting. But that’s a temptation I hope to put behind me forevermore.)

You see, I don’t have the passion necessary to work in news anymore.

In fact, that passion - the one that held me in journalism for two decades, the one that helped me define my job as a vocation, not a profession - turns me cold. It feels wrong to me now.

It no longer defines me.

My passion now, fully defined, is for God. The story that matters the most to me is the biblical one, not the news one.

Yes, I still want to tell the story. I just don’t want to tell the story of another crash or another political convention or another robbery.

I used to dream of working on great newspapers, where the staff really cared about what they were doing and where the newspaper itself made a difference.

Following that dream fed me and helped me pull the long hours. And I thrilled to the “big story” and making the deadlines that put the newspapers on the street.

It’s not that I no longer care about these things. I’m no longer fed by them.

And because I am fed, because I have changed so much, I no longer can be the journalist I once was, doing the job that once called me.

My dream, you see, has changed.


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