Talking With Dan Wooding, Christian Journalist
Dan Wooding has covered stories around the world as a Christian journalist, including many dangerous places like Uganda, North Korea, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, and insurgent hot-spots in Latin America. Dan has a special interest in covering the persecuted church.
Dan was born in Nigeria to English missionary parents. He was raised in England and became a reporter on Billy Graham’s Christian U.K. newspaper. When the paper closed, Dan found work at one of London’s Fleet Street tabloid newspapers, and his spiritual life began to decline as he slipped into the hard-drinking life that many tabloid reporters experienced.
It wasn’t until another Christian, Ray Barnett, tapped him on the shoulder to remind him of his calling that Dan did an about-face and began writing for the Lord again. Since then, Dan has traveled the world for the Lord, writing stories to keep the Christian community engaged in current events.
Dan is the founding director of California-based ASSIST News Service, and, with a worldwide team, covers religious leaders, presidents, and pop stars. He has had many thrilling experiences which he recounts fully in his autobiography, From Tabloid to Truth.
Dan sat down for an exclusive interview with CWT editor Donald L. Hughes.
CWT: How did you get started in Christian journalism?
Wooding: I became a journalist in London in 1968 with the Billy Graham newspaper, “The Christian and Christianity Today.”
CWT: The late 60s were a pretty exciting time here in the US. There was a lot of excitement in the UK too, wasn’t there?
Wooding: Yes, the very first person I was sent to interview was Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. She had just come over to London for the memorial service for her late husband. It was amazing to be in a room with the lady and her children and to interview her.
CWT: What other interviews stand out in your mind?
Wooding: I was asked to interview Mahalia Jackson, the great the Gospel singer. She died two days later, so I was probably one of the last people to interview her.
One day in 1975, I got a phone call to go to India to interview a woman almost no one had heard of back then– Mother Teresa. I was amazed at the poverty in Calcutta, and when I was finally ushered into her small room, the first question I asked was, “Mother Teresa, how do you cope with the incredible poverty of India?”
Her reply stays with me to this day. She looked at me and said, “Young man, the poverty of India is nothing compared with the spiritual poverty of the West.”
CWT: What other spiritual leaders have you interviewed as a Christian journalist?
Wooding: I have interviewed many of them over the years. I worked with Billy Graham in several parts of the world, including his Moscow, Germany and Puerto Rico crusades. I had the privilege of sitting down with him every morning to collaborate on crusade stories. Recently I had the opportunity of interviewing Luis Palau the Argentinean evangelist now based in the U.S.
CWT: You’ve interviewed celebrities as well a spiritual leaders, haven’t you?
Wooding: Yes, I have interviewed Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Johnny Cash and people like that. Rick Wakeman of the group Yes! has been a personal friend of mine and I wrote his autobiography years ago called Rick Wakeman, the Caped Crusader. I met Elton John then, and he wrote the introduction for that book.
Every year I go to the MovieGuide Awards in Beverly Hills, and have interviewed many celebrities there– current stars and some favorites from past generations like Jane Russell and Mickey Rooney.
I once interviewed James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Interestingly, he told me that scenes on the cross were so painful that he listened to Michael W. Smith worship music to sustain him between takes.
CWT: What do you think are some of the most important traits for Christian journalist?
Wooding: When I worked for a London tabloid, my editor would say, “Wooding, go get the story, and if you don’t get the story, don’t bother to come back. ” Of course, he said that to all the reporters. He was reminding us that journalists need tenacity, flexibility and creativity to do the job properly.
“Read Dan Wooding’s exciting autobiography, From Tabloid to Truth. His spiritual journey will encourage all Christian writers. Also ideal for teens considering a career in the media or as a Christian journalist.“Dan Wooding is not content to observe events from the sidelines. Instead he has chosen to pursue the untold stories of the voiceless people… people around the world who are living out their faith without counting the cost. And more often than not, this has put Dan’s own life and liberty at risk as well.” – Dallas Kinney, Pulitzer Prize winner