I met Nathan VanderKlippe at his home church of Smithville CRC
when I was there for a year serving as a student intern pastor.
Actually, I think I saw him on TV as a reporter for Global TV
before I met him in real life! Currently he is a journalist for
The Globe and Mail (many of his articles are listed here).
I’m grateful he has taken the time to let us catch a glimpse
of what he’s doing and what God’s doing through him…
What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the name Jesus?
Jesus teaches us who we are, and who we should be – as people, but also as a society. Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” I particularly like that second part.
How were you drawn to journalism?
I enjoy writing, and have always been curious about the world around me. I never really considered journalism as a career until I somewhat accidentally fell into it in college, but it seemed to match a lot of my personal interests. I like the opportunities it gives to meet and engage with interesting people, and the ability to grapple with pressing social issues in a very intimate way.
Where is the most interesting place being a journalist has taken you?
Probably Alert, a Canadian Forces spy station near the northernmost tip of land in the Americas. It’s a good chunk of the way to the North Pole, and was built during the Cold War to listen in on the Russians. It still runs, equipped with the kinds of highly-sophisticated radio gear that allows our spooks to intercept radio transmissions, cell phone, satellite calls, etc. from the people we want to eavesdrop on.
What challenges are there in being not only a journalist, but a Christian journalist?
Journalism done right requires a blend of smarts, courage and passion. It can be difficult to bring any of those to bear on the job on any day, much less all three. It can be difficult to keep in mind the higher principles of the trade during the deadline grind. And it can be difficult to really tease out that dangerous word – truth – from the clouds of corporate message massaging. When the question arises of what a Christian reporter’s work should look like, it can be easy to confuse journalism with editorializing. My job is not to present my own view so much as it is to accurately present those of others – and to shed light on those issues that deserve it. There’s judgment involved in the latter part of that equation, a judgment that for a Christian needs to flow from biblical principles of social justice, and a fundamental aversion to wrongdoing. As such, I feel like the strongest mandate of a Christian journalist is to excellence, compassion and unvarnished honesty. We are to do everything as working for the Lord. That’s a high bar.
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing journalism?
Journalism can be a great job! It’s a chance to document and, occasionally, participate in the public conversation. It’s a chance to get a front-row seat to the things people are curious about, and a chance to inform, entertain and, hopefully, provide cause for reflection. Journalism at its best can be a way to tell us more about ourselves – not to mention the vital accountability role it can play. But it is a very competitive world, especially with all of the media positions that have been lost in the past few years. I would never discourage anyone from looking at journalism. I would, however, urge anyone with an interest to consider whether they’re willing to live in a small town, possibly for years, working for low pay and little gratitude, with only a slim chance of breaking out into something bigger. I myself have been amazingly blessed that my career has progressed as it has, and there isn’t anything very unique about my own abilities – so it can be done. But I honestly worry about anyone entering journalism today. It just doesn’t seem like a high-growth area – and it may be worth pointing out that the skill set journalism requires can be used for an awful lot of good outside of media, too.
You’ll now see “RTRP” near the top of the page. That’s where I’ll file “Right Time Right Place” interviews, including the one with Aimee Bootsma last month.