Why We Should Look at Isaiah the Prophet this Christmas

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In the run up to Christmas we Christians traditionally lament the triumph of materialism over the triumphant entry of our Saviour into this world.

The Bible as we all know has a lot to say about Christ’s birth - perhaps some of the most famous appearing in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

The book, written by Isaiah son of Amoz (1:1) should be especially loved by those work in the media because of the sheer beauty of its language and its stirring predictions – 700 years before Christ’s birth – of His entry into the world.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory. (6:3)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel. (7:14)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ((9:6)

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (53;6)

Like most prophets, Isaiah announced the bad news of punishment for sin. But he also described a coming Messiah who would be “wounded for our transgressions… bruised for our iniquities… and with his stripes we are healed (53:5)

Called to the ministry through a stunning vision of God in heaven, Isaiah wrote a book that some have called the “fifth gospel” for its predictions of the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ some 700 years later.

The prophecies of redemption offset some of Isaiah’s more depressing promises of God’s discipline against Judah and Jerusalem, which were overrun by Babylonian armies about a century later.

Isaiah’s prophecy ends with a long section (chapters 40-66) describing God’s restoration of Israel, His promised salvation and His eternal kingdom.

Early in His ministry, Jesus said that he fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah. “The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (61:1-2)

The purpose of the book of Isaiah is to demonstrate the trustworthiness of the Lord. The first king whom Isaiah serves, Ahaz, did not trust the Lord. He ignored Isaiah’s advice and followed his own schemes.

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This led to defeat and servitude at the hands of the Assyrians. Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, in contrast, trusted the Lord and Jerusalem was delivered from Sennacherib and the Assyrians. In the second half of the book the exiles were also encouraged to trust the Lord to bring deliverance and to respond like Hezekiah, not like Ahaz.

A significant theme is the hope in a future ideal Davidic king. The book provides a template for Messianic expectation as it develops a profile of God’s plan, including the exaltation of Jerusalem (see Isa 2), the coming child who is to reign (see Isa 9), peace and stability of the reign of the Davidic heir (see Isa 11), and how the ideal Servant of the Lord will carry out God’s mission (see Isa 42–53).

That much is fairly well known about Isaiah, but there are other less well known – but no less interesting things – about him:

  • He had two children with strange prophetic names. Shear-jashub (7:3) means “a remnant shall return” and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:3) means “haste to the spoil”.

  • Shear-jashub’s name carried God’s promise that Jews would one-day return home.

  • Maher-shalal-hash-baz’s name assured the king of Judah that his country’s enemies would be dealt with by Assyrian armies.

This Christmas, as we relax with our families, it’s worth thinking about Isaiah and his prophecies as an antidote to the materialism of the age.

Alastair Tancred, Editor for Christians in Media


Don’t forget the call to arms this Sunday!

This Sunday (04 November) has been especially designated by churches and Christians across the UK as a time to pray for all those who work in the media. 

The Day of Prayer for the Media has been supported by Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and Nicky Gumbel, Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, London, and pioneer of The Alpha Course.

We at Christians in the Media urge you not to forget or ignore this day.

Why? Because Journalists and those who work in the media play a crucial role in society. That is the case today more than ever as Brexit-facing Britain grapples with important decisions that will have long term consequences.

Information is power and it is our job if we are to glorify God to disseminate it impartially, fairly, independently and with balance.

If we fail to fulfil our responsibilities in this area, the consequences can be catastrophic. I write this to you from Bangladesh - a country where journalists who express dissenting views against the government face severely unpleasant consequences. The fate of world renowned photographer Shahidul Alam - arrested and allegedly tortured in August after posting live videos on Facebook that criticised the government - are testament to that.

So let’s not take for granted the relative freedom our media enjoys in Britain. Our Lord told us to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, and for many of us in the media that call begins at home. That means we must not be afraid to reflect Christ’s values in the awesome role we bear as messengers to the British people.

Add your prayers on social media this Sunday using the tag #pray4media.

Alastair Tancred, Christians in Media Editor

Balancing Work and Life as a Freelancer

It’s the best of times and the worst of time for people wanting to break into journalism. The best of times because cutbacks by news organisations around the world means there are arguably more openings than ever for freelancers.

But the worst of times because while nearly every major news organisation in the world has openings for journalists, in many cases they are only available to those willing to work weekends and late at night.  

Likewise staff jobs for journalists, with pensions and paid holidays, seem to be fewer and further between.

So how can budding freelancers find the right work/life balance and earn enough to keep their head above water? This month we talk to award winning freelance photographer Patrick Brown,  who recently won a World Press award and has worked for many leading publications as well as the UN in danger zones. 


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Patrick Brown, how did you break through into freelance photojournalism?

I began my career as a theatre set builder in Perth, Australia, while at the same time studying art at night school.

I was also working at a multi-storey carpark at the time and remember reading an article about an Australian surgeon, Robert Weedon, who was working in Malawi. At the time, he was the only trained surgeon of two-and a-half million people.

Robert’s life was especially of interest to me because three years earlier he treated me for an internal hernia – basically I had ruptured my bowel and was being poisoned by my bile. He diagnosed my illness, operated on me and saved my life.

I sold my car and my surfboard so that I could fly out to Malawi in 1994 and take photos of Dr Weedon’s  out there. I used 24 rolls of black and white films and 26 rolls of colour.

I was able to use the photos to document his work as well as Malawi’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.

I had an exhibition which was a great success in Perth and the same time I had the images published in The West Australian Magazine, which raised money for Dr Weedon’s work and the people of Malawi.

I realised at the point that photographs can change people’s lives.

From then onwards I began working for the magazine and started venturing out to Asia to cover stories. In 1997,  I went to Hong Kong to over the British handover to the Chinese.

In the same year I went to the Perpignan Photo Festival, where I met like-minded photographers. I decided after that I would move to Asia, and did so in 1999.

From there I worked on a variety of photo projects, but specifically I was introduced to the forests, jungles and people of the Thai-Burma border.

My long-going love affair with Asia had begun, and I have now worked in most of the countries of the region for a variety of well-known publications including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN.

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What have been the highlights of your career?

I am pleased to say that during the course of my career I have had a multitude of high points.

I have also been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented and generous people who in the earlier part of my career were kind and patient enough to show me the ropes.

Apart for the Robert Wheedon project, other high points include a project I worked on which chronicled the trafficking of endangered animal species in South-East Asia.

It was 10-year multi-award winning photo-documentary which culminated in a book I produced in 2014 – in partnership with journalist Ben Davies – entitled Trading to Extinction.

Another story I will never forget is the mass exodus of 750,00 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh from August and September 2017 onwards.

The images were nominated for the World Press Photo award and won first prize in the Single Image news category.

My images of the Rohingya exodus featured in the August 2018 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, while in 2011 images that I took which showed the aftermath of the Sri Lankan war appeared in

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And the low points?

In 2012 the company behind a Crowdfunding campaign that I had launched to finance the launch of Trading to Extinction went bankrupt, which meant that I lost nearly $30,000 of my own money.

The whole experience left me disheartened and even left me losing all my motivation for photography.

But then I realised that it was not photography I disliked but some of the business interests behind it, where everybody is out for themselves.

I understood then that I needed to reignite my love affair with photography, and it took some time to find it again.

Another downer about being an around-the-world photojournalist is this: You have to endure countless bouts of upset stomachs, not to mention illnesses of all description.

What’s your advice to freelancers eager to start in news photography?

Never take no for an answer and keep developing your own narrative.

Trust your inner voice and never stop growing or learning.  

Above all, look after your back – taking photos when it’s painful is a nightmare.

 

How do you juggle the work/life tussle?

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Few news photographers have to endure the horrors of the daily commute and even fewer freelance news photographers do.

For most international news journalists and photographers, the 9-5 job doesn’t come into it. You are on the road all the time. It’s quite a lonely existence.

I’m afraid to say that it’s not nearly as romantic as all the Hollywood movies make it out to be.

Be prepared to put in a lot of time away from your family to pursue your career. It can take years.  

When I am in the field I try to stay motivated by finding new things – and if necessary new ways – of new ways of photographing stuff.

If you can travel with a colleague or a friend do so. It can be unpleasant when you have no-one to bounce ideas off and all you have is your own echo chamber.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of being freelance?

You have the freedom to pursue your own narrative even if it fails.

The most creative people I have met are freelancers.

The reason I feel this is because it is an uncomfortable existence financially and that discomfort has challenged me to push myself into creative areas that sometimes do not work.

But if you want a comfortable and financially secure existence, I’m not sure I would recommend a freelance career to anybody.

On an average year I am earning only about 30,000 GBP gross and on top of that I have to buy a lot of equipment in addition to covering my travelling expenses and sundry other payments.

But on the plus side I have more freedom to make decisions in relation to my job. I am the janitor and the CEO of my business. I have to do everything.

How do you cope with the trauma of some of the events that you have witnessed?

When I witness bloodshed or suffering I remember that I am only a visitor to the scene that I am bearing witness to.

I cope with it by thinking that this is not my reality – my reality is far away.

Bearing witness is in no way the same as personally experiencing the injustices or suffering that I am photographing.

You have to stay detached, otherwise you cannot record an event from an objective perspective.

But I must emphasise that this doesn’t mean to say I’m not affected by what I have witnessed.

I get affected afterwards when I’m going through my edit – the trauma in effect has been delayed.

I would find it much harder to cope with out my biggest support – my wife Camilla – and my family and friends.

Find out more about Patrick and his work over on his website

5 Traits of a Good Leader

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In your role within the media industry, you have the opportunity to be a trusted voice for God, glorifying Jesus in what you say and do. Below are five qualities that good leaders possess. Will you aspire to and work towards these?

1. You ask God what His vision is

Ask God what His hopes and plans are for you and your area of responsibility. If you’re leading a team, ask Him to guide you in your relationships with the people reporting to you. If you’re developing a new script, ask for creativity, imagination and divine inspiration.

Listen intently to the heartbeat of God. Remember that you can’t do everything, so commit to acting on specific things God speaks to you about, and pray that others will rise to lead in those areas of the media where you cannot reach

2. You listen and serve

Ask your team members what they think needs to be done and research your area of expertise. What processes should be maintained and what practices should be changed? Are there communities underrepresented in your newspaper? Are there workflow processes that are inhibiting, not aiding, your team’s ability to work?

See the need, understand the challenges, and do something about it. Don’t let goals and outcomes become so consuming that you forget to serve the people you lead.

3. You take responsibility

Servant leadership shouldn’t be a passive activity, waiting until someone else asks you to do something before you act. A good servant leader will be proactive, intentionally stepping into the gap and taking action where it is needed. They are not power-hungry, but nor do they wait for instructions; they use their initiative and act on behalf of those they lead, where others might walk away.

If a colleague in your production crew or social media team falls ill, can you offer to temporarily take over their workload? Refuse to give in to the idea that it is always someone else’s problem – if you leave it to someone else you’ll be left following their vision instead of God’s.

4. You never stop learning

Good leaders learn from people who have gone before them, from those at the chalk face who they are leading, and from their own experiences, good and bad. Is there an experienced press officer, photographer or producer who you could ask to be your mentor? Everything won’t go right all at once; be humble enough to acknowledge areas for growth and then build your competency in that area.

Learn and grow by doing. Hebrews 11 is a list of ‘heroes’ of faith – scared people who felt unprepared and had made bad decisions in the past. But they trusted God enough to step out in faith and begin doing what He had called them to do. If you have the opportunity to work on a new project outside of your comfort zone, ask God if this is an opportunity for you to learn and grow.

5. You speak out

When something needs to be said, step up to the microphone. This applies to those who have an external audience, such as journalists and presenters, as well as those who don’t, for example sound technicians, camera operators, and the like. Has your documentary work given you a heart for a social justice issue you could champion? Is there an internal matter, perhaps a damaged relationship in your team, where you could play a role of reconciliation and peace?

You serve under the authority of God and are committed to speaking with that authority into the place to which God has called you. But make sure you speak with wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and not rashly or in anger (Proverbs 13:3, James 1:19).

Earn the right to lead and speak by establishing credibility: work hard, know the facts, and demonstrate your commitment.

Abi Jarvis is Public Leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance. Find out more at thepublicleader.com, @PublicLeaderUK on Facebookand Twitter, or email hello@thepublicleader.com

How To: Crack the Media Job Hunt

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Applying for your first or even fourteenth job in the media is never easy. Be it in PR, journalism, production or digital, our industry is notoriously competitive and ever-evolving, with an abundance of talent on tap.

So how can you increase your chances of being given a chance?

We’ve put together a checklist for those looking for their first job or a new opportunity.

The CV

Keep your CV visually clean and simple, with space between each section so it feels like a relief from the rest of the clutter on a recruiter’s computer screen, experts advise.

Younger applicants tend to throw in too much detail, leading to a dense document cluttered with irrelevancies. It’s better to have a lean, one-page CV than two pages of filler for a recruiter to struggle through.

Media applicants also tend to have chequered careers, Gavin Ricketts recently wrote in The Guardian, changing jobs regularly as they move between projects and working in a variety of roles.

“A compelling personal statement at the top of a CV that brings all this experience into a coherent description of you and your career aspirations, often works well,” he writes.

“The first sentence should introduce the role you’re looking for or the vacancy, if you’re responding to a specific advert. Next describe what experience you’ve gained to help you in that role, and finally write a sentence to show that you’re quietly confident, responsible, alert and willing to take on whatever task the job requires.

“Finish with a little about your ambitions, remembering to be clear that you don’t expect to get there at lightning speed. For instance: “I eventually want to be a producer, so I’m looking for production assistant roles to lay down a good foundation of experience first.”

“You need to communicate that you can work well with others, but don’t rely on simply stating: “I can work as part of a team” – a cliché long overdue for retirement.”

Ricketts advises job seekers instead to demonstrate where they’ve worked in a team, even if it was in part-time work while studying. For example: “I was one of seven shop floor staff, we worked as a team to make sure all customers were given the help they needed”.

The covering letter

“When you write your covering letter, you should never claim to be the perfect candidate,” Ricketts advises. “For me, that is the kiss of death. Being the perfect candidate is not just about ticking all the requirement boxes, it’s also about how you fit into the company.

“So instead of saying you’re the best person for the job, try this subtly different, more modest opening line: “I am excited to be applying for this role. Not only do the requirements match my skills and experience, but I am confident that this is a job I would really enjoy.”

“This way, you’re saying you have the right skills, but you’ve left it to the employer to decide whether you’re right for the team.

“Think of the application process as the beginning of a conversation between you and the employer. Creative organisations tend to be informal in the way they talk to each other, so if your CV and covering letter have a friendly but professional tone of voice – as though you’d just met your next boss in person – your application will come to life.

“The more human and approachable your application, the more they’ll want to meet you in person.”

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Preparing for the interview

Aside from making sure you look professional, and you are on time – two things you must do – you want to make sure you’ve studied the right topics to ensure the interviewer doesn’t stump you on any questions, Rachel Deahl in thebalancecareers.com advises.

“Although you shouldn’t think of an interview as an antagonistic situation — most interviewers aren’t trying to test you or catch you off-guard — you don’t want to draw a blank when you’re asked a question. For this reason, you should study up on a few things, and come up with answers to potential questions, before the big day,” she writes.

“One of the biggest pet peeves you will hear editors and hiring managers complain about, when it comes to interviewing, is talking to candidates who don’t know their company or their publication,” she advises.

For example, candidates seeking a job on a magazine should be prepared for questions such as: If you were going to write a story for us tomorrow, what would it be about?’ That requires knowing the publication inside out, Deahl says.

“It won’t do to simply know that Sports Illustrated simply covers sports or that Entertainment Weekly covers entertainment. You need to know specific stories the magazine published recently and you need to know the recurring sections of the magazine.”

How to Make Sure You Have the Right Answers

“The best way to prepare for a media interview is to study your potential employer,” Deahl advises. “If you’re interviewing for an editorial spot at a magazine, grab a bunch of back issues and go over them. Decide what you might change –  if you had the chance – by figuring out the sections you like and decide why you like them. Find stories you like and take note of them.

“Pay particular attention to getting things straight in your head. One thing that notoriously drives editors and others in the field crazy is mistaking them for their competition.”

Keep your cool

At the end of the day remember it’s just an interview. “If you can try to keep things in perspective, and not put too much pressure on yourself, it’s often easier to stay calm,” Deahl recommends. “Go in confident and calm. If you believe in yourself, and speak with confidence, employers will pick up on it”.

Dispel the myths

The Guardian recently published six myths about getting a career in the TV and media industry which are worth noting.

  • You’ll spend all of your time partying with celebrities– For every music or film festival you attend, there will always be plenty of accompanying strategy meetings to ensure the event goes without a hitch. Expect to work hard. The good news is that all the hard work is worth it
     
  • You’ll spend years in unpaid positions making the tea – Companies are increasingly recognising how integral upcoming talent is to their success. Rather than wasting the fresh insight and perspective new talent can bring, media firms are offering the chance for those without a great deal of direct work experience to get involved with exciting projects
     
  • It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know – Knowing the right people is likely to prove useful in any industry and media is no exception. Despite this, it’s a very outdated to view access to the industry as something predominately decided by nepotism
     
  • You need a media degree from a top university – Media is a hugely diverse industry with many types of roles but only some normally require a degree for a new entrant. While a higher level qualification is a very valuable tool to demonstrate willingness to work hard, commitment to a given task and potentially, a genuine interest in a given sector of the media, there are other ways to exhibit these things
  • To progress, you’ll need to bombard companies with CVs – The CV is one way to get on to a potential employer’s radar, but this should always form part of a broader strategy. The media business is powered by creativity and innovation and if you can show this through the way you search and apply for new roles, all the better. Be prepared to send examples of work – showcase things like your photography and design efforts, on Instagram and or Tumblr, and tweet links to articles you’ve written
  • You have a lot to learn and nothing to offer – People sometimes say something is only a cliche because it’s true, but in this case, the constant advice given to young people entering the media world – that they have a lot to learn and should spend their time soaking up as much information as possible – is only partly true. Of course, young people entering the media industry do have a lot to learn and the early period of their careers will involve them spending time gaining vital skills. However, the media industry doesn’t stand still and it is only through the contribution of upcoming young talent – digital natives who often possess real flair for things like social media – that companies are able to stay ahead of the curve