Black Hills State University mass communication students recently got a glimpse into the global world of news media during a round table conversation with 20 international journalists.
The journalists who represented 14 different Middle Eastern countries traveled to Rapid City through the Dacotah Territory International Visitor Program. DTIVP is one of 100 community-based Councils for International Visitors funded by the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. Distinguished professionals from all over the world are invited to participate in exchange programs providing the opportunity to visit various cities across the United States and meet colleagues in their chosen field.
The group of journalists also made stops in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The trip allowed the international journalists to gain a better understanding of American news and media and vice versa.
“The exchange gave us all a chance to meet face-to-face and discuss issues that we all face as journalists,” said Amy Varland, a mass communication major from Lead. “Meeting face-to-face allowed all of us to get to interact with each other and see past any stereotypes; it allowed us to see the human element behind the story.” Varland is also an intern with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
The international visitors, like the local media who attended, work in various media outlets including television, newspaper, and online. They also write and report on various topics from education and health to local economy. Many of the international reporters said they had Americans on their staff.
“They had a lot of interesting things to say,” according to Devin Lynn, a BHSU mass communications and history major from Powell, Wyo. “It’s not every day that you get to sit down around a table and have a discussion like this.”
Lynn, who is also the editor of the student newspaper The Jacket Journal, said it was helpful to get a first-hand global perspective.
Varland agreed. “It was encouraging to see dedicated people with so many obstacles persevering in a career with so many obstacles,” she said.
Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser, BHSU assistant professor of mass communications, also attended the discussion and said the exchange supports the concept of globalization that she continually communicates to her students. “I tell my students every day that they can work in a global setting. I think it is really important to have the concept of globalization really sink in and be displayed.The opportunity is there no matter where you are – downtown Manhattan or Lemmon, S.D. “
Caton-Rosser said she hopes the discussion opened her students’ eyes to the many different facets of communications. “It is really important for students to see how interdisciplinary the field of mass communication is,” she said. “From politics to education to culture and economics … all the subject matters and all the stories that fall underneath those broad categories, and to be able to experience, interview and bring those stories together for the public – that is amazing.”
The group discussed politics, education, objectivity in reporting and social media. With people looking for instantaneous information, social media plays a big part in disseminating global news. While social media is as widely used in American media as in the Middle Eastern news outlets, the purpose of it is slightly different.
Some of the international reporters said they use social media to spread the news, but also as a way to voice an opinion on a topic, something that goes against the standard of objectivity in American reporting. Unless it is an editorial or opinion column ,journalists need to be unbiased, according to Caton-Rosser who teachers her students triangulation, or the use of three credible sources.
While the reporters had different views of social media, they all had a goal of bringing accurate, reliable news to the people.
“There was a feeling that all journalists, whether from places outside the United States or American journalists, view transparency in government as a goal, as well as striving for freedom of information, and knowing that freedom of speech is a powerful and priceless privilege,” Varland said.
BHSU faculty and students said they hope to continue contact with the international visitors and are hoping to set up a blog for communication.