Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Managerial Skills learnt at Scrippsiij

Besides many practical and theoretical ideas of eminent intellectuals both insiders and outsiders, I have learnt many managerial skills at Scripps School of Journalism. For example:

  • Monitoring SUSI participants regularly;
  • Taking feed backs from SUSI participants frequently;
  • Showing positive attitudes and always keen to solve the problem rather than playing blaming game ;
  • Creating team work among the colleagues and assistants;
  • Communicating well so as to get all informed about any issue;
  • Hardworking team; and
  • Having collaborative approaches all the time.
Since I am also a manager at my workplace, I will adopt these qualities while doing any projects. Thank you Institute for International Journalism, Ohio.

Singing the blues


Robert Johnson,Elmore James and Albert King among others introduced me to a world of guitar licks and slides, harmonica bends and the powerful messages of a hardworking community of cotton pickers and slaves.It was the world of blues.

On a trip to the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum, I was not taken aback. neither was I excited. What I was was I was blown away to the point of bawling my eyes out in the corner and I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say so. Walking into this place was more than just buy a t-shirt and saying I was there. It was seeing the music greats. Seeing the guitar Howlin Wolf played on and knowing his magical fingers touched that fret board  to churn out haunting music. 

Many Americans have asked me on my journey here what it is that I want to see and experience and one thing that I've constantly said is the fact that I want to experience some blues music. I want to see the greats (although I know I won't be able to do that since  most of them are dead). One particular response is"you listen to the blues?In Malaysia?". Yes I listen to the blues. I may not play a musical instrument, but i can appreciate good music when i hear it. 

Although it is not an overly large community of blues fans but there is a steady number of people and bands that not only play but enjoy and support the growth of blues music here (in Malaysia) with the ever popular Malaysian blues band 'Blues Gang' paving the way for other blues musicians in Malaysia to explore and expand akin to their American brothers except to sing about everyday life.

and when Muddy Waters cheekily sings Hoochie Coochie Man I will continue to swoon and remember the time I walked into the Rock and Roll museum and saw his guitar hanging on the wall. I will continue to be reminded of my roots and my heritage and be privileged to be the small town girl from Malaysia who made it to the United States and see the gift music greats have given the world - blues.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Even 'time off' is time to discover

By Bill Reader (SUSI 2013 Academic Coordinator)

We pack a lot of structured activity into the six-week Study of the U.S. institute program — when scholars are not attending scholarly presentations or presenting information about the media systems in their own countries, they are traveling to visit media houses and cultural locations.

But every once in a while, scholars see something different on the schedule: "Free time to explore … ."

There isn't much of that free time, and we would like to offer more, but the SUSI program is not a subsidized vacation — all involved are here to work, and this year's cohort of scholars certainly is working hard. So when we had a couple of "free-time" blocks in our media/cultural visit to San Francisco in mid-July, it was no surprise that each scholar went off on her or his own adventure.

Although it was not on the schedule, there were a few nighttime hours after we arrived at SFO and settled into our hotel on the outskirts of the city. Most scholars struck out on their own to find food and entertainment -- a few even walked the two miles to the BART Station and ventured into the city, and reported back to us the next day that, although inconvenient, it was not a "bad walk" to and from the station.

The next day, our shuttle driver to and from Google's headquarters, a fabulous (and highly recommended!) tour guide named Junior Houston, dropped us off at Fisherman's Wharf, where most of us gathered for a meal before striking out in smaller groups. Some wandered around the Wharf and experienced the chilly summer weather of northern San Francisco. Other groups struck off toward the downtown area (I tagged along with a small contingent that walked up Grant Ave., the main drag of Chinatown, en route to the high-end shops of Union Square). 

Then on Friday, after our tour of AT&T Park and meeting with San Francisco Giants media and marketing folks, we had a few hours of free time until we had to head to SFO for our red-eye back to Ohio. Once again, the scholars broke off into small groups. Several jumped off the trolley to spend some more time exploring the Union Square area; the rest of us continued on to The Mission to explore San Francisco's rising "hipster" neighborhood, recently renowned for its fabulous wall murals, its quirky shops, bars and cafés, and "cash only" attitude.

Although the primary mission of our SUSI program is to help international scholars learn about the U.S. media system, the program is also meant to help those scholars learn about the mish-mash of distinct subcultures that put the word "united" in "The United States." San Francisco is certainly one of the best U.S. cities to observe and explore that diversity. Thankfully our scholars are adventurous enough to not rely on a formal, structured schedule to do that important work on their own. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ukraine and Amish connection

By Yuriy Zaliznyak (2013 SUSI Scholar from Ukraine)

When we were going to visit the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, Ohio I had no idea what kind of surprise was waiting for me. On a broad wall mural I saw a magnificent history of unique Christian community and a painful part of my country’s history was carefully detailed. You can see the image of the violent terror of the Red Communist army against Ukraine’s inhabitants, when all the food was taken from the successful farmers. That Bolshevik’s initiative to break the nation took six to twelve million lives. Russia still denies the nature of Holodomor in 1932-33, and not all the documents on that period are revealed by Russian special archives – that is why the precise numbers of those killed are still unknown. But this picture by a German-American artist provides us with a food for thought about the methods of Russian empire building, Slavonic origins of Russian and Ukrainian “brotherhood” and real love – given to us by God.

Milton Wood, the tour guide of the Center told me more about the author of the painting and the relations that Ukraine and unique Christian communities had in the past: https://soundcloud.com/yuriy-zalizniak/good-about-ukraine-amish-and
So Ukrainians have to be grateful to Amish & Mennonite community in USA and especially in Ohio for that colorful explanation of our history. Because we do not want to be called a country with an unpredictable past!

Thank you, SUSI 2013 for that experience!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The future of newspapers: go local!

 By Consuelo Aguirre

Newspapers are doomed and condemned to disappear, in 5, 10 or 30 years. Those are the predictions about the future of the press in United States and the whole world. It seems to be a fact: digital journalism jeopardized the revenues of newspapers and their existence.  

In my country, Ecuador, print journalists live under uncertainty about the sustainability of their jobs. Publishers try to hide the sales outcomes that keep dropping with no apparent solution. Some journalists have moved to other fields, like public relations and others put their hopes and expectations on the emerging and more promising world of digital news. 

The innovation projects on journalism are focused on the Internet, in general, and on mobile devices, in particular. News readers, news feeders, online platforms for journalists that work on specific fields, data journalism, data mining, data visualization, digital storytelling. The list goes on and on.  

We teach journalism students the hability to tell a story using different digital tools. They ought to be prepared for what's coming next, but are we really aware of what we are leaving behind?

Last year, I had the opportunity to get to know the projects that the entrepreneurs of the Sillicon Valley, in California, are working on. The outcomes are successful, insightful  and some of them have been meaningful for journalism. But none of them blew my mind. 

This year, in a small town of Ohio, I had a experience that really got me thinking about the present and future of newspapers . The SUSI program, at Ohio University, arranged a trip to the Amish community of Sugarcreek. There, we visited what for me is the most interesting newspaper in the world: The Budget.
Stablished 125 years ago, The Budget brings the news for Amish communities nation wide, all in Amish style. 

The members of the community, that have a simple way of life, away from technology, use the paper as a way to spread the news about family, business and the community. In most cases, The Budget is the only way to communicate and get informed about what's going on with relatives that live far away. 

In many ways, The Budget is a newspaper of the 19th century, because of it's structure and it's aims: serve an specific community that has it's own language, interests and a way of life stranged from modernity . 
This paper has an advantage that any publisher in the world would like to have: readers that don't access to Internet and are not interested on doing that any soon. But, because of that, The Budget is one of the newspapers that has the chance to succeed an never die, at least not in the next decades. It is, in many ways, the newspaper of the 21st century

Then I thought about my country. Publishers and journalists work for  the population that has access to Internet: that's a 55%. What about the 45% that are not on line? Who thinks about them? How many communities that, like the Amish have their own language  and different cultural practices, need a newspaper or a magazine? In Ecuador, we hardly notice that there is people outside the main cities. How many opportunities to start a new media have been lost?

Even though, there are some exceptions and I have to tell you, one of them is my friend, Orlando Mena. He never worked in mainstream media and his dream was to open a newspaper in his home town: Guambalo. It is a very small village located in the mountains, in the province of Tungurahua. Some colleagues thought he was crazy, but he pursued his dream and now he is the proud owner of two newspapers and some magazines that serve an entire region.

So, the newspapers are destined to dissappear. Really? If we look further, sure they won't. Specially if we learn that Internet is not the future of journalism, it's only a part of that future. That there are communities that need to be informed and would love to see themselves reflected on a paper. That not everyone speak the same language and have the same expectations. 

After this thoughts, now on I will be less worried about teaching my students about new tools to tell stories and be more concerned about teaching them to see and understand people. 

Journalists must get involved in technology

Sibongile Mpofu (Zimbabwe)

Digital revolution must be embraced totally if journalists and news media are to remain relevant to readers, said Richard Gingras, head of news and social products at Google.
Digital revolution presents the opportunities, particularly for Africa, to catapult into the future with new confidence. While governments have tried and continuously censor the free flow of information, digital revolution, particularly the mobile phone in Zimbabwe, would enable the continent connects with, and interacts with its publics.
Journalists need to be aware of how to take advantage of social media platforms to engage in journalism that is of relevance to their communities.
Social media provides the basis for investigative stories that journalists should do, but traditional media very often has not utilized this opportunity. Journalists, especially in Zimbabwe have not utilized the trusted crowd concept to investigate issues raised through social networks. Journalists still prefer to set the public agenda from its own point of view, as opposed to that of the public. This disconnects people in the process.
According to Gingras, investigative issues are not covered yet they always come from the fringes. Investigative journalism is triumphant where journalists have the ability to detect conversations amongst the crowd.
“Any news outlet that does not take advantage of the crowd is missing the story,” said Gingras.
He said Google Plus always analyze on a daily basis what is going on in social networks, and how best the organization can connect people on thee social platforms.
As the digital revolution sweeps across the globe, it provides a narrative of new readers, new platforms and new revenue streams for media organizations.
One African businessman, Trevor Ncube once noted that African journalists must not be naïve about the difficulties of bridging the gulf between a promising future of digital revolution and a difficult present.
He said new media holds the potential for Africa, only if media houses and journalists choose to be part of the revolution.
Journalism has shifted power to audience and Tom Rosenstiel puts it aptly: ‘Media has to adjust their behavior to the needs of citizens more, now than ever before.’
This certainly resonates with what Gingras said in his discussion with 2013 SUSI scholars at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.
The future of news and media lies in embracing the digital revolution and media organizations now have to re align their business models in the world of social media.

Women, babies and all that jazz...

Sibongile Mpofu (Zimbabwe)

When Mary (the lady from the Amish community in Sugarcreek, who addressed us) spoke to us about the role of women in the Amish community, she spoke with passion on how the Amish were a closely knit community and how women treasured and are proud of taking care of the household, raising children. This got me thinking. While family in modern day world is very important and remains our top priority as women, demands of our work and professions, very often detects to us whether we have time for our families or not. More often than not, most of our times are devoted to the profession and career development. We spend three quarters of our adult life at work and more so, if you are a woman, this very often means reducing the number of children one plans to have, or totally abdicating from these duties. Motherhood indeed suffers as women seek professional development.
So, as Mary narrated the role of women in an Amish community, I could see a lot of passion in her eyes. Women in this community regard motherhood highly. While a few women will work outside their home following marriage, the majority stays at home and takes care of domestic responsibilities particularly raising children.
Women in the Amish community are praised for their hard work, their delicious cooking, the orderliness of their households, and their ability to raise hard-working and respectful children.
While, unlike the Amish that have opted to live a simple life, (making motherhood quite enjoyable), some of us have embraced civilization and its pressures. But despite these career pressures, family life is still an embodiment of our day- to- day lives. I have met with seven strong women attending this year’s SUSI programme. They are mothers, wives and career women, who have managed to balance motherhood, family and career pressures. Just like the Amish women, they are proud and endear motherhood. 
It’s been interesting how baby talk has been one of the major topics of discussions with most women that I have engaged talks with.
There are a couple of babies being planned… and at the same time, career development for a whole lot of us. So, I want to say:

Hands up to all the strong women who have managed to enjoy motherhood, and balance family and professional life. We all made sacrifices and continue to make them, with our children in mind. All in the hope of trying to build a better future for them.

And ladies, let us keep those conversations going: babies, men, fashion and shopping! These conversations have helped us know one another, share our sorrows, celebrate our triumphs and brought us together as SUSI family.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

SUSI- connects people

By Seymur Kazimov (2013 SUSI scholar from Azerbaijan)

I will never forget my second visit to the USA. I met people from different nationalities I have never seen before. They are from Ecuador, Chile, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Honduras, Mozambique. I have travelled a lot. It is possible I have met people from these countries in airports during check in, waiting for luggage, or in foreign cities. Who knows, perhaps not. SUSI created for me an opportunity to see them, even to make friends with them. Of course, I am watching TV, and I have access to Internet, too. 

Nowadays, it is very easy to get all the information you need from the Internet. It is enough just to “google” the name of each country and read huge amounts of materials. I am a journalist and always looking for preliminary sources. For me, all of the SUSI scholars are the first source about their countries.

Now I know about their countries, traditions, and current situations in the media, politics, and economics. Different countries, different culture, religion, lifestyle. Everything is different. But these factors do not disturb me or prevent me from making friends with them. We are all human beings.