I am in Karachi for the official launch of the Center for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute for Business Administration. The Medill School, where I teach, is a partner in the State Department-funded initiative along with the International Center for Journalists. I am the leader for Medill’s efforts (which include our faculty coming here to teach several times a year), and this was my fifth time in Pakistan. The event began with an opening ceremony with “chief guest” the US Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, and the Dean of IBA, Dr. Ishrat Husain. Then we went up to the Center itself for the official ribbon cutting. The Center has been under construction for over a year, and it has a full TV studio, newsroom/classroom space, edit rooms and a radio studio. Hats off to Christie Lauder and the staff at the CEJ for hosting such a great and memorable event. And to all the partners in the project who have worked so hard to get to this point. The press release for the event is below the photos.
I’m thrilled to say that a video produced, reported, filmed, written and edited by graduate student Mathias Meier has been published by the New York Times. Mathias was awarded a travel grant from the Medill School to travel to Bolivia to report on the legalization of child labor there. He traveled to La Paz for a week and created a first draft of the story with me in an advanced video journalism class in our graduate program. I was so impressed by the work that I sent the piece to Rich Tanner, a senior producer at the New York Times. I edited a shorter draft Mathias worked on based on his longer piece (which was also nominated for a college award in the Chicago/Midwest Emmys) and then he and Rich continued to fine tune the story over the summer. After a few delays in publication because of breaking news, the story finally ran on Saturday, December 19th, and led the NYTimes home page (a major feat). Mathias has since graduated from our program and is back in his native Chile, working in media and freelancing. Congratulations Mathias.
On July 18th, I gave a lecture at Jinan University for the school’s media leadership conference. They asked me to speak about “convergence journalism,” a subject I know a lot about, even though I’m not a big fan of the word “convergence.” I emphasized that in the digital world we live in, many ways of storytelling have converged, and any news organization can work in practically any medium — text, photos, audio, video and interactive — with relative ease. So, essentially, all journalism is convergence journalism. Instead of dwelling on converging media, I urged the audience to be smart about finding the right medium for the story, rather than trying to shoe-horn a story into any individual storytelling method.
To make this point, I use a poem by Dylan Thomas, which has been used and adapted across various platforms. By reading it, listening to it being read, and seeing people (including the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield) perform it, we see the strength of each of the mediums and can then think about how that translates to news stories.
One of my favorite quotes of Dylan Thomas — who was known for this lilting baritone and the flourish of his reading aloud from his own work and that of others — is this:
“The printed page is the place in which to examine the works of a poem, and the platform the place on which to give the poem the works.”
In modern news reporting, we have so many platforms on which to give the story the works.
I was joined at Jinan by my Medill colleagues Scott Anderson, Michael Deas and Zach Wise, who made this collage of photos of attendees who came to speak to me after my talk.
“Right now there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago,” begins Jason Russell in a very affecting video that has gone viral this week. And Russell hopes to put those people to work to bring a warlord to justice. The video, which is nearly 30 minutes long, targets Joseph Kony, the leader of the fierce guerilla group called the Lord’s Resistance Army. Russell says he saw first hand the brutality of the LRA when he met and befriended children who had been conscripted as soldiers in Kony’s bloody and vicious campaign in the jungles of central Africa. Russell and a team of people with an NGO called Invisible Children made the video to launch a campaign to flush Kony from hiding using the pressure of a world-wide effort to make Kony a household name. Showing interviews with a boy he became friends with (who believes it would be better to die than continue living in misery), and rolling the camera while he tries to explain Kony’s brutality to his precocious son Gavin, Russell makes an emotionally compelling case.
There’s already some blowback on the campaign, here and over at the Washington Post, and a tumblr questioning the NGO’s accountability and tactics. And perhaps their campaign is naive. And maybe the group spends too much money on making films and not enough on the ground. But the web is a snarky place. See the film for yourself and decide.
Seeing the video reminded me of the excellent reporting done by filmmaker and journalist Ed Robbins in South Sudan in 2009. He created three pieces for TIME Video, including this one about a young man named Moses who was abducted by the LRA in Sudan. Though I’ve seen it many times, it still breaks my heart:
Russell has targeted 20 celebrities and 12 political power brokers to increase awareness about Kony and pressure politicians to act – including continued support of U.S. military assistance to the army in Uganda.
Now that I have a full-speed connection, I’m uploading more photos from my trip to the Middle East. Here are more pictures from January 25th in Tahrir square, where I joined TIME correspondent Abigail Hauslohner and reporter/translator Sharaf al-Hourani. It seems almost quaint now, given all that’s happened there (and is still happening) in the days since. But it’s good to remember peaceful times when tear gas is filling the air and rocks and bullets are flying.