PureInsight | October 7, 2009
Experience sharing from the 2009 Washington D.C. Fa Conference
[PureInsight.org] Greetings, Master. Greetings, fellow practitioners.
Today, I would like to share my experiences and understanding about my journey becoming a professional journalist in the Fa-rectification period. I hope that it can be helpful to practitioners in general who are working on projects that they need to become professionals on. Please point out anywhere where you see my understanding is not on the Fa.
I have been working on the Epoch Times in New York City for about five years. When I first started working on the newspaper, I had no idea what it meant to be a professional journalist. I only knew that I could write and had the desire to save sentient beings and clarify the truth. Media seemed like a good way to reach many people very quickly. One story can go out over the Internet and be in many different places at one time. One newspaper can pass through many hands. I was happy that I’d found a way to help clarify the truth on a global scale.
For many years, I stumbled along as a reporter and editor for the newspaper, learning a few basics but never getting in-depth training. Many things have been slower and more difficult than they should have been because of this. The impact of our newspaper, while really positive, hasn’t quite reached the scale of having a firm footing in society. We seem to spend too much time amongst ourselves, trying to figure out how things are done, instead of being part of society and learning from business models and examples that already exist.
In the “Fa Teaching at the 2009 Greater New York International Fa Conference,” Master said:
“For a media entity to really have the effect of saving sentient beings and really leverage the strengths of a media outlet, you have to have a firm footing in ordinary society. Having a firm footing in ordinary society isn't just something to pay lip service to. Rather, it is something you need to truly act upon. If you want to have a firm footing in ordinary society, you have to run that entity well.”
Not wanting to wait for the environment to change so that I could improve, about 18 months ago, I decided to learn how to be a professional journalist. I started by networking, and joined some professional journalism organizations. I studied journalism magazines and books, and even watched a few good movies about professional journalists doing their jobs. I went to a 3-day journalism conference in Washington, D.C. It was the first time I had been around a large group of journalists for days on end. There is still a sliver of idealism left in the world of journalism. I saw it during that conference, and on some level it inspired me to strive forward. I think it is no accident that Master and the Fa have left the form of journalism for us to use to clarify the truth.
Soon after the conference, I started to connect with professional journalists, most of whom had been working professionally for 20-30 years. Through freelance work, I paid off most of my debt so I could work toward doing journalism full time. Within a few months, Master provided me with enough money to pay for a new laptop, camera, voice recorder for interviews, and two journalism courses at New York University. Along the way, I never stopped reporting and writing. I helped report in Flushing all summer and on the Chinese melamine scandal all fall.
During these months, the biggest hurdle I faced was trying to not feel like a fake, a fraud, or that at best I was just pretending to be professional. The matter I created with these thoughts in another dimension restrained me every time I gave my Epoch Times business card to someone or told someone I was a journalist or reporter working for the Epoch Times. A voice would say to me, “You’re not really a journalist, you’re only pretending.”
During these months, I started to realize there were problems in my xinxing, in how I was approaching being professional, and in how I was cooperating with my fellow practitioners.
In Lecture Four of Zhuan Falun, Master says, “All professions in human society should exist. It is the human heart that is indecent, rather than one’s occupation.”
Although I had reached a standard at an ordinary level of a professional journalist, I became frustrated and upset about the skill level of other practitioners working on the paper. I grew pessimistic and defensive, and decided I would just “do my own thing” and not wait for others to come up to a professional level. I would contribute my skills, and if others wanted to work harder to become professional, that would be their business. I isolated myself mentally and physically, even insisting on sitting at a desk far away from the rest of the group in the office. The result was not good.
I slowly became isolated from the body of practitioners working on the Epoch Times, even though I was in the office almost every day, continued to join Fa study, and regularly contributed articles to the paper and website. My heart had drifted into a place void of selfless compassion. Then I had to leave town for a few weeks to see family. About four days after leaving New York, I got a serious ear infection in both ears, my left ear bled for several days, and I could hear almost nothing, even if someone was standing in front of me and yelling.
The world around me had gone silent, and it forced me to look inside. I found attachments of greed, selfishness, reputation, fear, anger, frustration, and mistrust, to name a few.
When I got back to New York, the human resources director at the newspaper was interviewing everyone about their jobs and the environment at the paper. He gave me something I had not had in a long time—an ear—and I bent it for a couple of days with complaints and frustrations. In between the complaints, there was also sharing, which I realized I was starved for. After several conversations with this practitioner, I started to feel very uncomfortable about my negativity and judgment. The simple act of talking about what had been bothering me seemed to be helping, but something was still off.
In Lecture 5 of Zhuan Falun, in the section “Zhuyou Ke,” Master says:
“For instance, if someone has grown a boil on her face, the practitioner will draw a circle on the ground with a brush-pen dipped in cinnabar ink and draw an ‘x’ in the middle of the circle. He will ask her to stand in the center of the circle. Then he will start to chant the incantations. Later he will use the brush-pen dipped in cinnabar ink to draw circles on her face. While drawing, he will chant the incantations. He will keep drawing until he makes a dot on the boil with the brush-pen, and the chanting of incantations is over. He will tell her that it is now well. When she feels the boil, she will find it indeed smaller and no longer painful, for this can be effective. He can heal minor illnesses, but not major ones.”
I realized that just complaining endlessly and refusing to really look inside was just like using this method of “Zhuyou Ke.” All of the talking was like the chanting of incantations, and seemed to make my problems a little bit better. But the fundamental issues in my xinxing were unresolved. I believe that is because of what Master says later in that same chapter and section of Zhuan Falun, “Zhuyou ke is not something within our cultivation category, for it is not gong attained through cultivation practice. Instead, it is something like a technique.”
I realized it was me who needed to change and not everyone around me. Then everything was different—almost overnight. Most significant of all was the understanding I came to learn about what it means to be a “professional” in the Fa-rectification period.
In “Lunyu,” Master says:
“‘The Buddha Fa’ is an insight into all mysteries. It encompasses everything and leaves out nothing—from particles and molecules to the universe, from the even smaller to the even greater. It is an exposition of the characteristic of the universe, ‘Zhen-Shan-Ren,’ expressed at different levels with different layers of meaning.”
If we practitioners in this Fa-rectification period take a close look, we will see that the principles we need to be professional journalists are within the all-encompassing law of the Buddha Fa of Zhen-Shan-Ren. There is no great mystery to which we have not already been given the most thorough guide. Everything we need to be professional journalists is actually in Zhuan Falun.
Of course, working among ordinary people at a professional level requires knowledge, skills, education, and practice. We cannot guess at how to be professionals, and there are many, many examples to look at and tools to use. But there is also absolutely nothing to be afraid of or intimidated by. In fact, once I looked at journalism from the highest-level principles of Zhen-Shan-Ren, I suddenly realized the all-encompassing Fa was enriching, enlightening, and broadening my wisdom about how to be a professional. I can call myself a professional and not feel like a fraud because of my commitment to being a Falun Dafa practitioner and my faith in the Fa.
Through all the twists and turns of the last 18 months, the fundamental point I’ve learned from my training, mentoring, and experience is that the ultimate standard for a professional is Zhen-Shan-Ren.
At an ordinary level, people call journalists “truth tellers.”
In Essentials for Further Advancement (Volume I), in the article “Cultivation and Work,” Master says, “The Dafa of the universe (the Buddha Fa) is coherent and complete, from the highest level to the lowest level. You should know that ordinary human society also comprises a level of the Fa.”
Master and the Great Fa of the cosmos have left a reference point for us at the level of ordinary society about how to be professional journalists within the existence of major media companies.
The Fa-principle of Zhen is particularly significant in this. A fellow practitioner with NTDTV shared with me recently about an intensive three-day training session he runs in different cities around the world. Out of those three days, consistently the most popular portion is the hour spent on ethics. I believe that is because practitioners recognize the importance of being honest and ethical as it applies to being professional.
I often go out to report on news stories, or spend several days or weeks working on a longer feature story. The starting point is always to tell the truth. If I deviate from telling the truth in my work, I am being unprofessional, and problems result. Mistakes have to be corrected, apologies made, and the reputation of the newspaper is risked.
From my understanding, one of the most valuable tools we as practitioners have at our disposal on the path to becoming professional is compassion.
It might seem strange to think of compassion as related to being professional. But in the past 18 months as I focused heavily on becoming professional I had many, many experiences that led me back to the guiding Fa principle of compassion. Even when I thought I had to look at ordinary people who are experienced professional journalists, I saw that the most successful and well-respected people were always those who acted in a kind and considerate manner toward others. The highest-level professionals among the many journalists I have met, interacted with, and become friends with are those who always return phone calls, always answer emails, take the time to offer insight and advice, always communicate clearly and in a timely manner, make time to meet, etc.
Over time, I have slowly cultivated the part of myself that thinks of others first in my work. It goes beyond returning phone calls and emails, though. A professional also strives to do their work well. Successful professional journalists strive to meet deadlines, turn in high-quality finished products, and complete assignments given to them. Much of being professional is related to thinking of others first, from beginning to end.
Once I realized the importance of compassion in being a professional journalist, my mind opened up and I became relieved and happy for fellow practitioners who have been hesitating about being involved or doubting their abilities. I realized that as long as we follow the Fa, we can reach the level of being professionals! We will find ways to become better and better at our jobs, we will find the strength to take on jobs we thought we couldn’t do, and we will find the courage to step forward, even though we might have notions about being “busy” or “not being good enough.” But the key truly lies in working together and cooperating well.
For a professional working in a media company, there is absolutely no such thing as “doing your own thing,” “working alone” or doing things “my way.” Rather, each person has to be able to work independently, yes, but also needs to be independently reliable, so that the body of practitioners can be effective and efficient.
In “Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005” Master said:
“Dafa disciples are to do what Dafa disciples are supposed to do, openly and with confidence. When you [are able to do that] and have no thoughts of being dependent on other people or things, the evil won't dare to exploit your gaps, and bad things will flee at the mere sight of you, because you have no omissions that it can exploit.”
I think that as practitioners working in the media strive to become more professional, there will naturally be an emphasis on being self-reliant as everyone becomes more professional. Isn’t being self-reliant an act of thinking of others first? When we consider how our actions impact others, we’ll probably realize that the act of being professional is also rooted in the principle of compassion.
I have found rising to the standard of a professional journalist is one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining things I’ve ever done. The starkest aspect of this is the endurance required in seeing a story through from beginning to end.
Good reporters are tenacious. Even if it is raining, cold, or blistering hot, they will still come out to report the story and stay until they are done working. One time, I took a newer reporter out with me to train them on the job. We were reporting on a rally and the weather was especially bad. Yet all of the professional journalists around us with heavy TV cameras and cumbersome equipment stayed on the scene to work. They were there for hours, waiting in the rain. Some people I know have traveled to places like Iraq and Afghanistan and worked in temperatures well over 100 degrees and they have to work in life-threatening situations. Yet they persevere physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Earlier this month I was in the West Bank, in the Middle East, reporting on stories for the Epoch Times. It was almost 100 degrees every day, incredibly dusty, and for three and a half days I had to repeatedly skip meals while working and go on very little sleep. But I was in an area near Israel that has been cut off for years and local practitioners cannot visit for safety reasons. Under these circumstances, it was extremely important to be professional at all times, as it was the first time all of the people I was interviewing had ever heard of the Epoch Times. It took more endurance than I knew I had, and by the time I left I was extremely exhausted. During this time, maintaining Fa study, sending righteous thoughts, practicing the exercises, and clarifying the truth were key. That was what sustained me and helped me pull through working under such isolated and physically demanding circumstances.
For practitioners working in media, endurance is key for us to be able to do our jobs well. Sometimes we are extremely tired or lazy and can’t find the energy to follow through and finish what we started. Sometimes we want to quit and find a different project to work on that fits our lives better. Sometimes when we go out to report on a story, we don’t stay long enough or talk to enough people. A stable, predictable, reliable work ethic is a key to being a professional journalist.
Again, in “Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005,” Master said, “As a matter of fact, though, negative beings indeed like darkness, and they also like irregularity.”
If we are not firm and resolved to do what we must do, evil factors can interfere. Once our hearts are committed, nothing can stop us from clarifying the truth using the mighty weapon of the media to save sentient beings.
Rectifying the Environment
The environment in the New York office of the Epoch Times has gone through many ups and downs. Sometimes those of us who have worked on the paper for years have gotten perplexed and concerned about the situation, especially where financial and human resources are concerned. We have often worried over practitioners who used to work on the newspaper and quit for one reason or another. We thought a major factor must be the environment and our xinxing. So about a month ago, we started sending righteous thoughts and reading one of Master’s short articles before we put together that day’s newspaper. The shift in the environment has been drastic.
Evidence of this shift is that in one month, our ad sales went up so much that we covered 67% of the cost of the newspaper. Several new practitioners started to come in and work on the paper. I think as practitioners continue to improve and grow in their understanding of how to be professional journalists within the principles of the Fa, the situation at the Epoch Times will improve by the day, the hour, the minute, and the second.
Master said in Essentials for Further Advancement (Volume I), in the article, “When the Fa is Right,” “When the Fa is right, the universe will be right. Life will flourish, heaven and earth will be stable, and the Fa will exist forever.”
The biggest lesson I have learned through my trials and tribulations of becoming a professional journalist is that every practitioner who has the heart can become also become a professional in whatever project they work on, whether in the media or something else.
Let’s encourage one another, believe in one another, and form an unbreakable body of Dafa disciples who are professional in our projects to save sentient beings. I’d like to finish with Master’s words again from the “Fa Teaching at the 2009 Greater New York International Fa Conference”:
“Dafa can strengthen even diamond, so could it be that we can't help one such individual person to improve? No environment can compare to that of Dafa disciples. As long as your righteous thoughts, as Dafa disciples, get a little stronger and you collaborate a little better with fewer conflicts, the strength of your efforts to save people will be greater.”