Archive for Skills

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.


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.

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.

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.



Face it, globalization is here to stay. There are so many links between the rest of the world and local businesses.

And that goes for political rhetoric as well.

To hear some circles tell it, the United States is a lousy place to set up and run a business. Well, the World Bank disagrees. And they back up their conclusion with facts and figures.

Take a look at my take on this issue here: Global business rankings and why it matters locally

For student journalists, this report could be a good starting point for some stories that are informative and out of the ordinary. Such as:

  • Interviews with the university’s business department about the micro and macro impact of business laws and regulations.
  • A comparison of what the report says with LOCAL business regulations
  • A set of interviews with foreign companies with LOCAL offices near the university.
  • A discussion with business majors from other countries about their perspectives on the report, what they are learning in their classes and what they have learned about the American business climate.

The “take away” on this point is simple: Local issues often have an international connection and international events can easily reach right down to your street corner.

All it takes is for a reporter to think beyond the mantra of “Local! Local! Local!” to see the connection.