Okay, so it’s kinda cool that El Salvador and Honduras will play a World Cup qualifying game at RFK stadium in Washington, D.C., June 2. These are two good teams and the match will be a lot of fun to watch.

But what Steven Goff missed in his little report (El Salvador, Honduras tentatively set for June 2 friendly at RFK Stadium) in the Washington Post is that there is a LOT of baggage in the football — soccer to the States — matches between the two countries.

A quick “El Salvador Honduras Football” Google search would have found a bigger story behind the June 2 match.

Everyone knows that soccer is taken seriously around the world except in the United States.

Flashback to 1968. Tensions between Honduras and El Salvador were growing over border disputes. By 1969 things were getting much worse as Honduras complained about more than 300,000 illegal Salvadorans living in Honduras.

Then came a qualifying game for the 1970 World Cup. The two countries left the second round even, requiring a third game June 25, 1969 on neutral territory to determine who moved ahead.

El Salvador won 3-2 in a game played in Mexico City. Riots broke out between fans of the two teams.

After all the political tensions between the two countries, the riots just added fuel to the fire.

The Salvadoran army invaded Honduras July 14, 1969, beginning the Football War.

The Organization of American States worked out a cease-fire that took effect July 20. By the middle of August the Salvadoran army left Honduras.

A peace treaty was signed in 1980 formally ending the war.

So there is really much more to this proposed June 2 match between El Salvador and Honduras.

Sure the governments of Honduras and El Salvador are on good terms now. And there is little likelihood another war will be ignited by the June 2 game. But the history is interesting.

I just think that the Washington Post readers are entitled to know. (Maybe Goff will add something on this later.)

And it is another example of how a story can me made more interesting by just a little bit of understanding that local and global events are linked.

For a college paper or radio station looking for a different kind of story, the Peace Corps, just offered up some great information that can be turned into some interesting stories.

The Corps, one of the best government institutions, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The whole purpose of the Corps is for America’s best and brightest to donate their time and knowledge to help people in other countries.

Since its inception by executive order in 1961, more than 200,000 young people have donated two years of their lives to development projects in more than 130 countries.

During my limited teaching time at George Mason, I encouraged my students to seriously consider volunteering for the Peace Corps. My reasons were pretty simple:

  1. In general, the job market sucks, volunteering for the Peace Corps gives you at least two more years to gain experience and hope for a better economy.
  2. Specifically, the job market for journalists sucks. Volunteering for the Peace Corps provides you with overseas’ experience and skills other journalists don’t have. That will make your job application stand out from all the others.
  3. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have and you will learn things about the world and yourself you will never learn by staying in the States.
  4. The world is interconnected. The more you know about the rest of the world the better you will be as a journalist and as a citizen of the world. The Peace Corps gives you experiences and knowledge of the rest of the world that no class or tourism trip can.

I should add that I am NOT a Peace Corps alum but I have met many of the volunteers in the Dominican Republic and Honduras. I have never seen such enthusiastic and idealistic young people any where else.

I noticed that George Mason is not on the list of top schools sending graduates to the Peace Corps. (Maybe that will change with time.) But for now, perhaps the Mason student media folks can look around campus to see if any seniors have signed up to join the Corps after graduation. (Then find out why and where they hope to go.)

Maybe a search could be started to see what professors or administrators have Peace Corps experience. Then find out why they joined the Corps and how their time in service helped/hindered their career choices.

Does the school have a relationship with the Peace Corps so that some course work counts toward the Peace Corps training programs? If not, why not? (Contact the Peace Corps for more information about this. More schools are doing this every year.)

Here is something to get you started with your stories:

Just this past week the Peace Corps released a list of the top colleges whose graduates have joined the Peace Corps.

For campus and local community reporters, this is a gold mine of information about links between the college and the rest of the world.

Following are the top five colleges and universities in each undergraduate category, as well as the top graduate schools and a historical ranking. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers.

LARGE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:

More than 15,000 undergraduates

  • University of Colorado Boulder (112)
  • University of Washington (110)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (107)
  • University of Florida (101)
  • University of Michigan (97)

MEDIUM COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:

Between 5,001 and 15,000 undergraduates

  • The George Washington University (78)
  • Western Washington University (73)
  • American University (63)
  • Cornell University (58)
  • University of Vermont (42)

SMALL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:

Less than 5,000 undergraduates

  • University of Mary Washington (29)
  • Gonzaga University (26)
  • Oberlin College (24)
  • St. Olaf College (24)
  • University of Puget Sound (22)
  • The Johns Hopkins University (22)
  • Lewis & Clark College (22)

GRADUATE SCHOOLS

Number of graduate alumni volunteers

  • University of Florida (30)
  • University of Washington (24)
  • University of Denver (16)
  • American University (16)
  • Tulane University (16)

HISTORICALLY (SINCE 1961)

Number of alumni volunteers

  • University of California, Berkeley (3,497)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (3,000)
  • University of Washington (2,738)
  • University of Michigan (2,458)
  • University of Colorado Boulder (2,317)

It would be nice if the University of Michigan would step up the volunteer numbers a bit. After all, the whole idea for the Peace Corps was floated by then Senator John F. Kennedy during a presidential campaign speech in October 1960.

Click here for the complete list of schools and their rankings within the Peace Corps.

(First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.)

This has nothing to do with who is smarter but rather who is more willing to learn about the other.

Great little piece in Caixin called The Closing of Chinese Minds.

What makes it even more interesting is that Caixin is a mainland China news organization.

The publication has a history of being a thorn in the side of China’s political and business leadership. Besides the stories it publishes, Caixin puts online reporters’ notes and all the documents used to back up the story. And with more Chinese turning to the Internet to get news, Caixin fills an important gap in information.

Caixin editor Hu Shuli

The editor in chief of Caixin Hu Shu Li told an audience at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’s Club this past summer that independent and ethical journalism is vital.

“What the public demand and deserve is the right to know,” she told the FCC audience. “More than ever the public needs the media to present the hard facts with all the complexities and nuances.”

FYI: Caixin recently published a story with back-up documents that showed high-speed rail designer  Zhang Shuguang owns a US$800,000 (7.12 million RMB) home near Los Angeles on a monthly salary of 2,200 RMB.

But, let’s get back to that intellectual gap.

Just before Christmas, Caixin published the The Closing of Chinese Minds column.

Journalists Nailene Chou Wiest noted how China has pulled back from trying to understand more about how American society and politics work.

“…the more the Chinese think they know about America, the greater their incapacity to change their prejudices. Conspiracy theories, such as the notion the CIA maintains an office in every CNN bureau, abound.”

Nailene Chou Wiest

She starts her story with how “in 1979 a group of Chinese editors was about to visit the United States. Asked what they would like to see, one solemnly replied: ‘We want to know how the party secretary of New York controls The New York Times.'”

To correct the situation exemplified by the editors in 1979, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences inaugurated the Institute of American Studies in 1981. China was eager to learn from the U.S. American foundations reciprocated by providing generous funding and resources. By the mid-1990s, however, the interest narrowed to Sino-American diplomatic relations.

I saw this lack of understanding first hand in 1992 when the US Information Agency library in Shanghai provided live satellite feeds of the U.S. presidential election returns. Chinese journalists on hand could not understand how ABC could have different numbers for the presidential vote than CBS or NBC. Adding to their confusion was the fact that none of the numbers were being cleared by an agency in Washington.

The misunderstandings continue.

Wiest:

In my field, many journalists and journalism professors have been invited to visit the U.S. They have enhanced American scholars’ understanding of the changing Chinese media landscape, but their own comprehension of the American media remains at the textbook level. While the legend of Walter Cronkite as the iconic TV anchor lives on, few have heard of Bill O’Reilly or have an inkling that the conservative made a highly successful industry out of talk radio and the Fox News Channel. Still bashing corporate greed for killing the American news media, they seem oblivious to the assault on media profits by technological changes that have made some quality media outfits more like millstones around the necks of their owners than cash cows. Relying on a few translated volumes of media studies, or, worse, polemics in the Chinese press, they are out of touch with the American reality.

She points out that the Chinese sent to the United States under the institute’s aegis now go so that Americans can learn about China, not so the Chinese can better understand the United States.

It is ironic. After all, to hear many of the political voices in the United States today the issue is similar. These xenophobic Americans care little about learning about other societies or cultures. Too many average Americans agree.

Personal note: I still recall with horror how in the summer of 2000 (or so) when we told a shop owner in Michigan that we lived in Hong Kong, he paused and then asked, “That’s in Ohio, right?”

In a democracy, the people set the tone for what the government does. An uninformed or ill-informed public can lead to disastrous results. Maybe not a full-scale ware but economic and social upheaval are possible. (And it doesn’t help when political leaders think foreign policy can be handled with an electrified fence and over-sized military.)

News organizations can help. And — here comes that old argument again — it can be done without having to go overseas.

The immigrant communities in the United States can provide valuable insights other cultures.

Investments in the United States by companies from other countries tell tales of linkages and connections that can be seen on a local level. (Think of all the Ohioans who have a job because Honda — of Japan — opened factories in that state.)

All it takes is a little imagination by editors and reporters to see the global-local link.

Or, we could just go down the road of China (modern and historic) and not think there is anything worth learning from outsiders.

Northern Virginia (and GMU) are known for its large foreign-born population.

Koreans, Indians and Salvadorans dominate the foreign-born population in Northern Virginia.

And yet so few stories are done about these immigrant communities. These communities provide an excellent opportunity for local reporters to do local stories that have an international perspective.

Feature stories, for example, could look at the ways different communities celebrate American holidays. Another idea is to report on the holidays specific to those communities.

News stories can get reactions of the communities to international news. For example, interviewing people at an Indian shopping center about Indian events in the international news. Or Salvadorans about relief efforts following a flood in their home country.

C-SPAN had a wonderful segment the other day with the Census Bureau about the foreign born in the United States.

I had a few comments about it on my other blog site about international journalism along with a link to the program. (Foreign Born in the United States — The Numbers and The Impact)

Working with this information — and narrowing it down on the Census Bureau website — it is easy to see what communities should be approached and why.

Great project by the US-China Institute at USC.

The documentary — Assignment: China, “Opening Up” – is the story of the Western journalists who covered China in the early years of its opening to the West and the attempts by the Chinese government to control the message those journalists sent out.

The 1-hour documentary (available online) is well worth the time for history buffs, journalism geeks and anyone interested in the story of  how free and independent journalism clashes with a government obsessed with media control.

The documentary is written and reported by one of those early pioneers — Mike Chinoy. You might recall his reporting from Tiananmen Square in May-June 1989.

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.