J-School welcomes foreign journalists

Elizabeth Giorgi

The University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is joining six other universities across the nation to educate journalism professionals around the world.

In December, the U.S. State Department initiated the Edward R. Murrow program through the International Visitor Leadership Program. The program aims to bring professional journalists from around the globe to seven U.S. universities to study different aspects of journalism based on their fields.

The University will host journalists from the French-speaking regions of Africa for a week in April. The program aims to give African journalists an understanding of American journalism by applying it to the journalists’ concerns at home.

Professor Kathleen Hansen is handling the programming for the international professionals who will visit the University.

The University is in a major media market, she said, so this gives the school an opportunity to demonstrate how journalism education in the United States functions.

Hansen said School of Journalism and Mass Communication professors will work with the international journalists in seminars that will include topics such as new media, investigative reporting, computer-assisted reporting and at least one topic relevant to their own news media.

“One of the most important things that we understand in this country is the necessity of having a free and independent press,” Hansen said.

She said it is important for the University to “help working journalists in emerging democracies understand the importance of a free and independent press.”

The visiting journalists will not only be attending informational sessions at the University, but also will work with professionals in their fields in the Twin Cities during their visit, Hansen said.

Understanding the actual job experience in the Twin Cities will help give the journalists a thorough perspective, she said.

Jean Kucera, assistant to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication director, said she hopes the program will bring together the idea of a global community between the visiting journalists, students, professors and the University community.

“I don’t think the experience will be as fruitful and advantageous if these visitors don’t get the interaction with faculty and students,” she said.

The interaction will make the experience a “two-way street” for the visitors and the University community, Kucera said.

“We can learn from their areas of the world as well,” she said.

Adam Meier, public affairs adviser for the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, said the state department chose the University for several reasons.

The department chose schools that were geographically diverse; however, it was most important to choose schools that had well-developed journalism schools as well as a commitment to internationalization, he said.

“Participants will get a chance to study and learn on campus, but also… a chance to learn something about American society,” Meier said.

He said the program gives the journalists a “much broader understanding,” rather than reading about the United States in newspapers or seeing it on TV.

Sarah Bauer, journalism and philosophy senior and president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said the program strengthens the high standard for international programs at the University.

“The international programs are a huge asset to our school,” she said. “We have the luxury of freedom of speech wherever we go… any time we can bring in journalists outside of the United States, nothing bad can come about.”