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Four Tools I Use To Cover My Area

The fields covered through Baptist communications are as varied as the tools at your disposal. In the almost-nine years since I began working at The Christian Index, a number of online avenues have developed to keep up with our readers, which in turn give us a clue as to concentrating story coverage.

Rather than an exhaustive list of these tools, here are four you need to establish or begin building today.

  1. Blog lists  There are several ways to do this, such as RSS feeds, following particular blogs the way I do on Wordpress, or simply setting up a folder and storing links there. On Google Reader I've established two subscription lists pertinent to The Index's coverage area: Georgia Baptist Convention ministers and GBC laypeople.

    Since feeling its impact at the 2006 Southern Baptist annual meeting in Greensboro, SBC leadership has had a tenuous relationship with the blogosphere. Today, it's becoming more the exception for pastors to not have a blog. Don't just keep up with what's on their minds, but considering those blogs as possible sources for your next story.

  2. Hootsuite  I used the free version for awhile, but finally sprung for the $6 a month upgrade and it's been a great investment. Through this program I can post to various social media outlets at the same time, but the biggest benefit is scheduling a post through those resources  Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, etc..

    Each morning, one of the first things I do is go through my Reader and check out GBC pastor blog posts. I then take those posts and schedule them at various times through the lunch hour when people are more prone to check Twitter and Facebook. Should lunchtime get crowded I'll schedule posts toward the end of the workday and, depending on the topic, even on Sunday morning when many pastors are posting to Twitter.

  3. Twitter lists  Everyone knows about Twitter, but an underused feature is Lists. Want to know what your target readership is Tweeting but not dig through a hundred posts to get there? Create a list. I have my GBC list as well as SBC media and SBC. In writing this post I realized I didnt have one for BCA, so you'll see from my Twitter account (@scottbarkley) that it's in the initial stages. Lists can be public or private, and in looking through them you can choose who out of that list to follow or with one click follow them all.

    A couple of weeks ago the reporting of Baptist Press and Tim Ellsworth prompted me to create an Olympics list so I could keep up with the athletes they profiled. I ended up adding more athletes from the Games, which gave me a look into how a persons strict diet goes to pot when you get a break after years of strict training. So whether work-related or just for an interest (football season is upon us), lists are great for chopping up your Twitter timeline.

  4. Google Maps.  A few months ago I created a map using this free tool for showing where Georgia Baptist churches were going on missions. For me, the information was fairly easy to attain through either the aforementioned Google Reader or old-school paper church newsletters that still come to The Index offices. Im also in the process of creating a map showing where Index writers have reported from this year.

With the exception of the Hootsuite upgrade, all of these tools are free and can add not only to your story-gathering, but story-telling capabilities.

POSTED: Aug 21, 2012 | Scott Barkley, Production Editor, The Christian Index - sbarkley@christianindex.org

Make the most out of that Instagram account

Walking to get a glass of water from the hallway, I saw Georgia Baptist Convention archivist George Houston carrying a set of dusty black folders chock full of yellowing papers. Asked if he was getting rid of some old, useless stuff he corrected me in saying, "Just old."

That led to my going with Houston into the archives (conveniently, for me, located across the hall from my office) and getting a quick rundown of items donated by a career Home Mission Board-appointed police chaplain. Not having my regular camera with me, I clicked off a few shots with my phone.

At one time accepting pictures taken from a phone was... well, unacceptable. But with higher resolutions becoming the norm and online becoming the preferred option for consumers, those parameters are falling. A quick check by our designer showed my pictures were a high-enough resolution to fill most of a page in our print edition.

I've just been baptized into the world of the iPhone thanks to an unfortunate meeting of my previous phone with our kitchen floor. I'm still finding my way around, but in exploring its possibilities for journalism I've become fixated on Instagram.

Instagram is the quirky (their term, but yes, it fits) program where iPhone owners can take photos and edit with various light and color settings. More important for journalists, it's also a social network where others can follow your photos and make comments. For Android, where I lived up until about a week ago, there are similar applications such as Vignette and picplz. These apps are picking up on a seemingly nostalgia-led craze by providing filters that make your top-of-the-line, highly-technological photo appear like it came straight out of 1977.

Perhaps the closest thing to Instagram on Android is Lightbox. Until checking my account recently, I'd forgotten just how many pictures I'd placed there. In terms of sharing it actually has a leg up on Instagram by providing a link to your Google+ account.

Those are just options, though. The point is whenever there's a way to transmit pictures of an event quickly and easily - especially to social networks where more of your audience is living - it's another tool to share your story.

Taking a couple of photos in the archives with Houston, it struck me how easy it would be to use these apps to create an online photostream at an ongoing event. There's live blogging and live tweeting, why not live photoing? In addition to uploading to your photo site, you can share through various other sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. A photo of Houston I took was shared over Twitter as well as posted directly to The Christian Index's Facebook wall.

As for professional development, in Instagram a search through my Twitter list revealed profiles by ABC World News and The Washington Post. Reputable media outlets are already seeing the benefits of having securing a presence. Baptists aren't behind the curve on social media or photo sharing. No reason for those of us telling their stories to be.

POSTED: Dec 7, 2011 | Scott Barkley, Production Editor, The Christian Index - sbarkley@christianindex.org

Is Google+ something you should look into?

Whenever The Next Big Thing in social media comes along the techie squeals of joy are almost drowned out by the groans of practically everyone else. What is another great option for staying connected and finding story resources is also seen as yet another password to remember and site post to update.

It's not hard to find online sources chronicling the growth of G+ (apparently that's the hipster shorthand). The latest social media effort by search giant Google reached 10 million users in 16 days, quite a feat when you consider the time it took Facebook (852 days) and Twitter (780) to reach that mark.

I was given an invite to G+ and have been using it a couple of weeks now. What does it offer you?

  • Synchronization with other Google services. Of course, this is what the folks at Google are counting on. When on G+ the regular toolbar on your browser is replaced with a black one containing your Google services such as Gmail and Reader. I'd like to see an option where a story or blog post in my Reader can be shared easily on G+. The service is still in development. This goes back to the handing out of invites as opposed to a Wal-Mart-on-Black-Market-Friday opening. Google technicians wanted to fix snags as they showed rather than deal with an instant crush of users.
  • Sharing on Facebook and Twitter. These are extensions you have to find (I always go to Mashable.), but they are out there.
  • Sparks. These are news feeds out of Google News. Featured interests are available (movies, recipes, gardening) but can also search for ones more applicable to you (Southern Baptist Convention, Bible Study, Jacksonville State football).
  • The Circles. We've all probably shared something on Facebook that applies to some groups more than others. Facebook has the capability to separate your friends into lists, but I'm just too far into my Facebook existence to divvy those names up. That's a lazy answer, but with the new start in G+ I've already created Circles for the Georgia Baptist Convention (where I work), Friends, Professional sources, and yes, BCA. I really like the ability to pinpoint my message. There's a Public option for posting if you want your message out for everyone.
  • Hangouts This has a lot of potential. Hangouts are video chats that can host up to nine people at one time. There's a YouTube option where the chat can be recorded for later as well. I sponsored a Christian Index Hangout this week and had the cyber walls busting with... 1 attendee. Okay, but a youth minister in a rural church who also had planned on participating was foiled by a group trip to the movies. Even with a small showing, I spent a few minutes talking to the pastor on about stories coming out in the current issue of The Index and what we were working on for the next edition. At the end I asked him for feedback on story ideas he'd like to see, where he provided a couple I've now started to follow up on. I plan on holding another Hangout in a couple of weeks. Hopefully a few more pastors and even laypeople will join in.

The narrative has been G+ is seeking to take over Facebook. I don't see it that way. I'm still on Facebook and do quite a bit of work on there and Twitter because right now that's where the people are. There are several functions of G+ that are particularly useful for journalists. With its options, Google+ could definitely be a tool worth investigating.

POSTED: Aug 12, 2011 | Scott Barkley, Production Editor, The Christian Index - sbarkley@christianindex.org

Reasons to Stream Video on Your Website

Since the earthquake in Haiti recently, I have lost count of how many video images of the destruction I have seen. During the past few weeks, in an effort to keep up with the unfolding events, I discovered that, like many other people, I am watching the news when it is most convenient for me - during a lunch break, in between classes, or catching up after a very busy week. I am also watching the news, and even entire television shows, less on my television and more on my computer, Blackberry, or iPod touch. Recently I even bought new software that will stream content between my iMac and TiVo. As I've watched the post-earthquake drama play out on the news, I've found myself thinking about how powerful the media, especially video, really is and how more and more news outlets, television stations, and other organizations are streaming their video content on their websites. Streaming video on the Internet has changed the way our world communicates. In the age of digital technology, streaming video is a smart move to make if you want to keep the audience you have and as well as reach a new generation of viewers.

Reasons to Stream Video on Your Website:

  1. Video will drive traffic to your website where people can learn more about your organization.
  2. Video grabs viewer's attention. In today's age of short attention spans, people are much more likely to watch a two- to three- minute compelling video than wade through a text- heavy website.
  3. With Internet-ready devices, such as Blackberries, iPods, iPhones, and laptops, an organization's content is accessible from anywhere and at any time.
  4. Streaming video to your website can save you money! In an economy where money is tight, instead of spending money duplicating your latest production on DVD, your video can be downloaded and used instantaneously via your website.
  5. Video is easily rebroadcast in other communication mediums such as on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and You Tube which increases the potential size of your audience for free.

POSTED: Feb 16, 2010 | Deanne Carter, Freelance Writer/Editor, - deanne@clearwire.net

Which medium works best for you?

According to a popular church marketing website they found nearly half the audience of a web site doesn't get their content on the web site. Up next was the 24% who turn to RSS. After that comes social media with 14% enjoying @cmsucks on Twitter and 8% partaking on Facebook.

Take our poll: Which medium do you think best works for you for your BCA news and relationships?

  1. Right here on www.baptistcommunicators.org
  2. RSS reader: feed://www.baptistcommunicators.org/rss/BCAnews.xml
  3. Twitter @BaptistComm
  4. Facebook fan page (we have a member page too)

E-mail your response to me, and we'll tally the total votes on Nov. 16.

POSTED: Nov 4, 2009 | Kelly Durham Hopkins, State Missionary/Consultant, Georgia Baptist Convention - khopkins@gabaptist.org

Brogan: Social media a tool, not ROI

Social media is like the telephone, according to consultant Chris Brogan.

"Businesses want ROI from social media," said Brogan, a consultant and blogger on the subject. He was in Louisville this week to help lead a business boot camp, and he stuck around to speak to ~120 people at the Social Media Club of Louisville.

His blog, chrisbrogan.com, is in the top 10 of the Advertising Age Power150, and in the top 100 on Technorati.

Businesses would do well to think of social media the same way they do their phone or other commodity product.

"The phone is not a business plan," he said. Social media is a tool to be lined up with a strategy for reaching who you want to reach.

Speaking on What's Next? Brogan touched on a variety of topics. Here's two:

  • GPS-enabled data. The web initially won praise for providing borderless access to information. Now tools are providing more meaning to where you are.

    Brogan expressed interest in the growing number of iPhone apps and other tools that use GPS to network people and information. For example, rock band Nine Inch Nails has distributed an app that allows fans to open their iPhone and immediately find other NIN fans in their vicinity. Not a fan of Nine Inch Nails, you say? OK, take them out and put in your favorite band, hobby or passion, and the possibilities blossom.
    1. Say you're visiting a city on vacation. Imagine Food Network built a similar app. Suddenly you can Tweet/text other foodies within a quarter mile, seeking suggestions for the best local restaurants.
    2. Imagine a denomination or network of churches that helped people on vacation find affiliate churches.
    3. With GPS-enabled information, colleges could offer visitors self-guided walking tours based on their interests (prospective students, athletics, school history, etc.)

  • "Velvet Rope" social networks. Everyone loves the feeling of being whisked to the front of the line and past the velvet rope. The web and social media now are allowing people network in exclusive ways.

    Looking for $100,000+ talent? Visit www.theladders.com. It'll cost, but you won't have to wade through all those starting positions at monster.

    Doctors can join www.sermo.com for free, but they must show their credentials to gain access. (The tagline lures those attracted to insider information: "Know more. Know earlier.") Organizers make money by charging journalists and medical product sellers for access to this special group.

    Ultimately, the tools are designed to network people and open communication, not push ideas or products to them, Brogan reminded the audience. "Standing on stage is way different from sitting together talking."

He urged social media specialists to re-imbed themselves to help their organizations use the tools to their maximum usefulness.

"Equip the people all around you to do something with it," he said "It's not cool to be in the cool kids club. It's cool to do something."

David Winfrey (dmmwinfrey@gmail.com / @dmmwinfrey) is a freelance writer, editor, communicator living in Louisville, Ky. He is a former president of Baptist Communicators Association and is the current chairman of the Communications and Technology Committee for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville.

POSTED: May 22, 2009 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com

Union communicators garner national attention

Union University's Public Relations team received accolades in the May issue of "Public Relations Tactics," for their efforts after a tornado ripped through Jackson, Tenn., on Feb. 5.

The article highlighted the actions of the staff as they handled the crisis and involved students in managing the story for a world-wide audience. As outlined in the article, the staff demonstrated a strategic commitment to the university and their numerous constituencies during the tragic event.

The Public Relations Society of America publication gave the public relations team high marks, noting, "Even the best crisis planning is insufficient without spur-of-the-moment creative thinking."

Several of the Union University staff members are BCA members - Tim Ellsworth, Jim Veneman, Cam Tracy and Todd Mullins. Others on the team - Mark Kahler, Morris Abernathy, Kathy and Michael Chute - are former members who have represented BCA well.

Tim Ellsworth recently released God in the Whirlwind: Stories of Grace from the Tornado at Union University.

There are some great lessons for all BCA members in the response offered by Union's team. Attached is a PDF of the article. If you are like me, you will put the article in the file to refer to often.

The article is copyright 2008 PR Tactics. Reprinted with permission by the Public Relations Society of America (www.prsa.org).

POSTED: Jul 17, 2008 | Barbara L. Denman, Director of Communications, Florida Baptist Convention - bdenman@flbaptist.org

How to waste the next four hours

Visit the Academy of Motion Pictures web site, and you can't watch "No Country for Old Men." Visit the Grammys site, and you can't listen to full downloads of winning songs. But visit the site for The Webby Awards, and you can visit every winner for the past several years. By cruising the best of the best in a variety of categories, you can gain a lot of insights into how great communicators are using the Web in innovative ways. So look them up, and if your boss asks why you are browsing "Paper Critters," truthfully reply, "Um, research."

POSTED: May 6, 2008 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com

Yo! Everything You Need To Know About Web Site Design

Having a tough time explaining Web site design to stakeholders in your organization? Having an even tougher time understanding it yourself? Check out this helpful video:

Design Coding

(HT: Kristie Randolph, KBC media relations/marketing associate and Web surfing champ.)

POSTED: Apr 10, 2008 | Brenda Rick Smith, Electronic Media Specialist, Kentucky Baptist Convention - brenda.smith@kybaptist.org

Computer monitors: Bigger is better

Looking for a way to convince your boss that you need a bigger computer monitor? Here's your evidence.

According to a recent news story, A study at University of Utah found that "upgrading a worker from an 18-inch to a 24-inch screen reduced the time it took to complete a task from eight hours to 5.5 hours. Researchers estimated a company can save $8,600 per employee based on a $32,500 annual salary, even after factoring in the cost of the new monitor and increased electricity use."

Two similar studies in 2003 and 2005 made similar conclusions. This makes even more sense if you have graphic design and/or desktop publishing duties. So, now that you have the research to back your request, go out and get a widescreen. Just don't let them catch you watching this.

POSTED: Mar 25, 2008 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com

BCA Awards Deadline

I don't know about you, but the highlight of BCA involvement for many is the annual Wilmer C. Fields Awards competition. You can get all the details here:

Awards Competition

The deadline this year is EARLY - entries must be postmarked by this Friday, Jan. 11 - so everyone in our office here at the Kentucky Baptist Convention is busy preparing entries.


1. It's a great opportunity to have our efforts evaluated by experts in the field. Winning is great, but the real prize is the comments and scores you get back after judging. They can be very helpful!

2. If you do win, it just feels good to be recognized for your work.

3. I love to see the other entries. I have been truly inspiring by stories, photographs, and Web sites submitted by past winners.

There have been years I haven't submitted anything because I haven't thought I had anything good enough. If you are hesitating to submit something this year because you don't know if your work makes the grade, I've got a few pieces of advice:

1. Don't sell yourself short. You may be a little jaded on your own projects just because you've been staring at them for so long the "new" has worn off. Let someone else take a look.

2. It's a lousy $40 bucks to enter. That's what, two iced peppermint mocha frappachinos? That's a small price to pay for some quality feedback.

So take a look at the entry form and pick out some projects.

See you in Phoenix!

POSTED: Jan 8, 2008 | Brenda Rick Smith, Electronic Media Specialist, Kentucky Baptist Convention - brenda.smith@kybaptist.org

A bold new step for BCA

I wish you all could have been with us for the recent officers' meeting in Nashville. Not only did we plan for a spectacular workshop in April and handle the usual activities required to keep an organization like BCA moving. We also brainstormed about how BCA can use 21st century tools to serve members.

BCA is best known for its annual spring workshop, which combines education and networking to inspire and prepare members for the varied communication roles they fill. One of our challenges has been to continue that networking and encouragement throughout the year.

That effort got a major boost last year, thanks to Cam Tracy with the launching of this new Web site. But while it is an excellent took for spreading information, we didn't yet have a strong tool to facilitate conversation among members. The flow of information could be one sided, from BCA to the members. Now, with the help of new technology, I think weve finally found a way to connect members and start dialogues about our work that can spread around the country and beyond.

If you haven't joined Facebook, please do so. Then search for "Baptist Communicators" and ask to join the Facebook group. Because it is a closed group, available only to members, you won't have to worry about who will be sending you messages.

One of the reasons I'm excited about this is because it finally gives us a way to talk about our work with other communicators who share the same passion for our messages and our audiences. A lot of BCA members work in small shops and wear a variety of hats. (Let's see, there's spokesperson, photographer, video specialist, web master, writer. Need I continue?) This networking tool will allow us to bounce ideas, share resources we've found and discuss the topics that are important to us.

The exciting part of this during our officers' meeting was the way new leaders were using Facebook and other software, applications and Web sites as a springboard to further the mission of BCA. I believe the future of BCA is strong because of the forward thinking leadership represented in that room. I hope you will do your part and get involved with Facebook and any other resources we use to connect you with your peers.

This is your organization. It only works if you take part. Go to Facebook and check it out.

POSTED: Nov 6, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com

Friend Me!

The Baptist Communicators Association now has a Facebook group!

Let me dispose of a couple of questions:

  1. What is Facebook? In their own words, "Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet." Get all the details here: http://www.facebook.com/about.php
  2. I have a Facebook profile. Where do I find the group? How do I join? You can find the group here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2589875227 or by searching for "Baptist Communicators Association." Once you are there, click "Join this group." Since this group is open only to BCA members, one of the group administrators will verify your membership and then approve your request to join the group. Once you are in, be sure to introduce yourself!
  3. I don't have a Facebook profile. Join now at http://www.facebook.com/
  4. Why should I join the BCA group? It's a great place to get to know your fellow BCA members, share ideas, and steal ideas.

Join the BCA Facebook group today. But don't stop there -- participate! Post to the discussion threads, or start a thread of your own. Some ideas:

  • post your latest design projects, and get feedback
  • ditto for video projects
  • beta test a new Web site
  • share some powerful photos from a recent mission trip
  • share an insight you've had
  • request prayer

I've had a profile on Facebook for a few months, and I've been amazed and the personal and professional development opportunities. I'm a member of a couple of different professional groups, and I've gleaned great ideas from some of the leaders in my particular area of interest.

The possibilities are endless for the BCA group. Join today!

POSTED: Sep 28, 2007 | Brenda Rick Smith, Electronic Media Specialist, Kentucky Baptist Convention - brenda.smith@kybaptist.org

Gooooooo Team!

I took my son to a minor league baseball game the other day. It was his first real baseball experience. When we arrived, he wanted to walk around the stadium and see everything. "Where do we buy the ICEEs?" he asked. "Can we get one of those big, foam fingers?"

We found our seats as the public address announcer read the starting line-ups. "Wow Dad. You can see everything from here!" he said. It didn't take long for the home team to score the first runs of the game. Erik did a celebration dance in his seat. Whenever one of the opposing players struck out, he transformed into a mini-umpire shouting "Yer out!" while jerking his thumb in the air.

I'm a life-long baseball fan, but this game was special. Seeing the game from my son's perspective made it brand new again. We talked about what various abbreviations on the scoreboard meant and he couldn't believe we could put peanut shells on the ground under our seats. "Is this really okay with Mom?" he asked.

During the game, I noticed a few people who weren't there for baseball. A man two rows in front of us talked on his cell phone through several innings. A woman nearby kept her nose buried in a crossword puzzle.

Sometimes as communicators we forget what the game is all about and telling the story just isn't fun anymore. Dont turn into someone who just sits through the game. Become an active participant in the Baptist communications community by interacting with other communications professionals like yourself and by sharing your expertise.

If you're new to BCA, it's ok to look around the "stadium." There's plenty to see here. One of the biggest benefits you'll enjoy is learning from others. Like my son, be willing to ask questions. One of our officers or myself is happy to help you understand those tricky BCA "abbreviations."

If you're a BCA veteran, you can add much to our organization. Remember, the "history" of the game is just as important as the current superstar. Maybe you'd like to mentor some of our rookies. We're always looking for links to add to the resources page. Or maybe you can write a "how-to" article that we can place on the site?

Whatever your position on our team, BCA is here to help you knock the ball out of the park. Play Ball!

POSTED: Jul 26, 2007 | Keith Beene, Administrative Coordinator, Baptist Communicators Association - bca.office@comcast.net

What's in my bag?: Gear is important but not only thing to pack for a story assignment

A few days ago I had just hung up the phone from talking with Justin, our oldest son, when my wife, Carol, said, "Jimmy, does it feel funny to be asking your son for advice about your next assignment?"

Actually, Justin and a growing number of students have heard me ask quite a few questions over the last few years. With technology giving birth to a new generation every 12 to 18 months, keeping up with the latest trends is challenging to say the least. The quicker you can reach someone who might have an answer, the more likely you will meet the next deadline creatively and on time.

Chances are your success in this field will be measured by the strength of your relationships.

In May four Union students along with journalism professor Michael Chute and myself stepped aboard a plane headed for South Africa. Our students wrote and photographed stories about the work of several International Mission Board personnel. The coverage and logistical challenges provided a realistic glimpse of what could lie ahead for each of these students.

In the short time I have been at Union, the processes involved in producing our content has changed so much. The changes have been amazing.

Other than always feeling a bit behind in what I should know, I believe they've been for the better. We have so many ways of telling our stories. Discovering and acting on the best way is the challenge.

Not too long ago, film would be near the top of my concern list before making a trip like this. Today there are so many more components.

For instance, before leaving Carol and I headed to the Apple Store in Germantown to pick up an extra hard drive to provide a second level of backup for our files. As trustworthy as the digital file has become, backing it up a couple of times helps to provide a better night's rest. This is certainly not a "Tri-X and be there" kind of world any longer.

When I step onto the plane I had tucked into my carryon bag:

  • A Nikon D200 camera body.
  • A Nikon D70 camera body.
  • A Sigma 18-50/2.8 lense
  • A Nikkor 18-200/3.5 lens,
  • A Nikkor 70-200/2.8 lens,
  • A Nikon SB800 flash.
  • Eight 2GB compact flash cards,
  • One Lacie 160GB hard drive.
  • An Apple PowerBook G4 complete with more software than I may ever really understand.
  • An Olympus digital recorder with lapel microphone.
  • A tiny radio about to be tuned to the BBC.
  • A set of earbuds, plus a slew of cords, chargers, converters and a small stack of blank DVDs.

Even with all this, most likely I will arrive in Cape Town only to realize I left something and will ask about the nearest Best Buy equivalent. Of course, it's always nice to be traveling to a place that can save you. So often this is not the case.

Few weeks go by without hearing questions about equipment. Coming up with the best answer is almost bewildering. The variables just go on and on.

Given that Nikon has been a part of my genetic code since I was in the 11th grade, it's always on my suggestion list. But given the outstanding performance of Canon equipment, I mention it just as quickly. I rarely suggest anything beyond those two companies, although it is common for me to suggest other brands of lenses and accessories purely from a financial perspective.

Regardless of my response that day, I am quick to add: The camera in one's hand is not as important as the person who is holding that camera.

To really tell a story, you must be a master of your equipment, whatever it might be, and have the instincts of a reporter to discover news value and significance. It is vital to understand the strengths and limitations of photographs and words, and how they together can tell a powerful story.

Our goal is to tell stories as clearly and accurately as possible without confusion, and to do this in a way that grips the viewers' attention and leads them to discovery and action. Whether we are talking film grain or file resolution, the real challenge is to use one's imagination to tell a fascinating story.

We might no longer be packing film into our carryon luggage, but some things will never change:

  • Never leave home without a sense of curiosity.
  • Keep asking yourself about the very best ways to tell the story.
  • Always gather more information than you think youll ever need.
  • Watch the edges of any circumstance.
  • Don't give up too early.
  • React rather than direct.
  • Allow for serendipity.
  • See beyond the surface.
  • Always wonder.
  • Wait. Anticipate the moment.

Today's communicators must have an ever-broadening skill set. Doing all you can to deepen your understanding of other avenues of communication will help make you an excellent storyteller. Versatility, determination and a clear understanding of your subject will help you give your readers the chance to see in fresh new ways. You will help them see from perspectives that were hidden before. Your words and photographs might even supply the fuel needed to bring about change.

And from my perspective, I see many more years of calls to my son asking for advice. It's the only way I'll be able to really tell the story.

Jim Veneman is Assistant Professor of Communication Arts and Director of Visual Communications at Union University. He is the former director of visual communications for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the managing photo editor at the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

POSTED: Jun 4, 2007 | Jim Veneman, Freelance Photographer, - jimveneman@gmail.com

Walking The Red Carpet

It's a relief when you receive that "Congratulations! You're a winner..." e-mail from Keith Beene the end of March. You don't know what you won, but you know you will get to walk up in front of everyone and accept that certificate. Pretty cool.

Even better -- you get to tell your boss that you won. I don't know how it is where you work, but in our department having something that shows your work has been recognized by an outside entity means something.

Once you know you're a winner, it's time to start subtly asking around your office to see who else got the coveted e-mail from Keith. That is, unless you work in our office, where we shamelessly yell, "I won something!" to the whole department!

So, those who get to go to BCA pack something nice to wear for the awards banquet and hope for the best. Granted, we don't do the red carpet thing, but I bet most of us check out what everyone is wearing. You practice your gushing & Jesse, great tie! Lisa, your pedicure is perfect! Sue Ellen, your wrap is stunning! Great shoes, Brooke!

This year, it was extra exciting for us at LifeWay. Everyone in our office who submitted an entry won something. That makes the celebration even better ... not to mention so much less awkward! Kelly, Kent and I hardly let our awards cool off before we were up in my room calling our co-workers to tell them the great news.

When Stacey Hamby asked me to write a short piece on winning, I thought, "Is there any way to do that without sounding arrogantly self-promoting?" Well, no! So, here goes... deep breath... I love winning!

I do. I love to win.

I completely understand that with human judges there is a certain level of arbitrariness. In fact, what I thought was my best work was awarded - how do I put this - nothing. But, someone does receive the best scores in each category, and honestly, I'm glad it was I in mine! Yeah, there it is, my friends. I'm thrilled that I won a Burkhalter Award.

POSTED: May 8, 2007 | Polly House, Freelance Writer/Editor, - polly.house.bca@gmail.com

4 Things We Need From You

If you attended BCA's annual workshop in Mobile, there are 4 things this organization and your fellow Baptist communicators need from you:

  1. Talk back. Fill out the evaluation form for the Mobile workshop. Tell us what you liked most from the program Doug Rogers and his Alabama team put together. Let Elizabeth Young and her team in Arizona know what you want to see next year. Every year, workshop organizers try to develop the right mix of inspiration and education. If you're really ambitious, give us at least one idea for workshop topics on the technical skills as well as the broader issues we face as communicators.
  2. Stalk someone. Chances are, you made some new friends in Mobile. But if you don't talk to them until the next workshop, what good did it do you? Every month, for the next year, why not call or e-mail someone you met through BCA? Talk about life. Talk about work. Talk about projects. Ask for ideas or for a peer review of a piece you're working on. Expand your circle of influence, and it will benefit your work and your psyche.
  3. Get published. Not in a publication, but on this BCA Web site. Cam Tracy at Union University had done a great job of building a site that's designed to help BCA be a professional development organization throughout the year. But it won't reach its full potential if you don't share what you know.
  4. Pull a pre-emptive strike. If you have return to work from Mobile and have never shared what you learned, your boss has no idea that your membership in BCA is worthwhile. Please, before the day is done, write a one-page memo outlining two or three things you learned at the Mobile workshop that will improve your performance at your current job. Then, when the Phoenix workshop comes around next year, you already will have laid the groundwork for getting approval to go.

POSTED: Apr 26, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com

A Message from Wilmer C. Fields

It is an honor, always an eye-opener, and a great pleasure for me to continue a long 48-year treasured connection with BPRA/BCA through the annual awards competition. My partnership in the group began in 1959, when BPRA was five years old. I resonated with this bunch from the start. I was completely in the dark, and blindsided at the 1986 meeting in the mountains at Glorieta, NM, when Stan Hastey made the announcement that the group had secretly voted to name the awards program after me. I think I swallowed my bubble gum!

It is a delight to sense the creativity and professionalism revealed in the entries every year. What an excellent way for members to mark your own growth, by being judged among the best of the best. And so very many, striving for superior workmanship! My connection with this skillful, productive new generation of dedicated people makes me feel like a lion in a den of Daniels. I hope 2007 is your best year! For one and all.

POSTED: Jan 24, 2007 | Wilmer C. Fields, Retired, SBC Executive Committee - wilcfields@comcast.net

Learning to say "NO"

This week, I joined the "CRACKBERRYS" of the world by purchasing a PDA.

My handy-dandy personal digital assistant can ...

  • Send e-mails about BCA business to Keith Beene in Nashville.
  • Hold digital photos of Jake after trying to feed him rice cereal and mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Store all my friends - and contacts - phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • Keep my personal and office calendars from scheduling me in two places at the same time.
  • Remember my wife's birthday (while reminding me not to mention how many).
  • Transport documents between work and home.
  • List of all the tasks I have at work and all the chores I have at home.
  • Call my wife to tell her I've missed the bus because I was too distracted playing with my PDA.

Whether I become an addict is yet to be determined. What already is evident is that my faithful paper-based "organizer" is no match for the multitude of meetings I have to keep up with.

Time management specialists will tell you to keep only one calendar with all your appointments. That explains why I was losing the battle trying to keep straight a paper-based organizer and the Microsoft Outlook calendar on my work computer. I never remembered to combine the things I'd said "Yes" to at work with the other things I'd said "Yes" to at home and elsewhere.

Now every day my PDA will "synchronize" my appointments from work, home, church, BCA, a non-profit board and the commitments I make to friends and others, assuming I don't misplace it.

One thing it won't do, however, is tell me when to say enough is enough.

I have to decide to quit trying to pack more into my day and instead remember to leave time for Mary Marcia and Jake, as well as the time to recharge my batteries with rest, reading and casual pursuits.

I was in my first year of grad school when a professor gave me some of the best advice of the whole program: "You need to decide now what you're going to say "No" to, because you can't do it all."

She was right, and it helped me set boundaries for my two years of study, focusing almost exclusively on work, school and family.

Now I'm finding that I need to rediscover that ability to say "No."

Maybe you're finding yourself in the same boat. If so, join me for my next few blogs, as I'm going explore a few ideas on how to get ones schedule under control.

POSTED: Jan 23, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com

Attention BCA'ers: It's time to play ball!!

The 2007 Wilmer C. Fields Awards Competition is now underway. You can download the Call for Entries here. The theme for the competition this year is "Field of Dreams." With apologies to Kevin Costner, we are hoping that if we hold a competition, you will come! This year there are some new categories for podcasting, adjustments within existing categories, as well as some enhancements in how to prepare and submit news writing, feature writing, and photography entries. The entry fee is the same as last year: $40 per entry. The deadline for postmarking your entries is January 31. We are setting up the judging to be complete by the second week in March. Send me an email or give me a call if you have any questions about the competition. I look forward to seeing everyone at the BCA conference in beautiful Mobile, Ala., April 11-14!

POSTED: Jan 5, 2007 | Brent Thompson, Associate Director of Communications, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary - bthompson@swbts.edu

Words by Palmer Hartsough & James H. Fillmore, Sr. 1896

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music. Sure, when stores start playing Christmas songs before Halloween, you can get a little tired of Rudolph before December 25. But still, Christmas wouldn't be the same without the familiar songs and carols we've come to know and love. They give us a sense of tradition, familiarity and comfort.

But then January hits and they all go away. But never fear, because there is a hymn that is just perfect for starting January. Perhaps you might even think of it as your own New Year's carol. That's what the hymn, "I Am Resolved" has become for me. I'm not much for making New Year's resolutions, but consider the challenge set forth by the hymn's writer, Palmer Hartsough: "I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world's delight; things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight."

Sounds like the Apostle Paul could have written that hymn, doesn't it? Remember his challenge to the church at Philippi? "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8, NAS). Its a good reminder, as we start the new year, of how easy it is to be distracted by the things of this world, and how important it is to set our minds on the things of God.

That's good advice for all of us spiritually, but it's also good advice for BCA members as we look ahead to the 2007 workshop. In just a little over a month, you'll have the opportunity to begin registering for the Mobile workshop April 11-14. I encourage you not to "linger" but to "hasten" to get your registration in early when the time comes. Watch for more information on the Web site and by email and snail mail during January about the workshop program and the registration process. (There might even be some incentives for those who register right away!).

In the mean time, happy new year!

POSTED: Jan 2, 2007 | Doug Rogers, Communications Coordinator, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions - drogers@alsbom.org

Getting Mobilized in Mobile

When I had a work-related video assignment in Mobile during the summer, I did what any other fun-seeking dad would do - I dragged my kids along! The two-day excursion gave us the opportunity to enjoy Mobile as a family (my wife is a nurse and had to work) and to view the city through my BCA goggles. The result? I was more excited than ever that we'll be holding our annual BCA workshop in Mobile next April.

We stayed in the Riverview Plaza Hotel (on the top floor overlooking the bay, much to my nine-year-old son's delight), visited the Gulf Coast Exploreum right next to the hotel, went to a Mobile BayBears baseball game, ate at Sonic (okay, maybe not the best choice in a seafood haven like Mobile), and toured the USS Alabama battleship and USS Drum submarine before heading home. In short, we did many of the things you'll have the opportunity to do when you attend the 2007 workshop.

If you've not already marked out April 11-14 on your calendar, do so immediately so you won't miss what promises to be a great experience. We'll begin Wednesday evening with an informal time of fellowship and enrichment (more on that later!). Thursday and Friday will be filled with opportunities to hear from speakers who will both challenge and encourage you.

The workshop will also feature a time to be involved in at least one local missions effort in three ways - by volunteering time, giving a donation, and perhaps gaining some practical communications skills onsite (taking photos, writing stories, etc.) Also mixed into the week will be an evening cruise on the Bay as well as the annual Wilmer C. Fields Awards Celebration. Our plans are to conclude the workshop late morning Saturday to give you time to travel home and be with your family, worship in your church and prepare for the work week ahead.

The focus of the workshop will be "Mobilizing the Message" (get it? Mobile & mobilize! Pretty good, huh!) Watch this space every month for more about the workshop. Until then, you might want to check out these Web sites to whet your appetite.

Get ready to be mobilized!

POSTED: Sep 7, 2006 | Doug Rogers, Communications Coordinator, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions - drogers@alsbom.org

Hello Officers

Well, here is a prototype of the new site. I'm still working out a few bugs, but the main content for the site is coming along. I still have plans to add some Members Only features (you know, just like the stringy flaps on those jackets!).

I do want to start getting your feedback on the main content. I've done my best to get everything organized, and I've pulled a few pieces of text from old documents to get what you'll see in the site. Please feel free to make comments where you would like.

I am hungry for content. A few blog posts from each of you would be great (for now you can just send them directly to me for posting - but hopefully you'll be able to do this yourself in the future).

You'll probably want to go ahead and send me a headshot of yourself to associate with your blog posts - otherwise I might just pick something out myself.

The Resources page is something I could use help brainstorming on as well. What would you like to see on a page for each category? What type of item could we add that would be fresh and get our members coming back and attract new members at the same time?

Also, if you see some stuff that just looks wrong in your browser, feel free to pass it along to me. I check heavily on IE and Firefox on the PC.

These are few of my thoughts during this phase of development. I'll be on vacation until July 24, but please feel free to drop me a line in the meantime.

POSTED: Jul 16, 2006 | Cam Tracy, Web Development Agent, Union University - ctracy@uu.edu

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