International Storytelling Class Reports on Issues in Largest Latin American Country
Sixteen students will travel to Brazil with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s International Storytelling class from March 15 to March 31 to develop multimedia news stories about the country.
The class will partner with a journalism program at Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Brazil to assist the students in reporting and navigating the country. In fact, this is the third year that Kent State University’s College of Communication and Information is offering this course. In the past two years, students enrolled in International Storytelling traveled to China and India to report on newsworthy topics in those countries. To choose the destination this year, JMC Professor Gary Hanson and JMC Assistant Professor Mitchell McKenney thought about emerging countries with growing economies.
“Brazil came about because we were thinking about the BRIC countries,” Hanson said. “This is a term that stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China. These countries are seen as emerging economies and are going to be increasingly important to the world in the next generation. We thought it would be good to build our class itinerary around emerging economies. We were looking for these up-and-coming countries.”
“These are not familiar or easy places,” McKenney said. “We’re taking proficient students in the various news and production areas on the trip, so when we make this multimedia storytelling website, it shows students performing at a high level in an unfamiliar place.”
Reporting Multimedia Stories
The students will work in pairs with other students in the course and from the university in Brazil. Each student is expected to produce two to three stories in print, multimedia or photographs.
“All the students are expected to do more than just take pictures, write or take video,” McKenney said. “The idea is that we’re combining skills and working together.”
This collaboration is partly the reason students had to apply to be considered for the International Storytelling class. According to the course blog, students “spent the first half of the semester preparing for the trip — studying the culture, considering potential stories and practicing convergence skills while spending the remainder of the semester publishing their finished projects on a course website upon returning from Brazil.”
“This is just an exotic place to practice this craft,” Hanson said. “It ends with this recognition that not every story is best told in a particular way. Some stories are best told as a narrative print story while others are better told with just photography. One of the main course goals is to get students to take a large topic and break it apart into the different ways you can tell pieces of the story.”
The students will have to think on their feet and find different story angles if a lead doesn’t seem to work out. They will learn when to abandon one story idea and continue with another.
“We prepare with story ideas, and we do research on the internet before the trip about what might be newsworthy,” McKenney said. “But you’re not a good journalist if you’re not looking for better stories when you’re on the ground.”
Taking a Break
The trip won’t be all hard work for the students. They will get a break at the end to sight-see and relax in Rio de Janeiro for three days.
“That will be right at Good Friday coming into Easter,” McKenney said. “There’s the Christ statue in Rio that was a must-see. It was an exciting time to be in Rio.”
International Storytelling is designed to show students where media jobs are headed, Hanson said.
“What I want the students to understand from this experience is that international travel is possible,” Hanson said. “I want them to recognize that there is a world outside of the United States. What we have here in our country is great, but we’re not the only culture or place where people live their lives.”
NOTE: The students' DatelineBrazil site will publish at the end of the term, and TV2 plans to produce a 30-minute television program featuring stories and images from Brazil. Watch for details.