By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
While testing audio speaker levels for his Chapel forum Thursday, Washington Post staff writer Hamil Harris playfully grabbed a microphone and broke into singing Amazing Grace with Wade Huggins, junior worship ministry major from Abilene and Cullen Auditorium sound technician. Harris’ friendly personality bubbles over to almost everyone he meets, and his message of enjoying life and being thankful was one of the topics he covered during his lectures at ACU.
“I’m so blessed,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to bring a message of hope and optimism. It doesn’t make sense to be a prophet of doom and gloom.”
Harris, who is in Abilene as a special guest of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication for Friday’s Grand Opening of the JMC Network Student Media News Lab, spoke Thursday in a Chapel forum in Hart Auditorium titled “I am a journalist. I am a Christian. So what?” He discussed the importance of people’s lives and how journalists can balance unbiased reporting with their faith.
“Christianity is not what I write about; it’s who I am,” Harris said. “It makes me want to be disciplined.”
Harris will speak again in a symposium titled “Diversity and new media. Are you ready?” Friday at 2 p.m. in Cullen Auditorium. He will lecture how the convergence of media is hurting the newspaper industry and how journalists can combat and adjust to the change.
“The media is in one big grocery store,” Harris said of readers’ choices in media. “If I’m going to a grocery store, I’m not just going to buy rutabagas because that’s not on my shopping list. Based on what my grocery list is, I’m going to buy what feeds my family. In media, we have to understand that there’s always going to be bad stuff, but there’s still an opportunity.”
Harris joined the Washington Post in 1992, and worked as a staff writer while also producing news videos. In 2007, he won two Emmys with fellow reporter Ben de la Cruz for their video work on the Post’s series “Being a Black Man.” He has written the book Career Diary of a Newspaper Reporter, and contributed to the book Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril.
Harris has covered stories on anthrax attacks, Barack Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, Pope Benedict’s U.S. visit, Hurricane Katrina and former President Gerald Ford’s funeral. He will be the first speaker in the JMC department’s lecture series this year that focuses on diversity in media.
“A camera can’t tell the story; a tape recorder is just a piece of equipment,” Harris said. “Media can’t drive people; people drive media.”