Remembering One of the Greatest Ministers of Music of All Time — Andrae Crouch

Andrae Crouch, who died Thursday, impacted generations with the songs God gave him to minister the Gospel. I wanted to remember what impact he had my life as a young church musician.


Early this morning on the radio,  I heard the chorus to the song “Take Me Back, Take Me Back, Dear Lord.” But, they didn’t come from a Gospel Radio Station or a Christian radio program.

Those words were coming through National Public Radio, which carried a story about the passing Thursday of one of the greatest Christian songwriters of all time: Andrae Crouch.

While those of us who literally grew up listening to Andrae Crouch’s music were saddened, he wouldn’t want us to be sad that he’s passed on from this life.

All we have to do is listen to the words of “Soon and Very Soon” and know that he’s had his head pointed toward heaven for many, many years.   It is the ultimate confidence that we as children of God have.

As Christians, our whole attitude about death and passing from this life on into eternity is different and we know and testify to that just by singing some of Crouch’s songs.

I can vividly remember learning how to play the piano by playing some of Crouch’s music.  Like Crouch, I too played piano (and the organ) in church as a teenager.

There are so many songs from the 1970s and 1980s–“Take Me Back,” ” Through It All,” “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, ” “My Tribute”– that taught me the power of music to minister to one’s soul.

As a singer, songwriter, choir director,  Crouch set the tone for what it meant to worship through our witnessing about what He means to us.   He showed us how to let the words of our testimony minister to others.

One of his last greatest hits– “Let the Church Say Amen” is a song that like dozens of others resonates with people to the point that they are sung not only in sacred, but also secular environments.

Crouch reached across racial lines with his music, touching those from all walks of life.

Even though he has passed on,  he’s left so much behind for us as music ministers of the Gospel to carry on.   Some have called Andrae Couch the “Father of Modern Gospel Music.”

If that is so,  then we the “children of modern Gospel Music” have to carry on Crouch’s work in our own singing of his songs, sharing the lyrics with those who are unsaved and writing our own songs that God places in our spirit and heart.

We’ll see Minister Crouch again one day  “Soon and Very Soon.”

Let the Church Say “AMEN.”

NPR’s Michele Norris Teaches University of Alabama Community How To Talk About Race

On the same day as her Race Card Project was named a winner of the Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media, NPR’s Michele Norris shared her journey to get people to talk about race during the Frank Nix Lecture at the University of Alabama.

Michele Norris takes questions from University of Alabama students.
Michele Norris takes questions from University of Alabama students.

Hours after learning her “Race Card Project” was chosen for  one of journalism’s highest awards ,  National Public Radio’s Michele Norris shared her strategy for starting a dialogue on race on a campus that’s been talking a lot about race lately: The University of Alabama.

“I understand the grace of silence, but I also understand the power of history,”    Norris explained as she showed students how to open up the conversation about race, which she admits is hard at a place like the University of Alabama.

While trying to gauge Americans’ views on race,  Norris discovered those in her own family had been silent about a history in her family, some of which she shared this evening at the 17th Annual Frank A. Nix Lecture, sponsored by The Blackburn Institute.

“The most important thing I do as a journalist is not talking,” the former host of NPR’s All Things Considered explained.  “The most important thing I do is listen.”

Listening was the goal of an NPR project with NPR Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep where the two journeyed to York, Pennsylvania to engage 16 voters on their ideas about race.

Listening to Voters

Tonight, she shared her strategy for getting those 16 voters to open up for a deeper, honest conversation.    “The York Project: Race and the 2008 Vote” won an Alfred Dupont Award in 2010.

She talked about the effect of a fireplace (Inskeep’s idea) and food (her idea).

“I don’t know if it was the fireplace or the lasagna, but people really did get comfortable,” she said.

Blackburn Institute Director Philip Westbrook assisted Michele Norris during a book signing following the Frank Nix Lecture on April 2 at University of Alabama.
Blackburn Institute Director Philip Westbrook assisted Michele Norris during a book signing following the Frank Nix Lecture on April 2 at University of Alabama.

Timing of UA Visit

Earlier today on CBS This Morning, the Peabody Board announced winners of the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards.

The Race Card Project was among those recognized for excellence in electronic media. The Awards will be presented at a ceremony in New York next month

The Peabody judges said those six-word submissions “became the basis of compelling reports about race, pride, prejudice and identity.”

Norris’ visit to the University of Alabama also comes only a few months after efforts on the campus to integrate its Greek system made national headlines, during a year the University celebrated the 50th anniversary of its integration.

She commended the current students who were instrumental in leading conversations about race on the campus.

“I did not want to be the person who’s always talking about race,” Norris recalled as she shared a series of what she called “left turns” that her journalism career took.  “But I couldn’t be happier.”

Journey of Left Turns

“It’s good to have plan, but write your plans in pencil,” she told the students.

The former ABC News correspondent and staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times has been called “one of the most respected voices in American journalism.”    In 2009 she was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Norris shared an excerpt from her book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir, which came about after she learned some things about the experiences of her own family members involving race, some that those family members themselves were not willing to share.

Her father, who Norris called ” a son of Alabama”  was shot by a Birmingham police officer while trying to enter  The Pythian Temple, near the Alabama Theatre, on February 7, 1946.   He never told her about the incident.   Norris learned of it from her uncle and did her own investigation of the details by talking to other family members, some of whom were from Alabama.

“It’s really good to be back here in Alabama, ” Norris told the UA crowd.  “Alabama feels like home to me.”

Scan 6The Project Continues

As she closed her address tonight, Norris encouraged those in the sparse crowd of about 100 students, faculty and staff, to complete their six-word essays as the state of Alabama is under-represented among the  race cards that have been submitted, many through the Race Card Project Web site.

While Norris has not yet traveled outside the United States, those from at least 45 countries have posted their six-word sentence thoughts on the web site.

In the years since the project started, tens of thousands of 6-word essays about race have been submitted.




Artur Davis, Charlie Crist Keep My Political Interest, Speak Their Mind

Charlie Crist’s endorsement of Barack Obama and Artur Davis’ debut at the Republican National Convention are helping keep my attention this political season.

This is probably the first and only time I will comment on politics here on this blog.   Since I was a kid, I’ve loved to watch politics.    That’s one of the reasons I became a journalist.

The two political figures who prompted me to post– Artur Davis and Charlie Crist– were two moderates within their respective parties, one of whom has decided to change parties.

Political junkies like me are salivating as we prepare to a feast for the next two weeks with the quadrennial political conventions.   It’s  appointment TV for me first from Tampa and next week from Charlotte.

Charlie Crist

After reading Former Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s endorsement of Barack Obama in today’s Tampa Bay Times,  I was reminded of my former Congressman Artur Davis’ change of political heart.

Continue reading “Artur Davis, Charlie Crist Keep My Political Interest, Speak Their Mind”

NPR Political Editor Makes Virgin Voyage To State of Alabama, Lectures at The Capstone

He’s analyzed every congressional race in the nation since 1984, but until this week National Public Radio’s Ken Rudin had never step foot in the state of Alabama.

After a stop in Montgomery where he visited  Southern Poverty Law Center Founder Morris Dees on Monday, the self-proclaimed “political junkie” brought his decades of wisdom here to Tuscaloosa  to the University of Alabama campus for a lecture sponsored by the Honors College and UA’s Housing and Residential Communities.

Rudin recalled how the late Former Governor George Wallace was making headlines “when he was a kid,” but that in all of his years following electoral races he had journeyed to Wallace’s state.


With just about six weeks to go until Rudin’s latest project, Impact of Government, launches, the former ABC Newsman took his fellow journalists to task for not covering the stories that really matter, especially when it comes to events in government. 

 “The stuff that affects people is what journalism really should be about,” he said.

A New Project
Starting in June, NPR will officially roll out a multiyear initiative to put additional state level reporters to work in 50 states over the next three years. 

The initial rollout involves eight states (Alabama is NOT among those first eight)


After his lecture, Rudin showed University of Alabama students and faculty pictures of some of the hundreds of political campaign buttons that he's collected over the years.

What’s Wrong with Journalism?

While this new Impact of Government initiative launches, Rudin hopes the new broadcast and digital reporters hired will not be like many he says are in the profession today. 

“Journalists are lazier,” he said as he noted how many newspapers have suffered layoffs in recent years.  He noted that there are more cases of plagiarism than ever.  

And as for those talking about politics…

“It’s just remarkable who they have on TV now as pundits.”  Rudin told the students.

NPR’s Weekend Edition Provides An Example of a Non-Radio Story In the Multimedia Age

NPR was not at its best in depicting the visual story of an effort by a photojournalist and an artist in radio story during its January 22nd installment of the Saturday version of Weekend Edition.

In the world of multimedia journalism of 2011,  we journalism instructors challenge our students to develop a multimedia mindset– one that helps a reporter/producer know when a story is best told in one medium versus another.

Like most web-savvy media outlets, NPR as a rule typically “tags” its stories with an invitation to go visit its Web site to SEE more information or related elements for one of its on-air stories.

But, what happens when those related elements are a requirement to understand the story?

Even with a photo or a video, some stories are tailor-made  as text stories.

As I had my Cheerios and buttered bagel this morning,  I listened with great disappointment to an NPR story on Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition that I thought miserably failed the “Is this a radio story” test.

I’ve waited a couple of hours for NPR to post the audio so I could listen again, to make sure I wasn’t passing judgment too quickly or missing the real focus of the story.

Now that the audio is online and I’ve heard it second time,  it seems I wasn’t wrong.  This just doesn’t work for radio.  It’s a good story, but for my favorite medium– TV.

It Just Doesn’t Work

The headline on the NPR’s web site says “An Unlikely Pair Pictures Havana”

How do you show pictures on radio?

You don’t.

Well-written radio copy can describe a scene and you can picture it in your mind.  But, that only goes so far.   If visuals and the gathering of those visuals are the story,  the news reporter stretches and likely exceeds the limits of our aural senses.

To fully understand Debbie Elliott’s story about Nestor Marti and Chip Cooper’s collaborative project in Old Havana, you have to visit NPR’s Photo Blog, The Picture Show.

Was this really about Getting You to the Web?

And maybe that’s what the story was about– driving traffic to NPR’s Web site.  Sorry to be cynical.

I looked forward to hearing this story because it featured one of our beloved University of Alabama alums doing a story about one of our great professors, Chip Cooper, who is a colleague and friend.

The Alabama Cuba Initiative is featured and I wanted to hear what others around the world could learn about it.

But when you write works like  he had to “ditch his trusty tripod”   or “you can see that in a striking portrait of an old man,”  these are clues that maybe this is a story you do with a video camera.

Having heard Debbie Elliott say recently during  a return to her alma mater that she is not one for being on camera,  I suspect she would not have done this story if it required video.

No matter how visual of a storyteller you are.  And, Debbie is one of the best, this was NOT the best story for radio.

When you see “shots like this” and we can’t see the shots, the story falls flat.

Elliott tells us about “Havana: Side by Side,” an exhibit that is going to be captured in a book.

Maybe when that book comes out, we’ll SEE The images in a great video story– perhaps one by Debbie Elliott for one of NPR’s TV partners?

NPR’s Debbie Elliott Prepares for Lights, Camera At Alabama Debate Tonight

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott visits broadcast news class hours before moderating the first Alabama gubernatorial on the campus of University of Alabama.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott spoke to broadcast news students Thursday hours before she is set to moderate the first debate between Alabama's two gubernatorial candidates.

Hours before she is set to query the two men who want to be Alabama’s next governor, Debbie Elliott stopped by one University of Alabama class to give students some pointers  on how to query elected officials.

“Don’t ever be intimidated because they’re just people,” she said.

While she encouraged the students not to be intimidated by the politicians, she admitted she is not used to the lights and cameras that will be pointed at her tonight as the Alabama and nation watches the first gubernatorial debate featuring Republican Robert Bentley and Democrat Ron Sparks.

The debate to be held at University of Alabama’s Moody Music Building,  will be televised live on Alabama Public Television and Alabama Public Radio. C-SPAN will also pick up the live feed and share it with viewers around the nation.

“I don’t do television. So it should be very interesting,” said Elliott, who arrived back in Tuscaloosa last night.  Now an NPR National correspondent based in South Alabama, Elliott was the news director at Alabama Public Radio.

Even as she’s produced numerous stories about the Gulf Oil spill and other events in Alabama,  the former anchor of NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered is looking forward to tonight’s event.

“It will be good to get them on the record on the issues,” she said.

Getting lawmakers on the record is what Elliott does best.    Before moving back to Alabama, she covered Capitol Hill for NPR.

Her alma mater included a short feature about her experience covering politics on the debate web site.

She covered the Alabama legislature right out of college.

Tonight’s debate is the first of two such meetings of the men who want to succeed Bob Riley in the governor’s mansion. The second debate will be at 7 p.m., Oct. 19 at Auburn University.  At both schools, the student government associations have taken the lead in gathering questions and organizing the events along with the League of Women Voters of Alabama.

Is Katrina Five-Year Mark Really A Big Deal?

In fairly predictable fashion, news organizations are providing “milestone” updates on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

In the news business, we commit entire teams of reporters, photojournalists, videographers to look back and look forward on anniversaries.

But, with such a catastrophic event as Hurricane Katrina ordeal, we mark the anniversary every year.   So yet another anniversary seems like no big deal, or at least no bigger deal than the fourth anniversary or the third anniversary.  So what?

I suppose it’s useful to look at some of the projects that are on-air, in print and online.

FIVE Notable Examples of Katrina Anniversary Coverage


Even though I did not get a hard copy as it does not circulate in West Alabama, USA WEEKEND used CNN’s cover guy and frontline anchor, Anderson Cooper to “front” its cover story “Katrina 5 Years Later.”

Writing in the first person, Cooper gives a personal perspective to this story using the words of his father in his lead.   While I wonder how much of this piece he actually  “REPORTED” and how much was just a quite write-up from his many visits as a CNN anchor, his closer words are worth repeating.

We all must continue to bear witness to what happens here. We must visit New Orleans, walk the streets, hear the music. This still-great city has much to teach us about survival, resilience and moving forward while still remembering the past.

2. USA Today

While USA Weekend magazine appeared in millions of Sunday papers, days earlier Gannett’s flagship national news product, USA Today offered several noteworthy pieces, available on its Website:

Asking the provocative question “5 years after Katrina: Can it happen again?,” USA Today’s editorial board offered THREE (3) improvements needed to make the city safer: flood protection, natural barriers, and urban planning.

Elsewhere, the paper’s Thomas Frank explains in a USA TODAY cover story that FEMA’s flood insurance program is “running deeply in the red.”  Why?

Frank reports that  the program has paid people to rebuild over and over in the nation’s worst flood zones while also discounting insurance rates by up to $1 billion a year for flood-prone properties.

Even if you’re interested in marking a five-year anniversary, this news makes Katrina relevant to all of us.

And, USA Today editorial board opined on this later in the week.

3. Montgomery Advertiser

Here in Alabama, the Montgomery Advertiser put together a really good example of how to use multimedia to package the BIG STORY.

Anchored by a story by Rick Harmon, which was the centerpiece on the  today’s Sunday paper, the special section is a companion to a three-part series, fhe first of which ran this morning.


Backed by the resources of a sister newspaper, The (New Orleans) Times Picayune, brings together much of its coverage from five years ago in a special section similar to the Montgomery Advertiser.

The biggest value of this section is its reflection of the multimedia approach we as journalists can take to our coverage.  From transcripts of key speeches to interactive graphics and photo galleries, there is much to keep people on this site for more than just a brief visit.

5. The Weather Channel

Not exactly known for its Web-based news coverage, The Weather Channel’s Web site, even as it covers multiple hurricanes that are brewing this week, did devote some space to marking the anniversary.

I learned a new term, “editorial meteorologist” as I read Jonathan Erdman’s coverage.

NPR goes the distance with Katrina

Even as we watched the television networks like Brian Williams and his top-rated NBC Nightly News anchor their coverage from New Orleans many, many times after the tragedy five years ago (NBC opened a bureau there),  National Public Radio gets the award for its continuous coverage of this story.

Even when stories like the earthquake in Haiti or the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took centerstage, I would hear stories on NPR’s signature programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, from New Orleans on how the city was moving forward post-Katrina.

This is a commitment I don’t believe  this is a commitment other news organizations matched.   (Of course, it might be that I just missed what the other outlets did)

NPR’s  Katrina and Beyond section reflects that “continuous coverage” strategy even now, on this fifth anniversary.