Q&A with Jazmyne Fuentes
Calvin's award-winning interview show is entering its 11th season.
This past spring, Inner Compass, Calvin’s award-winning half-hour interview program, celebrated its 10th anniversary. Originally called Calvin Forum, the show has evolved over the past decade from a show about to a showcase of ethical, religious and social issues. Currently hosted by vice president of student life Shirley Hoogstra and English professor Karen Saupe, Inner Compass has tackled such issues as interpersonal conflict, unrequited love, racial profiling, seeker-friendly churches, modern slavery, activism through music, self-image, pornography, prisoner rights and Harry Potter. In 2008, Inner Compass was upgraded to a high- definition broadcast, and the same year the show was offered in 65 public broadcasting markets—a potential 34 percent of U.S. homes. Video downloads of the show are approaching 8,000 per episode. As she heads into the show’s 11th season, producer Jazmyne Fuentes reflects on topics, hosts, irony and the nature of the truth.
How do you choose your guests?
It’s really about what they’re devoting their lives to. When we find people who are devoting their lives to a cause, we want to find out why. What drives them to want to see change in an area, and what do they know about that topic, and how have they arrived at their choices about what’s best? … This show is a place where people can talk openly about those things.
What is your biggest challenge in producing the show?
We’re not afraid to let the truth speak for itself. But it’s tricky too, because you don’t want to make it seem like there’s only one right way to think about things. There is absolute truth, and you don’t want to be relativistic, but people are going to live out the truth in ways that we might not be comfortable with. It’s especially fun when we ask questions the guest may not have thought of about their own motivations.
Another challenge is finding the time to spread the word about Inner Compass. It’s amazing that the show is available in so many places now, but we need to let people know.
What makes a good Inner Compass host?
A sense of curiosity, intrigue with the way people think, a sense of humor, a person who’s well read about current events and culture, quick judgment … equal doses of optimism and skepticism. Shirley’s been with me since her first year at Calvin … We see eye-to-eye on so many different topics. Karen brought a whole new level of irony. It’s funny how we found Karen. She was recommended by Randy Buursma. I said I wanted somebody quirky. He said, ‘Well, Karen walks her cat on campus. Is that quirky enough for you?”
What are some of your most memorable episodes?
Surprises are always fun—like when Tony Campolo turned Shirley’s question back on her, or when Clifford Stoll climbed onto the table to quote Shakespeare to Karen...I love watching our talented hosts catch fly balls or press past the smoke and mirrors!
Is there a particular episode you’re looking forward to?
Father Boyle. He takes street kids and gangs and helps them believe they have a future. Krista Tippett is going to be quite a challenge. She’s the host of an interview show about spiritual motivations, and it’s a very popular show on public radio.
What keeps you going with this show?
I love to find out how people think and why they do what they do. It’s very clear that God has gifted everybody with some special insight and perspective. It’s thrilling to get right to the heart of what God is doing through one of his people—one of his creations … I’ve steered toward conversations like this ever since I was in college, and now I’ve found an energetic team of like-minded people across Calvin—like Steven Niedzielski and his student crew, C.G. Clarke, Jake Bosmeijer, Adam Tozer and Susan Matheson. They help me to get these conversations airborne—literally!