Category Archives: Uncategorized

Getting news in Cuba

Generation Y blogger Yoani Sanchez has a great piece on why she can’t use her new radio. (Interference)

It all has to do with the steps taken by the Cuban government to block “subversive” broadcasts. (That is, anything NOT by the Cuban government.)

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Former Cuban prisoner reflects on his release

A few days ago Cuban journalist Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times about his release from Cuban prison. He has an interesting way of looking at the past seven years he spent in jail for promoting free media and democracy.

Out of Prison, Still Not Free

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Narco subs: Just the next step but where was the context?

CNN reports today that the drug enforcement agencies from the US and Ecuador have seized a fully operational ocean-going submarine designed for drug smugglers. (Ecuador authorities seize drug-smuggling sub)

This is the first time a real submarine was captured. But in the past few years the issue of submersible vessels has been a big problem. (Coast Guard hunts drug-running semi-subs from 2008.)

Now would it have been so difficult to refer to the submersibles in the submarine story? Context is everything to good story telling. And when the issue is global in nature and deals with drug running, more information is always better than less.

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Now this is creative thinking: Censorship=Unfair Trade!

The censorship squad in Beijing has got to be going crazy right now.

The European Community made the case earlier this year that censorship is a trade barrier. That means governments that engage in censorship of the Internet are in violation of trade agreements from simple bilateral accords to the whopper World Trade Organization.

Countries like China fought to get into the WTO to ease their sales into other trading countries. At the time, China said it was willing and ready to play by the rules of the rest of the world.

Of course, they only meant the “build cheap, sell expensive” and “Buy from me but I don’t have to buy form you” rules. Nobody mentioned anything about opening up access to information.

It was inevitable, however. Free and fair trade can only exist when there is also free exchange of information and data. The Chinese government understands that somewhat. They loosened some controls over foreign media access to China. More Western — non-Chinese government — publications are available to more Chinese people. And even some Chinese pubications are able to report more freely about economic and business issues. (But not social or political ones.)

But the Old Guard continues to hold enough power in the government to keep trying to control Internet access in China. But there has been push-back they never expected.

  • The government failed to force all computers in China to install the stolen software Green Dam.
  • Google refused to play ball by self-censoring information through its web site
  • Hackers who provide ways around the Great Chinese Firewall are treated like rock stars by computer users.

And now trade, the lifeblood of economic well-being in China is under attack.

Basically the Europeans have told China: “Censor the Internet and we will file unfair trade practices against you.”

And now the U.S. has joined in. And Google is helping. (Google helps build trade case over Web censorship)

The usually boring trade issue stories now have GEEK APPEAL. It would be nice to see if some U.S. reporters — national and local — pick up on this technology and trade issue.

  • How is censorship unfair trade?
  • What does it mean for U.S. and local businesses?
  • How has the Internet made getting cheaper goods easier? Harder?
  • How has the Internet affected how people do business with suppliers from around the globe?

Just a few questions. Let’s see if anyone asks them.


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Story idea: Teachers looking for work. Why not look offshore?

The recession and massive budget deficits are causing no end of pain in the U.S. school systems. Teachers are being laid off and those places that are hiring are getting flooded with applications.

New York Times: Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years

But where are the stories that talk about an alternative to looking for work in the States?

Both of my sons looked at education for their college degrees — one stayed with it — largely so they could be part of the international school circuit.

They fell in love with living abroad. (What would you expect from children of a successful diplomat?) And they knew that eventually they would have to find their own way to live overseas.

So almost every day I see stories about the massive layoffs taking place in U.S. school systems. It is a tragedy and one that should not happen. And the teachers being laid off are generally younger and just starting in the field. They have the best opportunities to pull up and live overseas.

But where are the stories talking about this option?

Where are the stories about successful teachers who have made careers living around the world?

The Seattle news organizations should be all over this. For some reason we kept running into a lot of teachers from the Seattle area as we moved from country to country.

There are plenty of opportunities. Besides the private schools, there are U.S. curriculum schools on U.S. military bases around the world that need teachers.

A good place to start looking at a story about American teachers living and working abroad is the State Department’s page on overseas education.

And to be clear, I am not talking about the fly-by-night “teach English” abroad programs. There are plenty of jobs for real teachers in real schools.

It would be nice to see some stories about them.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Story Ideas, Uncategorized

Press freedom and civil liberties linked

The winner of this year’s Society of Professional Journalists’ high school essay contest on press freedom understands the linkage between media freedom and other civil liberties.

The contest — Why are free and independent news media important? — is designed to increase among high school students an increased understanding and knowledge of the importance of free media.

This year’s winner, Erin McDonough of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va, used Burma and China as evidence how free media and civil liberties go hand in hand.

By eliminating the free press first, authoritarian governments eliminate their opposition and open the floodgates for the repression of other civil liberties.

She gets it.

It makes me feel that there may yet be hope that  more Americans can make the connection between free media and other civil liberties and why it is important to speak up about violations of freedom of press in other countries.

McDonough’s entry first won the Washington, D.C. SPJ chapter contest. Her winning entry was then forwarded to the national SPJ for consideration. The national SPJ award includes a scholarship check of $1,000.

She and a companion will be feted at the annual DC SPJ Dateline Awards/Hall of Fame Dinner June 15.

Read her full essay here.

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Looking for a future in journalism? Try something else to stand out.

Face it, it’s a rough market for journalists. Reporters and editors are getting laid off all over the place.

So what is a student journalist to do?

I have argued to my students that they need to do something to set them apart from all the other qualified writers, editors or producers. One way is to come up with story ideas (and stories) that show how local and global events are connected. Another is to take some time between graduation and journalism work to do something that will make them look more “hire-able.”

I recommended to my students one way to do that is to sign up for the Peace Corps. And today being the 49th anniversary of the founding of the Corps got me thinking about it again.

And let us not forget that President Kennedy first proposed the idea of the Peace Corps to students at the University of Michigan in 1960.

Besides all the experiences — and language skills — a person gets working for the PC, it gives them an overseas work experience line on their resume.

When I lived in the Dominican Republic (2003-2006) my family regularly hosted large numbers of Peace Corps volunteers in our house. Each time I talked with these volunteers, I felt more impressed with the people who sign up to live in the wilderness and help others gain a better life.

The skills learned negotiating with local leaders to help them develop sustainable agriculture or build education or health infrastructure projects far exceed anything one can learn in college or in the first few years of journalism work.

Exposure to foreign cultures gives PC volunteers a wider (and better) view of how events affect people. Peace Corps volunteers end up seeing more to an issue than those who have not had the international experience.

And working in the Peace Corps — as mentioned earlier — gives a job applicant international work experience. Employers know the difference between “semester abroad” experiences, “traveled overseas,” and “worked and lived overseas.” (To my mind, there is nothing like living and working in a different culture to get a wider perspective of the world.)

Here is a partial list of some of the notable journalists who were Peace Corps volunteers:

  • David Briscoe, chief correspondent of World Desk for Associated Press (Philippines 1966-70)
  • Dan Carney, reporter for Business Week (Benin 1983-85)
  • Judy Dugan, assistant editorial page editor for the Los Angeles Times (Philippines 1966-68)
  • Josh Friedman, Pulitzer prize winner for international reporting and director of international programs, Columbia School of Journalism (Costa Rica 1964-66)
  • Kathleen Ingley, reporter for the Arizona Republic (Senegal 1972-75)
  • Al Kamen, writes In the Loop column in the Washington Post (Dominican Republic 1967-69)
  • Robert Laird, op-ed page editor for N.Y. Daily News (Somalia 1962-63)
  • Michael Maidenberg, Pulitzer prize-winning publisher and member of the board of trustees for the Knight Foundation (India 1964-66)
  • Chris Matthews, host of NBC’s Hardball (Swaziland 1968-70)

One of the other benefits of signing on with the Peace Corps for just-graduated or soon to graduate students is that many student loan programs allow loan payments to be deferred during the 18 month PC assignment.

Check out the Peace Corps here.

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