Archive for Future of journalism

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.


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)


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)


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)


Number of graduate alumni volunteers

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


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.


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.

Interesting set of problems the Internet creates.

Thanks to search engines we have more information at our fingertips today than ever before. My sons are tired of hearing how I used to have to spend hours in libraries looking for data for my term papers in college.

In China, that is not the case. The government bans search engines from allowing certain phrases or words. (Latest news on this: Two New Lists of Sina Weibo’s Banned Search Terms.)

But what is almost equally bad is having the right to unlimited search terms and data but now knowing how to determine what is the right stuff and what is BS.

And this is a growing problem in the United States. Wired magazine addressed this issue: Clive Thompson on Why Kids Can’t Search.

No Child Left Behind seems to have left critical thinking behind. And that ain’t good for journalism, democracy or the future of our society.

For a longer discussion of this, go to Some can’t search. Some can’t analyze.



I just posted an item you all might want to look about a piece recently done by PRI’s The World. I think the story showed intelligence and creativity in what was going on in an otherwise mundane election cycle in San Francisco.

The impact of ethnic media — Too often overlooked

I would encourage journalism students to find out more about the local ethnic media outlets. If you can’t speak or read the language, then touch base with the reporters and editors who do the stories. They have to operate in an English environment. I will bet — in fact I know because I have interviewed some of them in the DC area — that they have journalism war stories and tips you will not hear from the mainstream media folks.


Interesting piece in the Greenslade Blog at The Guardian website:

Internship exploitation – how publishers use and abuse work experience

One of the wannabe hacks, Emily Handford (aka The Intern), has discovered the perils of taking on serial internships “without a sniff of a job.”

She asks: “Have I just wasted my time, energy and money completing these internships? I enjoyed them but I never managed to nab a job whilst on the job, so to speak.”

Nor, it appears, did she make any money because she has also failed to land one of those “prized paid internships.”

Rest of story

Gee. All this sounds the same on this side of the pond as well.

BTW, Wannabe Hacks is a worthwhile site to look at as well. If for no other reason than it is a trans-Atlantic link to the problems of finding a job in journalism.