Thursday, July 29, 2010

What is a Newspaper Ombudsman?

by Pirongrong Ramasoota

A newspaper ombudsman, also known under other labels as readers’ advocate, public editor, and reader representative, is a profession that has existed in the U.S. as far back as 1970s.

But do we really know what they do and their significance to the newspaper they work for, or to the newspaper industry, and to the general readers, particularly in the current context of the biggest newspapers’ slump?

Andrew Alexander, the present ombudsman for the prestigious yet embattled Washington Post, says he works 75 hours a week to answer to complaints sent to the Post about its content and its performance as a newspaper.

There are a few channels through which complaints could be lodged – mail (postal system), emails, or telephone calls.

Alexander reported that he receives more than 20,000 letters and emails, and 100-120 calls per week. He goes through the letters and email himself but gets transcripts of the telephone complaints from a Post staffer. All the transcripts are also made available to the entire newsroom.

A large part of those 20,000 plus incoming messages are from those who do not actually want a reply – those who are just airing grievances from certain predispositions – anti-semitism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, and so forth.

His job consists of three main parts, all of which are contingent upon the feedback or complaints received from the Post’s readers.

First, he responded directly to those who complain provided that they give their real name and addresses, or email addresses, or telephone numbers. He also represents them in matters of ethical concerns like accuracy, fairness, and new-gathering, among others.

“The main thing I do is give explanations,” said Alexander. And to explain, he needs to seek out the reporters who did the piece in question to understand their reason for covering that piece of news or why they wrote a column or an editorial the way they did.

“But my job is not to defend or to be apologist for the Post,” Alexander asserted, “It’s more like internal affairs. I have to investigate why the reporters did their job the way they did and give them a chance to explain themselves.”

Most of the reporters he went to ask questions have been co-operative. Of all the complaints he received, only about one percent lead to some sourt of retraction or clarification.

The readers who get a call from Alexander are usually surprised to hear from him as they never expected their complaint to get any kind of formal reply. This, he says, reflects the disconnection between the newspaper and its audience.

“This would be OK 15-20 years ago but with the kind of business situation that the newspaper industry is in now. Things have to change. Readers are now in the driver's seat and the paper has to really look into their demand,” said Alexander.

This is why Alexander needs to be upfront in his job as an internal critic, so he writes weekly column to put the Post under a critical lens, as framed by the readers’ comments. Some reporters, he said, may not be pleased with what he writes but most have been very professional about it.

After the Post underwent transformative changes in recent years, Alexander earned his third job; that is, promoting public understanding about the newspaper and the challenges facing it.

Among the transformative changes that Alexander needed to clarify to the Post readers were the buyout of the newspaper, the integration of print and online operations, the restructuring of print and online into a seamless operation, the introduction of new editorial management, the physical reorganization of the newsroom, the redesign of the paper which led to a reduction of content, among others.

“The readers need to hear about these changes and they need to be assured that the Post will survive. Personally, I think it will survive, but at what quality is another story.”

When asked if he regards his job as part of the so-called corporate social responsibility scheme to boost the Post’s public image, Alexander said no. He emphasized his independence from the newspaper organization.

“In my column, I criticize the paper openly. I am not here to increase or to hold readership necessarily but to bring credibility to the paper, he added.

Alexander is on a two-year contract with the Washington Post.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Lovely Homeplace

by Abhitjit Bora

Whenever someone asks me where I am from, obviously I say that I am from India. But if asked which city or part of this country with continental proportions it becomes somewhat difficult to describe it properly. So, let me try to explain you about my birthplace.

It is a somewhat big province/state in India's northeastern most corner. We share more than a 1000 kilometres of border with Bangladesh, a few kilometres with Bhuttan, and on the other sides we share borders with six other states of India which in turn share their borders with China, and Burma/Myanmar. A medium-sized city called Guwahati is the state capitl, which is my hometown. But at present I am living in a small University town Caltezpur,which is also the name of my University. It is much bigger than Athens.

To give you an idea of the distance, Guwahati 2,000 kilometres from Delhi and 1500 kilometres from Kolkata/Calcutta. If you would kindly look at the map of India here you can see Assam on the right corner. Again if you would look at the map of Assam given here - the places Kamrup and Sonitpur are the districts of my hometown and working place.

I also welcome you all to this lovely land and perfectly friendly and hospitable nation. We have much oil and natural gas, a few hundred one-horned rhinos, beautifully crafted and picturesques tea gardens, a very big rivver dividing us in half from east to west that has been flowing from the Himalayas through Tibbet and China, and entering Bangladesh after Assam.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Four Things I Did Not Know

by Nicole Cameron

OK. Pardon my ignorance. But I learned the following from my colleagues here at SUSI 2010 at OU.

1. In Finland, there is a sauna culture that has everybody basking in saunas....naked! Outi was filling me on the details recently. Then, because it sounded so interesting, I went and spent almost 3 hours browsing the net to get more details. I found out that Finland has approximately 2 million saunas for a population that is approximately 5 million! On average, that is approximately one sauna per 2.5 people! Wow! I also learned that the sauna is so ingrained in the culture that the military has a history of erecting one anywhere they go. Outi even said that they have interviewed naked politicians while they were in the sauna ...and showed it on T.V.! (They did not show the privates, so stop wondering!). Talk about a cultural difference. In my neck of the woods such a thing would be anathema for sure. It should be said though that there is nothing sexual about the sauna culture. It is all for utility. I definitely need to go to Finland! I wonder if their State Department has a Study of Finland Summer Institute (SFSI)?

2. Abijhit was telling me that in India, it is quite normal for grown adults to live with their parents even after marriage. He even blogged about it. Again, in my neck of the woods, we clamor to get out of our parents' house. For me, going off to University for undergrad studies was the first step and it was understood that I would never live with my parents again, which I was grateful for! Don't get me wrong, I love them to death (or to life?) but I wanted my independence, freedom and privacy. I dutifully call and visit often though. Come to think of it, I have not slept at my parents' house in six and a half years! Wow. I did not even realize it was so long. The last time I slept there was the night before my wedding, I went home to spend the last night of single-hood with my family soon to become my relatives. (Do you have the distinction between family and relatives?) Of course, I didn't really sleep. Who sleeps the night before their wedding? I was up until around 2 a.m. then laid down and prayed then thought about my future. Prayer is a must the night before one's wedding!

3. Somebody has two wives. In Jamaica only one wife is allowed but being the creative and innovative people we are, many men simply opt to have one wife and two or three mistresses "on the side" (reminds you of side dishes, doesn't it? A kind of delectable treat that you add to your main course. Mmmmmm).

4. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Cool!

A Day with Native Americans

By Outi Hakola, Finland

On Saturday we got a glimpse of Native American culture that once ruled in Ohio. We visited the Indian Mound City in Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. In burning mid-summer weather – weather that we would call an Indian summer in Finland – we were amazed by the geometrical shapes of mounds. One just could wonder how life was 2000 years ago when the area was inhabited by Native Americans and what secrets lay in the ground. Walking around the grass gave me an almost a spiritual experience. Mound City used to be the ceremonial center of that long-gone culture.

When the sun set slowly behind the trees and the Indian summer day turned into moonlight we experienced a rather different kind of encounter with Native American culture in Chillicothe. This experience of an outdoor drama had nothing to do with spirituality, although it did evoke our spirits. For almost three hours we were entertained with a story of the great Shawnee leader, Tecumseh.

For me this was especially interesting play. After all, one of my colleagues in Finland recently finished his lengthy study of Shawnee people and during the passing years I have had privilege to comment on his work, listen to his seminar papers and even learn some sentences in the Shawnee language. Evening moonlight glittering on the bodies was more entertaining and stereotypical than educating, but these "homemade" Indians took us through different emotions with their tales of romance, adventure, battle, deceit and death.

Even more emotions were encountered after the show when we had the pleasure of meeting the actors. From our behavior you might have guessed that we were a bunch of six-year olds, but the happy smiles on our faces proved that we had a great day out and we returned to Athens with stories about Native Americans - made both from facts and fiction.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Discussing Conflict Resolution


The video was created during a long debate to make decisions about a "Conflict Resolution Case Study" for Yusuf Kalyango's class. We studied how to solve problems in an organization by applying SWOT analysis and Management by Objectives. (Amani, Alex, Lizette, Nurul, Muhammad, Abhijit, Mofiz, Julien)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Perfect Family Get Together

by Abhijit Bora

It was a perfect and most enjoyable evening, courtesy Michael Dibari – the jovial, active, sporty gentleman and his family. Yes, the occasion was just a get together of the SUSI 2010 GANG at Michael’s neat and cozy home just a few minutes from OU's campus. It is a fine neighborhood with lot of space for kids to play and feel safe from speeding traffic. While Michael carried out the task of preparing ‘pizzas’ in several delicious varieties we offered our generous “helping hand” by finishing the dishes. And dish duty was quickly followed by several types of desserts.

We enjoyed the tree-lined courtyard under a big tree and the apple trees which Michael is so proud of, as he should be. One sad part of the evening was the feeling of homesickness I felt watching Michael and his young son. I have a kid at home who is about 5 and a half.

It is an interesting dilemma. In India it is the usual thing to stay with our parents even when we are mature and earning a living and even are married. Of course, with job-related relocation, and other problems, this tradition is fast giving way to nuclear families – only the parents and their kids without paternal grandparents. For me, in the last eight months I am living away from my parents because of job relocation.

My family – my kid and his mother – is in living in my parent’s house at present, while I am here. Whenever I call home, my child has only two things to say – I should come home soon and I must bring a children’s game-playing system with me.

Since we are in groups and everyday we are quite busy in various things, the nostalgic feeling of missing my family does not manage to attack much. If I had to live alone and do things myself without any set routine it would have been quite boring and difficult to sustain these 45 days.

I had two similar experiences in 2007 and 2008 and when I visited Nanyang Technological University and McGill University in Montreal respectively on academic fellowships. Staying alone in a big city far away from home sometimes creates difficulties.

It is compounded by the fact I am very fussy about western food. Somehow I find difficulty in surviving on hamburgers, boiled vegetable, soups, black coffee etc., BUT OF COURSE I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT IT.

Well, these are some of the experiences of our life which make it so colorful and we keep chasing them despite all hardships and difficulties. These are small difficulties compared to the pearls of experience and exposure that we are getting for which I consider myself highly LUCKY.

In fact, when I told my wife about feeling homesick she teased me saying that this is not going to make any difference to my constant efforts to look for foreign academic fellowships anywhere in the world. And true enough, I have already set my eyes on two foreign academic fellowships for which I am eligible for 2011.

Well, we meet to part and part to meet somewhere sometime.
Contact me at

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meeting Orson Welles

by Claudia Schwarz

Would you like to meet Orson Welles? – Well, sure. Isn’t he dead? – Not tonight.

They call it “Ohio Chautauqua” and the tagline is “Step back in time and celebrate our history … Enjoy the journey.”

Now picture this: a small town in the Midwest (the place is called Gallipolis, one hour south of Athens, Ohio; population approx. 4.100), a tent in the city park (much like a circus tent), a fair number of (elderly) people, a stage, several people in weird outfits. They come on stage and introduce each other as Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Robeson, Margaret Mitchell, W.C. Fields, and Orson Welles.

It was opening night, so we had the privilege of meeting all five of the great personalities that would come back to life for an evening each this week to chat with the town folks about their lives, careers, and personalities.

(W.C. Fields and Eleanor Roosevelt in action)

This was Orson Welles’ big night and for 45 minutes he talked about his life, shared scarcely known anecdotes, and entertained the audience. He even agreed to a Q&A session, which was cut short because of the heavy rain that inaugurated the Chautaqua.

Apart from experiencing yet another eccentricity of American culture, we learned that much of the success of Orson Welles was based on the misinterpretation by critics (he was celebrated as a genius for his progressive work and innovation when really he only tried to cope creatively with a shortage of money for theater productions), that Roosevelt’s New Deal meant a great deal to him, and that he was a real patriot (in Thoreau's sense because he also criticized his government).

Thanks Stephanie and David for sharing this time traveling adventure with us!

A “Healthy” Communication

by Manuel Ayala

Bad (and comfortable) habits die hard: fast food for a fast lifestyle (“grab and go”, “skip breakfast…it´s late”), drive don´t walk (“it´s too hot outside!”), watch more TV (“stay tuned”, “don´t touch that remote”), smoke (“you´ll look glamorous”), get the big meal ("McDonald´s I´m lovin´it"), drink alcohol (“relax… take it´s Friday”)…

How many of these things have been created and promoted by the media? All of them! That´s a fact but, will it be like this forever? The last word is not in yet on that question.

There is an important and emerging area in communication studies known as Health Communication, and we at SUSI 2010, had the chance to know more thanks to a very interesting lecture by Professor Petya Eckler from the University of Iowa.

Health communication is defined as the study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individuals or community decisions that enhance health.

I have seen that some of the typical research topics in this area are: the images of health care in the mass media culture (Are medical cases as exciting as they are represented for example, in Grey´s Anatomy? What are the most common clichés that appear in non prescription medicine advertising on media, like pain killers?); corporal images (the cult to the extreme skinny bodies in fashion magazines like Vogue), portrayals of obesity (are they represented always as an comic stereotype?), and many more.

Health and media literacy can help in a great way to try to develop rational and critical thinking skills in the audience… healthy mind, healthy body.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Soul of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds

by Manuel Ayala


Nelsonville, Haydenville, Shawnee, Straitsville, Corning…so many places that have existed for many decades, but for me they are new, just discovered, as part of the 'Little Cities of Black Diamonds' tour which was a fascinating experience.

When I learned the history of that region, the origins of the mineral extraction, the economic success, the braveness of the people, and the devotion to their religion and for the work, I could understand why all those places have the magical touch of the human being.

Being there you can still feel the presence of those men, working hard day by day with the coal, iron ore, clay…trying to take the best of the land to earn their salaries and have a better life with their families, most of them from another countries looking for the dignity of life.

But that experience was not completely new for me, it made me think of my grandfather. He was also an immigrant that came to this country and worked in the steel industry for almost four decades… years of hard work and sacrifice to help his family that stayed in México.

The souls of those miners still remain in the streets of the little cities. They refused to go to some other place, maybe because the earth that they worked for many years needs their presence to keep those places as beautiful as they are.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hocking Valley--Down Memory Lane

by Abhijit Bora

It is a commendable idea and activity that our entire programme has been interspersed with cultural events from time to time. Yesterday (July 18th) was such a memorable day. We were guided on a trip around Hocking Valley and its picturesque surroundings and tourist places by the Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council Tour Guide, Shawnee. We got to see the area’s rich history dating back to the thriving coal-mining days to the efforts of various organizations and institutions, including Hocking College, to revive the tourist interest in this area.

Throughout the day we had visited places like the Nelsonville town square with the oldest Tavern, in operation since the coal days and still very much in business. Also we saw the water fountain, the art galleries, the Haydenville Museum, Church, Payne Cemetary, and New Straitsville‘s Museum.

Other important highlights of the day included a stop by the Robinson’s Cave which unveiled the kind of struggle the early miners had to deal with for a better life. Further, the walking tour along with the Sunday Creek Water project was highly interesting, at least for me because I have also been involved in some similar kind of work back in my community.

Finally, the delicious outdoor dinner by the campsite at Burr Oak Lake was a marvelous finish to the half-a-day activity that enriched our experience in addition to energizing us for a new working week at the Scripps School of Journalism.

The opportunity has helped us in knowing quite a few things about this town’s past. And particularly for me, it has shown me a highly potential way of trying to develop places of tourism interest back in my home province in India where we do have a considerable number of such heritage sites, institutions which may become important tourism destinations – helping the local economy as well as exposing them to the world.

This is specially interesting because we are here not only for academic discourse and research. An insight into the cultural aspect of the country is also what we did have in mind. Being media educators and professionals, such cultural and historical exposure is highly welcome and desirable for all of us.

Shopping Spree
It is quite natural that whenever a person goes on a foreign visit, people back home – family members, friends, colleagues--do expect some gifts. So Saturday was the D-Day all of us, as all the roads lead to Easton Mall in Columbus.

Even though I am not much of a “shopper”, I also enjoyed the experience of joining the tide by going on a shopping jamboree along with the others. It was a good experience with so many shops, utility stores and others all within whistling distance from each other. The day was well-spent though the wallet has made a big complaint of not being its kind of day.

We had the ‘shopping time’ of the entire visit and lapped up everything in sight from computers to perfumes for dear ones and toys and video games for kids, testing the patience of Mary, Ed and Arman to the most possible extent.

Beer Festival
Claudia has already given you at least some idea about the various aspects of the Athens Brew Festival that concluded on Friday. Yes, like the Oktoberfest I also expected a whole line up of locally-grown beer varieties at discounted prices with lots of food, merry-making and dancing and singing.

Though I have never had an opportunity yet to visit Germany to see Oktoberfest, I have heard and read a lot about it leading to a kind of certain image in my mind. (Of course I have visited Germany in the literal sense of the term. That is, I waited for periods ranging from a few hours to almost twelve hours while transiting through the Frankfurt airport).

But, for me the most important bonus of the Brew festival evening on the concluding day was to have the pleasure of enjoying the company of Beauties of the earlier years – Bugattis, Model Ts, Mustangs, Harley Davidsons of vintage variety were lined in a show at the festival venue. This was quite a memorable experience for me and I could not resist a few snaps with them. I have a special interest in such vintage cars since childhood, becoming more pronounced nowadays maybe because of my own ‘soon-to-be-vintage’ age.

Another major highlight of the fest evening was the melodious and soothing singing of our very own professor from Scripps School which helped a lot in boosting the spirits of the visitors. Overall it was an enjoyable and memorable experience with the company of Ed along with Arman and family.

New media: Challenge to the Old!

by Suresh Acharya

Is online the ultimate media of the world? Are the other media in saturation and declining now? Ask Marshall McLuhan. The medium is the message is a phrase coined by McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.

The phrase was introduced in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. People did believe him for some time. But he was wrong. Print media didn't go away and the mushrooming growth of radio wasn't challenged.

Even in developing countries, his claim did not exist for so long. But now, online is challenging print, and broadcast media! But does that challenge mean the end of traditional media?

"We break the news online and explain it in the newspaper." That was the explanation of how online and print exists together according to the editor of The Columbus Dispatch, Benjamin J. Marrison. And it was not only the answer from the Dispatch, but also what we heard at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both are facing the same fate. They are losing audience and advertisements as well. A newspaper having a history of more than a century is being challenged by the very new media. Why do newspapers face this challenge? Is the McLuhan correct here at least on online?

The answer is it is relative not an absolute! In the developed countries because of high tech access to all, most traditional media including radio and television are facing such trouble. Many news consumers have gone to online, especially for a quick update. But the question is: are the audiences satisfied with it and its presentation and performance? The answer may be not very positive.

In developing countries, print media are still strong. In Nepal, very few people have access to the online. Broadband is only in very limited cities. Service is slow, but still, most of the broadsheet dailies have online editions. Online competes for breaking news, but it just provides information as an eye opener. The next day newspapers present the story in different angle. So print media are more effective and able to give impact to the authorities and the audience. They are longer lasting than the TV or the Radio. Access to TV is also limited due to city centered cable service.

The scenario of developed countries is obviously different not only in terms of access but the interest. Many Americans claim to have no time to read in detail or find it inconvenient to buy or subscribe and keep the paper handy. They are using their smart phones like Blackberry or iPhone.

It is not just a question of financial survivability, but the print media has less charm and glamor, not only to the audience but also to some media workers as well. So print has to stop the day-to-day events and go to in-depth stories. They must change the pattern of content and presentation to compete with technologically born challenge. Even the developing countries media have start to think about these things.

Shall you?

We have Come to Take and to Give

by Julien Niyingabira

I got my very first lesson at the airport when I was in front of a glass-wall cabin of a U.S. customer officer. He was speaking in "American" with a nasal accent and I couldn't hear what he was saying to me.

"What?" I asked.
He looked at me and started to move repetitively his white pen between his fingers and watched me without saying a word.

"Is it it your first time to U.S.?", he finally asked.
"Yes Sir"
"Then a word of advice, you should know that 'what' is a very bad word. Use 'excuse me' or any other more polite form".

I was feeling humiliated and very shocked that my first experience in U.S. was not being polite enough. But I appreciated the lesson and I personally think that a quite considerable number of Americans need to pass through somewhere in Newark Airport to take the same lesson.

For me, I try my best to put this into practice and I'm doing well.
"We have come to take and to give" one of my colleagues in the SUSI program said a few days ago. Danjuma Gambo from Nigeria. This is a sentence very easy to construct but it is a sentence full of wisdom and it expresses in less than ten words far more than a thousand hours that we are supposed to spend in this country.

So far I have learned a lot on USA media systems and cultural aspects and on other countries represented in this program. Now I know that I should never tell a Macedonian that Alexander The Great was a Greek. No way. No matter how much my history teacher has repeated this to me in high school, I have found another version of this history. And I have looked at the Israel-Palestinian conflict through a Palestinian perspective.

I really feel I have "taken" something so far. I would love to give something as well. A lot of thanks to some of my colleagues who have largely sympathized on the dark history of my country, the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi. I would like to thank them.

But there is one question to which you will hardly find an answer from most of Rwandans the world all over! Eugene Kwibuka is a Rwandan journalist and a couple of years ago he was invited on a live interview at a Canadian television channel CBC. "Could you tell us whether you are Hutu or Tutsi?" the host of the show asked him. The man caught fire in his eyes and hardly kept himself away from being overwhelmed by his own reaction to this normal question of the journalist. At the end of all, he didn't give any small piece of the answer to the question, no matter how many times the host had tried to reformulate it. That's how it is for most of Rwandans.

As giving brings more happiness than receiving, please accept this little more gift: I have discussed a lot with SUSI 2010 participants about different experiences in our respective countries. But always when it came to my country I had to answer to questions like "Is it safe to go to Rwanda?" Come on! It's been a half generation since this question had its right place to be asked. We should, instead, discuss our incredibly delicious coffee, our beautiful mountain gorillas and our weather which lets every plant flourish during the whole year.

"Wow you live in paradise," Amani from Bahrain flattered me.

So as Gambo from Nigeria stated that we have come to take and to give, this will be my Sunday gift to all of my readers who still prevent themselves from having the best holidays tracking the mountain gorillas or watching the sunset on the gorgeous Lake Kivu.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Think Twice--or a Million Times Before Using the Washing Machine!!!

by Mohammed Abualrob

If you don’t want to lose your expensive clothes... learn the lesson from those who lost

First: don’t trust the technology.

Second: don’t start washing your expensive clothes, wash the underwear first, and then see if it’s ok.

Third: don’t use the washing soup before you put the water.
Fourth: if you missed the lesson and lost your expensive clothes, don't tell anybody, no blogging or tweeting!

Finally, if you missed the lesson again... (I'm sure you will miss it sometime) don't be shy to wear your clothes, and if somebody asks you, don't explain what happened, just say, "it's a new fashion".

See you guys in the next lesson.
إلى اللقاء في الحلقة القادمة

A Post Script from someone who heard the whole story--it wasn't the washing machine that was the problem, it was the bleach that a previous tenant left behind in the apartment. It didn't mix well with the colors of Mohammed's clothing!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Addicted to Cars

By Outi Hakola, Finland

For me American culture is astoundingly addicted to its cars. Although I have a driver’s license, I don’t own a car. I walk to the supermarket and I use public transportation. When traveling within Europe I don’t even rent a car, because I love the local color of trams, buses, subways and trains.

When compared to Europeans, therefore, American lifestyle is dependent on cars. Everyone is supposed to have one, and not any car, but the car that suites your personality. Indeed, during the summer cruise-ins people don’t seem to only show off their cars, they show off their personalities, desires, backgrounds, interests and styles as well.

Moreover, culture’s relationship to cars is more than the personal relationships between the owners and the objects. Cars have shaped the U.S. culture and society at deeper levels as well. And by this I’m not only referring to economic questions of automobile industry in U.S., or the political and economic questions in securing oil sources and creating self-sufficiency. Instead, I’m astonished by how the architecture, landscapes and consumer culture all revolve around automobiles.

For example, whereas in my own culture parking is difficult in city centers, in America the first thing you can find in any downtown is a car parking lot – at least one for each block, so that no extra-exercise is required. Furthermore, most services and shops are surrounded by large parking spaces, so that you can drive from one shop to the next, one drive-in to the next.

I suppose, if you really come to think of it, probably the only service most U.S. cars lack is a restroom. Otherwise you could spend your whole day inside the car, without actually going into the world, without taking in all the sounds, smells and colors of the world outside your secure and familiar vehicles.

For me being without a car is a political choice, both in terms of environmental and health issues. But if I would live in United States, or at least in more rural areas of this country, this choice would not even be an option, so deeply and truly has this culture become one with its cars.

Therefore, before I can become Americanized I suppose I have to try to create a warmer relationship with cars. During my time here, so far the warmest memory linked to any motorcar is my hotel room - 313 - in Pittsburgh. After all, that is Donald Duck’s license plate, and how more American automobile experience can I expect from a hotel?

It's a Small World

by Abhijit Bora

“Country roads – take me home – mountain Mama, West Virginia“

While going to and from Cleveland/Pittsburgh through the picturesque hills and wide expanses of grasslands and farmland and forests I could not but help remembering these lines from the famous song of John Denver who was my favorite.

This has been a dream come true for me. Being a journalist I always wanted strongly to visit the USA – among the top defenders of freedom of expression in the world and see first hand how it was sustained. So when I was selected for the Study of the US Institute on Journalism and the Media, I knew that my dream would be realized.

And, once in the country and being a part of a such delightful, energetic, resourceful and understanding people from across the world I know this is a lifetime opportunity for me. Not only to know about the U.S. media and other cultural aspects. But also I would be able to know so many things from my colleagues from seventeen countries spanning each of the continents, almost.

The lectures, demonstrations, and cultural tours to nearby places as well as Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, the theatre show, informal interaction with faculty members and other experts are converting this study tour into a beneficial activity to the optimum extent. Gratitude goes to the group of our organizers every member of whom has been leaving no stones unturned to make the programme a grand success and make us feel comfortable at every step.

Another interesting aspect for me personally is that it is not for nothing that it is said that this is a small world. This is because coming here I find that Suresh from neighboring Nepal understands Hindi which is my national language and I feel at ease to a big extent in speaking in this language. Also with Mofizur from Bangladesh, I can share quite a few words in Bangla and we both are somewhat familiar with each other’s country and culture. After all, we were part of the same country before 1947.

Then there is Julien of Rwanda, who asked me about a very popular and nice song in Hindi – Made in India on our first interaction and asks me about our films in Hindi which are highly popular in Rwanda. In fact, this song which is a favorite of mine also used to be a household song in the 1990s. I was quite surprised when Julien specifically inquired about this particular song.

Even Gambo of Nigeria and Kenny from Zambia surprised me by telling me that Hindi films are highly popular in their countries also. Though I knew that these were popular in many of the countries in Middle East and several of the former USSR constituents I did not know that this was so even in some of the African nations.

Here are some other interesting things I've learned... the national airliner of Indonesia (Nurul’s homeland) is Garuda – a giant mythological bird mentioned in Ramayana who was follower of the legendary character Ram.

The kings who ruled the part of India to which I belong to for about six long centuries migrated from Pirongrong’s country, Thailand, in the 12th century.

The first time I talked to Nicole from Jamaica, I asked her about cricket legends Viv Richards and Courtney Walsh – the people who have introduced me to this nice country of West Indies right in my school days.

I am proud to be an Indian and am enjoying this ‘cultural bonding’ which is a much more cementing factor for enriching our ties. Initially, before joining the group I was not exactly sure whether I would be able to mix up with the team. But after coming here I find to my surprise that it is absolutely fine.

So it is seen that we already are enjoying a certain amount of fraternity amongst us which would be more cemented by this opportunity to be spending one-and-a-half month of close proximity.

Now, coming to the field of interests to pursue here, I am committed to ‘narrowcasting’ as well as community media because I believe the huge ‘mass media’ are not able to do justice for the masses in countries like India where a good majority of the population are not adequately literate and need a smoother flow of information according to specific requirements.

Even though I had been thinking of this country (USA) as a mecca of big mass media yet after getting to know about Public TV and Radio, and visiting WQED in Pittsburgh and meeting its journalists and also the Public TV journalist working in the Ohio Statehouse Bureau I think differently about its importance and utility which could be applied for my country also.

One very important aspect of the U.S. media that attracts and makes me like it is the ‘regional/local’ nature of the media as the majority of the newspapers, and TV/radio stations are happy to be catering to their immediate communities rather than trying to grab the entire national audience with their programming.

In India, we do have a mix of both nationwide as well as regional media outlets. And in India also, nowadays large scale concentration of media houses is becoming the order of the day in the name of ‘cost cutting’ and offering a better fare to the audiences.

These are some of the issues I look forward to learning during my study tour. Further, this is needless to say that I am already highly impressed to enjoy the serene knowledge-pursuit-encouraging atmosphere of a U.S. university campus like that of Ohio University. This is a great boost to my knowledge pursuit even though I'm on the wrong side of the thirties already, but then Shakespeare said that life begins at forty.

Beer Festival

by Claudia Schwarz, Austria
What do you expect when you hear "Beer Festival"? I think of Oktoberfest, lots of beer, big tent, annoying loud drunkards, people dancing on tables, and lousy, loud music. The advertisement of the Ohio Brew Week Festival actually draws a parallel to the German beer festival: "One of the two week-long beer-centric festivals in the world (the other is in Germany)."

Well, apparently, I couldn't have been more mistaken.

First of all, there was a small vintage car and motorbike show. It was neat but I'm still trying to figure out the connection between motor vehicles and beer (help, anyone?). As we got to the 'actual' festival, one of the bars was out of beer (at a beer festival, hello!?), the tent was tiny and only indicated where to buy tickets, there were no drunkards (hardly surprising given the fact that they ran out of beer), no people dancing on tables, and - last but not least - the music was great!

So I cannot exactly say that I was disappointed, because I wasn't, but it was certainly nothing like the beer festival I had expected (and, I have to add, that's not a bad thing at all!).

We received those cute, orange wristbands indicating that we were over 21 and finally managed to buy beer; however, the whole evening wasn't really about the beer because the real attraction of the festival was "The Bob Stewart Band," starring the Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Great music and we certainly had a good time! Until about 9.15 p.m. because that's when the whole thing ended; does anyone else think that's early?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Birthday Party with the Taste of Hummus and Falafel

by Mohammed
West Bank

Making friends from 17 countries in two weeks is a great opportunity and a rich experience. The amazing thing in the subject is not only in having them all celebrate my birthday, but also having a nice table of Palestinian food in an Arabian restaurant in Cleveland.

Claudia, one of my colleagues in SUSI project in Ohio University also had a birthday the day before my birthday. It was a great night to celebrate two birthdays and have fun with the rhythm of Arabian music.
Although it’s the second year that I celebrate my birthday out of Palestine, I had a lot of fun and a great experience, giving all of my colleagues a taste of Arabian food specialties; Hummus, Falafel and Kebbi and smoking Argela.

I wish that I can invite all of my colleagues to Palestine as soon as we get our independence and have the right to travel around our cities and towns.

شكرا لكم جميعا أصدقائي

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Spend Your Birthday, and How Not To

by Claudia Schwarz

So it happened to be my birthday this week while we were in Cleveland. And what I would like to share with everyone is what I learned from this birthday in the form of a "what to do" and "what not to do" list:

What not to do on your birthday:

  • be upset about things you can’t change
  • follow the lead of someone who has a bad sense of direction
  • attend a tour of a facility that feels like you’ve had it before
  • wait around for people, vans, better times, or whatever it was we were waiting for

And here is the much better list:

What to do on your birthday:

  • have waffles and fresh fruit for breakfast
  • have 20 people from 17 different countries congratulate you
  • get a card signed by everyone with good wishes in languages you can’t even read
  • get a bar of your very favorite chocolate as a present (how on earth did you know that??)
  • have Gambo sing happy birthday to you
  • receive messages from friends and family back home
  • have someone with a 6th sense tell you that your life will make a wonderful turn – and believe it
  • sit on the newsdesk of a top-rated TV station
  • sit on the table in front of the big screen next to the director during a live news TV broadcast
  • tell a stranger that it is your birthday
  • buy something because it’s beautiful and you like it (and you can afford it)
  • get a 20% discount just because it is your birthday
  • walk over a bridge during sunset in a light summer rain
  • have a wonderful 3-course dinner (in a Palestine restaurant) and share meals with new friends from all over the world, have a nice glass of cabernet (and pay less than $25 for everything)
  • trust other people in making your birthday special
  • share your birthday with someone else and celebrate from one birthday into the next one
  • get a big birthday cake together with Mohammed and have everyone sing happy birthday once more
  • blow out candles
  • make a really good wish
  • do something you have never done before (within reason)
  • dance
  • be happy, humble, and grateful and enjoy all the small things in life

The bottom line is, I had a special birthday and most certainly one to remember. Thank you, everyone!

Monday, July 12, 2010

An Arabian Night

By: Nicole Cameron

Many kudos to Mohammed who took the group to an Arabian restaurant in Cleveland tonight. It proved to be an Arabian Night indeed.

The ambiance was perfect; the only thing missing was Aladdin, a flying carpet and a genie.

As Claudia celebrated her birthday and Mohammed prepared to celebrate his at the stroke of midnight, the night came alive with laughter, excellent middle-eastern cuisine mixed with American flavors, tango music and a general atmosphere of goodwill and fun.

The cultural milieu was intoxicating. The setting was Arabian but everyone introduced a bit of his or her own flavor. It was a night to remember indeed.

Happy birthday Claudia and Mohammed!
عيد ميلاد سعيد

alles Gute zum Geburtstag

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Options for New-Generation Journalists: MoJo and EnJo

by Pirongrong Ramasoota

“Google should be banned in journalism schools, if you ask me,” according to Benjamin J. Marrison, editor of the Columbus Dispatch, the 139-year-old newspaper that has been the dominant mainstream daily newspaper in Columbus, Ohio in contemporary history.

Marrison is highly critical of the “search-engining” nature of new-blood journalists who are, in his eyes, “efficient but lazy” and “fast but shallow.”

Evidently, the editor of this long-established publication does not admire the new phenomenon of journalism which reflects rising expectations for a “MoJo” a.k.a. mobile journalist.

A “MoJo” is a professional journalist who does all of the following almost simultaneously: taking notes, videotaping interviews and pictures, recording sound, sending SMS news via mobile phone or twitter, writing for different media, producing a journalistic piece that is applicable to all media platforms, creating personal as well as media blogs, and being active on online forums.

While Marrison does not dispute that upcoming reporters need to be technologically savvy, he still stresses a critical and curious mind that understands the labor and the craft of journalism. To him, old school skills of grammar, composition, and critical thinking as well as knowledge of the world and principal areas of their beats are key.

But more than possessing these valuable attributes, this editor also thinks that future journalists should also possess new ideas about information dissemination, or better yet, cutting edge ideas that will help shore up the ailing industry to the next level.

In other words, forthcoming reporters should also be EnJos or entrepreneurial journalists.

EnJos are journalists who know how to sustain the business of news and take this task into their own hands. In fact, a number of journalism schools have already picked up this trend. Journalism schools at CUNY and UC-Berkeley, and here at OU, for instance, have developed course with such titles as entrepreneurial journalism or journalism and online business models.

But are there things that Marrison might have overlooked?

Professional journalism has always thrived on the basis of a clear separation between the business and the editorial departments. If one is to become an EnJo, chances are the invisible wall between business and journalism will come crumbling down. That nagging question of conflict of interest will become highly visible as journalists begin to treat advertising as content and to balance business needs with integrity of editorial operation.

More importantly, if economic survival becomes a professional theme, how can one be sure that journalists will be able to maintain that much-desired watchdog role? Will this new trend turn them from watchdog to hunting dogs?

After all, hunting dogs, particularly ones that hunt to survive, will not watch out for anything but their prey!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's a Small World

by Nicole Cameron

Who would have thought that in Athens, Ohio, I would actually run into someone I know from back home in Jamaica.

Well, that is exactly what happened to me in church today. A friend of mine that I have not seen in approximately eight years recognized me in church, took me home and made me feel as if I was sitting in the average living room in sweet, sweet Jamaica.

So, SUSIJ 2010 is becoming quite unpredictable. Apart from meeting colleagues from all over the world, I am even running into old friends. Can't wait to experience what happens next!

Is It Journalism?

by Suresh Acharya


What is citizen journalism? Is it the writing about the people or the opinion of the people? Or the people themselves being journalists? Or to run a community media is citizen journalism? My mind is thundering with these questions the last couple of days.

Journalism itself is a voice for the voiceless. In practice, that is not always happening anywhere. Loud voices are being covered in most of the media in the world. BBC covers the statement of President Obama. CNN glorifies the voice of him. Aljazeera is always looking for the statement of Bin Laden.

Ordinary people are not in the news until they are killed, abducted or hijacked. Even in hijacking news, the lead does not start with the people. Media do not say 145 people are being captive at the first line. Who lost their lives is less important to the media than who killed them. So the question of citizen journalism is who has the values.

Issues of the people or the opinion of the people--which is citizen journalism? If it is issues, development journalism is there. The beat reporting is there. That might be the economic beat, social beat, cultural beat and so on. If the answer is NO, opinion on the issues of the people are always used as the sources in the news report.

Ventilation of opinion has been in practice from the very beginning of the journalism- in newspapers. The Letters to the Editor page is created to fullfill the purpose of ‘citizen journalism.’

Now the question is raised, is a blog citizen journalism? Journalism demands some sorts of standards. You can say at the very least ABC- Accuracy, Balance and Credibility. As so many events are happening in the world and it is not possible to cover those all, the opinions of each and every person is almost impossible to cover in the media. So we use the word newsworthy to be selective on the events or the issues.

Right to expression covers the freedom of press in some countries. But some countries have specified the freedom of press separately. Whether it is separated or not, these two things are different. The first one is the right of each and every citizen. They can speak anything on any issues anywhere without any interference of the government. But freedom of press is not the freedom of journalists only.

Media is a tool of expression of the people. Journalists themselves do not express their views. What they express is the views of the people. Again the question is: do the media cover the right opinion of the right people?

Journalism is a practice. There are many lapses to address and many things to change. But in the name of change, we cannot compromise on the basic standards. Can we?