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U.N. Fellows Discuss New Media and Their Effect on International Journalism


Jonathan Sanders, Ph.D., gauges the impact of video on newspapers’ story judgment.
Photo by Gina Vergel

Anika Kentish, a radio reporter for Observer Radio from Antigua and Barbuda, is no stranger to using the Internet to report breaking news.

When the now-infamous magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January, Kentish was able to interview Haitians who had Internet access on Observer Radio using Skype video.

Using the Web and cell phones to report news under a variety of challenging conditions was the topic of a workshop on “International Affairs and Journalism on the Internet” that Kentish, along with nine other foreign journalists, attended at the Rose Hill campus.

The journalists, who hail from countries such as Bahrain, Mozambique and Togo, are visiting the country as part of the United Nations’ Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalists Fellowship Program. This is the third time in as many years that Fordham has hosted the Al-Farra fellows.

“I was thrilled when members from the U.N.’s Advocacy and Special Events at the Department of Public Information opened a discussion about partnering with their journalism fellowship program three years ago,” said Robin Andersen, Ph.D., professor of communication and media studies and associate chair of the graduate program in public communications, which hosted the fellows.

“We provide the journalists with two days of intense professional training in covering global affairs.”

On Oct. 14, the journalists sat in on a workshop with Jonathan Sanders, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor in the communication and media studies department. The veteran international reporter, telecommunication innovator, and long-time CBS News Moscow correspondent regaled the group with stories about his journalism career and how the craft has evolved in the age of the Internet.

“There’s no longer thinking in columns,” he said. “This is not pie-in-the-sky, it’s what’s happening.

The New York Times, which is arguably the single best newspaper in international reporting, is turning to more video,” Sanders added. “This [field]is changing. The Times even streams a newsroom planning discussion every day at 1:30 p.m., called ‘TimesCast,’ in which they show their decision-making process for the next day’s paper. This sets a lot of agendas in the world.”

Sanders showed various clips featured on the Associated Press or foreign news websites in which the news was shot using nothing more than a cell phone camera.

Perhaps the most jarring was the footage of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, which drew international attention after she was killed during the 2009 Iranian election protests. Bystanders and broadcasters captured her death on video over the Internet and the video became a rallying point for the reformist opposition.

“They were able to get this footage out of Iran on a fiber optic cable because it was well-shot,” Sanders said of the grim video, which shows Agha-Soltan dying as passersby and family surround her, crying and screaming. “You have to know how to shoot video from your cell phone with very minimal shaking, if any. This can be really hard when people are shooting at you.”

Sanders said video allows the viewer to go on a “magic carpet ride” of sorts.

“This technology seems like magic,” he said. “It allows us to transfer images from one side of the world to another at a very low cost.

“You can do this. Images are seizing power around the world. You have to use the tools,” Sanders said.

Participants attended two days of workshops on topics such as, “Photojournalism, Conflict and Crisis” and “Mass Media Law in the U.S.” Members of the Fordham faculty led the workshops.

The fellowship was well established before taking its name from Al-Farra, a U.N. public information employee who died in 2003 in an attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. For the past 30 years, it has brought radio, print and television reporters from around the world to live and work in New York.

This year’s crop of journalists, who are in the country for six weeks, have thus far attended several events at the United Nations and have visited major media organizations and relevant non-governmental organizations in New York City. They will also visit the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.

Rhoda Mfwango, a reporter for Radio Phoenix in Zambia, said she really enjoyed her time at Fordham.

“It’s been great,” she said. “I learned a lot.”


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