Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fortitude to Preserve International Journalism

By Amber Skorpenske
IIJ Ambassador

The Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Jon Sawyer’s visit was well received by Ohio University students. Sawyer interacted with students and faculty from October 21 to 22, 2010. Although this was a short visit, Sawyer managed to speak to about 300 students. He shared his resilience to make known untold international news.

Sawyer gave a resounding lecture to the freshman journalism class and graduate students in Walter Hall. Students who attended this lecture were thrilled to be the first audience to hear his projects and experience in international reporting. He talked about the importance of reporting on a variety of global issues. Students asked questions and were given the opportunity to interact with Mr. Sawyer. Some students asked for his contact information with a hope of pursuing internships with the Pulitzer Center later on in their academic career.

He had lunch with journalism faculty and later that afternoon spoke to Broadcast journalism seniors. He discussed the changing landscape of global media and its challenges to journalists. Students got a more intimate presentation, which facilitated a lot of discussion.

Sawyer was the keynote speaker at the Students for Global Media and Diversity (SGMD) weekly meeting at 6pm. SGMD opened up the forum as a public lecture for all students in the Scripps College of Communication. International students were well represented as well as many professors from across the college.

The Institute for International Journalism and SGMD hosted Sawyer to a farewell dinner at Salaam restaurant with a group of students who are pursuing future careers in international journalism. SGMD officers, journalism students and Graduate students of Scripps had a laid back atmosphere at a personal level with Mr. Sawyer during this Q & A dinner. He was also extensively interviewed by our students taking Dr. Bob Stewart’s Journalism 101 class.

Sawyer participated in many discussions with students, networking with faculty, and even gave interviews to several student-run publications. The IIJ would like to thank everyone who came out to participate in this event and hopes to bring another captivating speaker in the next quarter.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

IIJ to Host International Journalist Jon Sawyer

Amber Skorpenske

IIJ Ambassador

The Institute for International Journalism will host Jon Sawyer at Ohio University to give a series of lectures and presentations on Thursday October 21 and Friday October 22, 2010. He will give students an in depth look at the current state of international journalism and international issues of global interest. The main event is on Thursday, Oct 21, in Scripps Hall, Rm 111 (Anderson Auditorium).

Jon Sawyer is Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Sawyer became the center's founding director after a 31-year career with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The center is a non-profit organization that funds independent reporting to raise the standard of media coverage of global affairs.

His journalism assignments have taken him to five dozen countries. He has focused much of reporting on the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries. Sawyer is a recipient of many coveted Journalism and Investigative reporting awards. This summer he reported on water and sanitation issues in Bangladesh.

Jon Sawyer will come to Ohio University to speak to faculty, students and members of the Students for Global Media Diversity (SGMD). He will discuss the challenges and opportunities of foreign reporting in today's media market. Other issues he will discuss include the role media should play in covering and illuminating international crises and what the Pulitzer Center's model means for under-covered issues.

Sawyer will highlight the role of the Pulitzer Center and other similar non-profit initiatives in meeting journalism's new challenges and the collaborative approaches to covering the news. This includes news collaborations forged by the Center with PBS Newshour, National Geographic, the Washington Post and others.

Ohio University is a charter member of the Campus Consortium, the Pulitzer Center's program that brings international journalists on campus twice a year. It gives students the opportunity to compete for a $2,000 international reporting fellowship each year. Ohio's support has helped persuade other universities to follow suit, in an effort considered vital to giving journalists income and exposure.

Sawyer says, "I'm very much looking forward to visiting Ohio University and to meeting with students and faculty there. Campus outreach is a very important part of the Pulitzer Center model and mission."

The Pulitzer Center's campus outreach aims to increase the quality and quantity of U.S media coverage of global issues - and then using that journalism as a basis for engaging the broadest possible public in issues that affect us all.

The IIJ encourages students to attend Sawyer's public lecture on Thursday October 21 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Scripps 111 (The Anderson Auditorium).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Mexico

By Craig Reck,
In Mexico

IIJ Foreign Correspondence Intern
E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

I'd like to introduce my first entry to the IIJ blog. The International Press institute recently named Mexico named the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Ten journalists have been murdered this year alone.

Anyone that checks international headlines once in a while knows that Mexico's drug cartels are the cause of these problems. Northern Mexico is so chaotic that journalists are changing their methods to save their lives. El Diario de Juarez used the editorial section to write an open letter to the cartels, appealing to the true authorities of the area. Jorge Luis Aguirre was the first Mexican journalist to receive asylum in the U.S., and he certainly won't be the last.

But that's not the Mexico I know. I am living in Mérida, Mexico, the biggest city in the Yucatan Peninsula. I chose Mérida because the southern part of the country is practically the Dr. Jekyll to the northern Mr. Hyde. The Yucatan has always had a bit of distance from the rest of the country - a deep ocean to the north and thick forests to the south.

While the north is a media frenzy of drugs and violence, the south is only mentioned when an American is reported missing from a vacation trip in Cancun or Cozumel.

But what about the positives? Last week, I attended two events where the local government provided new ambulances and free medical service to small towns. The week before that, Mérida became the newest partner of UNICEF.

Among so much positivity in such a negatively portrayed country, I realized that smiling is a second language. (Cue original post).

Living in a non-English speaking country can be overwhelming at times. Even with a strong understanding of the native lexicon, I still have moments of miscommunication - mostly caused by colloquialisms and slang. So what is a journalist to do when he's drowning in a sea of phrases that Sol y Viento left out?


I haven't stopped smiling since I stepped off the plane a month ago - and it's not because this place is paradise. I believe that a smile can do more than basic phrases like "Dónde está el baño?" for a person visiting a foreign country. Smiles are universal!

Smiling, in a sense, is one of the most basic forms of acknowledging comprehension. More personal than a nod of the head, smiling shows comfort and acceptance of a situation. Standing around with journalists before a press conference, I smiled at someone's joke about his colleague's big head. Pow! Just like that, I was no longer considered an outsider unable to connect with my Spanish-speaking counterparts. Well, not completely, but my smile was the conversational ice-breaker.

As my comfort increases, so does my speaking. But don't think I've reduced my smiling habits. A significant amount of people speak a little English in Mérida, but the farther you venture from the downtown area of hotels and tourists, the less English is known. And the deeper you travel into the countryside, the more prevalent the Mayan language becomes.

When I'm in a rural area, I make sure to smile at all of the people intently staring at me. I assume that I am one of a few white people they've seen in their entire lives, so a smile always comes first. Soon enough, I open my mouth and gradually turn a few heads. This goofy-looking gringo speaks Spanish!

No matter how versed I might be in a language, I can always rely on my smile. When a language barrier is present, I always aspire to at least make a good first impression - and it doesn't get much better than a smile. =)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Police riots in Ecuador

By Gail Burkhardt,

IIJ Foreign Correspondence Intern

E. W. Scripps School of Journalism

This week, Ecuador shook, and it was not from an eruption from one of its many volcanoes. Thursday morning, National Police across the country began protesting a new law that they said would cut their benefits. The protests began peacefully, but quickly escalated. Police burnt tires to block roads and threw tear gas at the president sending him to the hospital. Then National Police blocked the hospital, keeping the president there for 10 hours until he was rescued by aids and soldiers. The rescue and ensuing violence left three dead in Quito and more than 200 people injured.

Photos taken by Gail Burkhardt at the General Command Center.

As an IIJ intern for the Ecuadorian national paper, Hoy, through the Bob Considine Memorial Scholarship, I saw of the events first hand and even covered part of the protest by chance. Thursday morning as I was walking to meet a reporter and photographer to cover something else, I came across a group of police officers and civilians protesting in front of the National Police General Command Center. I called my editor and she asked me to cover it. The protest was peaceful for the most part. People held up signs that read, “Respect the Police,” “We risk our lives” etc. The officers were willing to answer my questions, but not willing to give me their names. Later someone lit a tire on fire, but it was extinguished quickly. I called my editor again and she told me to head to the newsroom immediately. While in the taxi on my way to the newsroom, I heard how serious the situation was on the radio and throughout the rest of the day watched, listened and read about the events with a feeling of panic.

The Two Sides

The National Police said they were protesting the new Public Service Law that the General Assembly had just voted on because it would cut their benefits and bonuses. The president claims police officers have not even read the law and it will not cut their benefits. General Assembly members also say the law will still provide bonuses and benefits for police officers.

Correa called the protest an attempted coup on his presidency backed by ex-president Lucio Gutierrez , which Gutierrez denies. Most Ecuadorians that I have talked to lament the violence of the National Police, but have varying opinions of Correa. The president has brought some stability to the small country where past presidents were removed or left office before their full term. Correa is known for his tough and brash leadership style. He defaulted on millions of dollars of national debt and has put more restrictions on foreign countries that buy and farm petroleum here. His tough and sometimes stubborn attitude came out Thursday when he told the police to kill him if they dared.

Press Restrictions

On Thursday, I could not get Hoy’s website to load. I thought it was an unfortunate coincidence with so much breaking news going on, but it turns out that our website was blocked by the government. Reporters posted the happenings on Twitter, but the actual website would not load until Thursday night. Also because Ecuador is in a State of Siege, the government is allowed to force broadcast stations to link to the official government channel, which they did Thursday night only allowing viewers to see one side of the story. The Sociedad Interamericana de la Prensa (Interamerican Press Society) condemned the government’s restrictions asking it to allow Ecuador to have a free press. Correa has been vocal in the past about his feelings toward media organizations calling them his “Greatest enemy,” and attacking them on his weekly shows on government channels, according to a BBC profile of Correa, that I recommend reading. It is strange that I work for a large daily in the capital, and I am having a hard time finding information on the strikes. I have had to go to U.S. and British news sources to get the whole story.

Calm Returns

It seems that the situation calmed down almost as quickly as it escalated. After his rescue, President Rafael Correa returned to the presidential palace and fervently spoke to a crowd of supporters and reporters about how he was standing firm against the uprising. He declared a state of siege, putting the military in control of security. The next day the buses ran, and although I was warned about robberies, I faced no problems. Freddy Martinez, the former commander of the National Police, resigned Friday because he could not control the protest. Reuters reported that National Police began to work again on Friday. Today I visited the colonial center where the presidential palace is located and not too far from where the violence occurred. Besides the unnerving view of armed soldiers everywhere guarding the palace and some new graffiti calling the police vulgar names, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

This riots opened my eyes, not only to press laws in other countries, but also how quickly a protest can escalate. While the experience was scary, it taught me how important it is to report honestly and to look at both sides of the issue.

Friday, October 1, 2010

SGMD Kicks Off Exciting Activities this Fall Qtr

By Amber Skorpenske
IIJ Ambassador

Students for Global Media and Diversity (SGMD) has had a great start this year. SGMD executives are planning to host several speakers to give some practical information and advice to the members as well as engage in activities as a group outside of formal meetings.

In last week's meeting (9/30/10), students from the Global Leadership Center gave a presentation entitled "Media in Vietnam and the Vietnam War" They discussed differences in media coverage in the U.S versus media in Vietnam, the struggles journalists faced during the war and the ongoing development in trying to make Vietnam a more "media friendly" outlet.

Afterwards, Molly Micheels, Program Coordinator at the Office of Education Abroad, discussed communications/journalism internships as well as volunteer opportunities overseas. She covered every aspect from internship costs, location, and living accommodations to academic credit, scholarship funding and general benefits.

A study abroad experience is an integral part a resume for all aspiring international journalists. SGMD members who turned up for the meeting were impressed and interested. Micheels also reminded students to attend the Study Abroad Fair October 11 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. in the Baker Ballroom for more in depth information on specific programs.

SGMD members plan to attend the International Dinner on October 9 as a group to sample food from many different countries as well as to bond as an organization. SGMD meetings are every Thursday from 6-7 in the Sing Tao Center, Room 101.