Lincoln, Neb., becomes home on Friday

The moving truck pulls in, and we start unpacking Friday in a wonderfully remodeled home built in 1923 in Lincoln, Neb., as I prepare to start as dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Day 1 of the drive from Miami with two boxer dogs and a sleeping (drugged) cat took us to the Atlanta area and a relaxing visit with relatives who like to cook. Works for me! I always get my own gravy boat, so I’m in heaven.

Day 2 of the drive brought us to the St. Louis area, for a visit with a childhood friend. Tomorrow we hang out on the dock at her pond.

Day 3 will be on to Lincoln. The drive has been delightfully uneventful. The grass, fields, farms and woods are wonderfully lush. Now I know what the word verdant means.

I can’t wait to get started in my new gig. I feel that it’s a great way to continue the work I have been doing the past four years at Knight Foundation, particularly with the Knight News Challenge.

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Resting after 17 or 18 days

I’m not sure how you count the days when you travel back across the International Date Line. But I left Taipei at 7:20 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, flew about 11 hours, and landed in Los Angeles at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 15. Ended up getting back to Miami about sunrise on Sunday.

So is was either 17 or 18 days with 13 lectures (including questions and answers) and four panel sessions during an eight-day program in two countries and five cities. I visited St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia and Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung in Taiwan.

I spoke to journalism or communications students, to journalists and to professional journalism organizations, including the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University and the National University of Science and Technology in Russia, and the National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Journalism, National Taiwan Normal University, Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages and Providence University in Taiwan. The talk at Providence University was webcast to about 15 other colleges or universities. I also spoke at IREX, the International Research and Exchanges Board in Moscow, and that talk was webcast to two other cities. Additionally in Moscow I spoke at the American Center at the Library of Foreign Literature and on a panel session with foreign correspondents from The New York Times, The Associated Press and The Christian Science Monitor. I heard Russian Fulbright winners describe their work in the United States, and try to encourage others to apply for the program. A highlight of the Moscow trip was a reception at the U.S. Embassy, hosted by Deputy Chief of Mission Eric Rubin.

Poster at Providence University

Poster announcing my talk at Providence University, Taichung

In Taiwan, besides talks at universities, I also spoke to editors and reporters at Business Weekly magazine and at ETTV and with reporters and editors at Central News Agency. (Here’s the story they wrote: Digital media helpful for traditional news industry) I met with a group of radio reporters in Taichung. In Taipei I was on a panel with a representative of Yahoo! and an editor from Global Voices. I also had a great conversation with William Stanton, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan.

All the university students were fascinated to hear about Knight News Challenge projects and how to apply to the Knight News Challenge. But some also wanted to ask about U. S. journalism education and talk about my new role (starting July 1) as Dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Poster

Another view of the poster

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Photos from Taiwan

Street scene in Taipei

Photos from visit to Taipei, May 9-15


Food stand






Photos from Shihlin Night Market

Night Market

It's the thing to do.

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Catching up – posting pics from Russia

I leave in an hour to go to Taipei airport to fly to Los Angeles, and then catch the red-eye to Miami. So, I thought I should at least try to catch up with posting pics from Russia. Those from Taiwan will have to wait a bit.

Grand staircase at journalism building at Moscow State University

Photos of Moscow State University journalism building and prepping for talk there

Main campus of Moscow State

Meeting Alex's friends around town

Meeting Alex’s friends and walking around Moscow


A park celebrating the various former republics of the Soviet Union


And a park with sculpture of former Soviet heros

Reaching for food - probably someone else's


My hotel next to Red Square and across from the Bolshoi

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At the world’s 2nd-tallest building

Good luck or karma ran low today when I went to the 89th-Floor observation deck of the 101-story Taipei 101, the second-tallest building in the world. You can see from the photo there was not much to see. But, what the heck. This less-than-stunning vista is the worst thing that’s happened on this fun and excellent trip.

Just finished my last panel with an editor from a new newspaper in Taiwan, an editor from Yahoo! and a blogger from Global Voices. The session generated great questions.

All week my hosts at the American Institute of Taiwan have been great. Special thanks to Christopher Kavanagh, Press and Media Officer, and Irene Chen, information Specialist.

**** Sent via wireless handheld. ****

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Heading to Taiwan

I’ve had such a wonderful time in St. Petersburg and Moscow, it’s difficult to leave Russia. After three lectures yesterday – at IREX, the University of Science and Technology, and the American Center – I met Alex’s friends for a drink at the revolving 33rd Floor bar of the Swissotel. We had a great time and a magnificent view of Moscow.

The students at the University of Science and Technology signed the poster announcing my talk, and gave me the poster as a souvenir. After the talk, Alex and I and Irene (from the embassy) walked through a sculpture garden of Soviet leaders. (It’s across the street from Gorky Park.) What a time warp.

My hosts at Moscow State University and the U.S. Embassy couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. And they arranged a fun and varied program. One of the great memories was the reception at the U.S. Embassy.

**** Sent via wireless handheld. ****

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Oh, no; Not again

Didn’t get to the university on time today because of a huge military parade practice through central Moscow to Red Square: Military units, tanks, missile launchers and low flyovers from all sorts of planes.

The parade celebrates the 65th anniversary of Victory Day, Russia’s victory in World War II. It’s the first Victory Day parade in which U.S. and British military units are participating.

A friend who didn’t know that the huge parade practice was scheduled to run through the streets of Moscow, walked out of her apartment, saw all the tanks rumbling past, and told me her first thought was, oh, no; not again!

**** Sent via wireless handheld. ****

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Practicing at Moscow State University

Alex (my Moscow State University host) just told me as I was practicing in the auditorium for my first of four talks and two panels, that I shouldn’t be nervous because even if I am bad, people will like me “by default.”

My talks are part of the MSU Journalism Faculty’s and U.S. Embassy’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day. The conference is called “Days of American Journalism.” Tomorrow night we go to a reception at the U.S. Embassy.

I’m not sure if I should trust Alex’s analysis of how well this will go, however. He’s the same guy who told me not to worry about the subway bombing because a second almost never happens six weeks after the first. (BTW, the subway stations are each art museums. Really beautiful and all different.)

I met the oldest journalsim faculty member, Prof. Semjon M. Gurevich. He’s 90 and still comes to work each day. His specialty is media economics. He says he met Stalin. When we couldn’t speak Russian together, he switched to German so we could talk.

This week is also the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII. Today there was a stunning precision flying practice of WWII planes and current bombers. Streets are shut down, and soldiers are everywhere, practicing for the May 9 celebration.

**** Sent via wireless handheld. ****

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Cathedrals, Tsars’ tombs and The Hermitage

Peter and Paul Cathedral     Tomb of Peter I                Great concert

St. Isaac’s Cathedral             At Hermitage         Throne Room

View all Day Three pictures here

Incredible Day of visiting the tsars’ tombs at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, then climbing to the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the center of Saint Petersburg for a great view of the city (pix to be inserted later) then checking out the Italian Renaissance and Impressionist collections at The Hermitage. Stunning.

Heard a great Gregorian Chant concert at Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Found out it’s easy to get past the bouncers at private clubs by showing an American passport. They think you’ll spend a lot of money.

**** Sent via wireless handheld. ****

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Photos from Peter the First’s summer palace

Click for Photos from Peterhof, Tsar Peter the First’s summer palace.

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Pics in St. Petersburg

Walking around in St. Petersburg

Church of the Spilled Blood, where Alexander II was assassinated

Day 1 photos while walking around Nevsky Prospect

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Great first day in Moscow

Photos from Moscow, Day 1

After a lot of walking around, some wine, a sauna and 3 hours of sleep, I’ve boarded a plane to St. Petersburg. For the next three days, I’ll be sightseeing, then back to Moscow for a World Press Freedom Day Conference at Moscow State University. We checked out the university yesterday.

Alex, my friend and guide, is a Fulbrighter, Ph.D. student and Knight News Challenge grantee. So we went to his favorite coffee shops and restaurants. Most of our Moscow sightseeing will be next week.

My hotel, the Metropol, is a short walk to the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Departing now for St. Petersburg.

**** Sent via wireless handheld. ****

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Around the World

Just completed the first segment of a literal around-the-world series of flights: Miami to New York’s JFK; JFK to Moscow; Moscow to Beijing; Beijing to Taipei; Taipei to Los Angeles; Los Angeles to Miami.

Someone recently told me that in the days of Pan Am Airlines, they used to make a big deal of this. I think it’s a wonderful reason to have a party – each leg of the way!

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Heading to Moscow

It’s time to revive this dusty old blog. Wednesday (April 28) I fly for way too many hours to Moscow.  I’m going there to speak  as part of  a World Press Freedom Day conference at Moscow State University, called “Days of American Journalism.”

I’m traveling there a few days early so that I can first visit St. Petersburg, The Hermitage Museum and the main sights of the city.

Knight Foundation grantee, Alexander Zolotarev, a Fulbrighter and Ph.D. student at Moscow State University, helped arranged the visit and will guide me around Moscow.

Following meetings at Moscow State, the U.S. Embassy and sites around the city, I then go to Taiwan, for a series of talks in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung.

When I return in mid-May, I then head to Lincoln, NE, to find a place to live, as I transition into the job of Dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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Community spirit

South Africa was great. I’m sorry to be leaving. The people are friendly, the country is beautiful and the opportunities are plentiful.

Being both a first-world and a third-world country, it has huge opportunities, offers the right encouragement and generally has the infrastructure for entrepreneurs to do their thing.

Yet, it’s still a country where the spirit of community and togetherness is very strong. It’s a country where I think technology really can be used to support and strengthen the community spirit.

This is what the Knight News Challenge is all about. We’re looking forward to reading the applications from Africa.

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Pictures from Cape Town area, South Africa

The country is beautiful, and I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.

Southernmost point of South Africa

Southernmost point of South Africa

Click here for Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

Click here for Table Mountain

Click here for wine country

Click here for Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg

Cape Point, South Africa

Cape Point, South Africa

Who knew there were penguins in South Africa?

Who knew there were penguins in South Africa?

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Comments from Tshwane students about blogging

 

Some of my students

Some of my students

Reading the comments below that various students e-mailed me, you’ll easily see why this teaching gig has been so much fun and so rewarding.

 

The comments are from students at the Pretoria West and Soshanguve campuses of Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa.

  • Blogging has allowed me to go where I never thought I’d go. That is because I am now able to share my ideas with other people outside of South Africa and know how they feel about my ideas. Thank you.
  • I found a tool which I can use to write my thoughts and communicate with the entire world.
  • We had a lot of fun, I have fallen in love with my Blog(www.scepticalmatshatr.blogspot.com) already. Siyabonga (Zulu), Re a leboga (Tswana), Ha Khensa (tsonga), Dankie (Afrikaans) –all meaning Thank you — at least now you know how to say thank you in four South African languages.
  • Teaching us how to create our own blogs was awesome and I will use it until the end of time.
  • Your contribution made a difference.

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It felt like Jurassic Park, with slightly smaller beasts

100_02402

My mascot

 

White rhinoceros and her weeks-old baby.

White rhinoceros and her weeks-old baby.

Elephant family in Kruger National Park.

Elephant family in Kruger National Park.

Click here for more pictures from Kruger Park

Kruger National Park, a wildlife park the size of Wales, is like the best Easter egg hunt you’ve ever been on.

Remember as a kid when you would lift a pillow in the living room and find an egg, or look under a bush in the yard and find another? You never knew where the next would be, but you just kept looking everywhere.

That is a small example of what driving around in Kruger National Park is like.  One minute you see rocks and brush, and then you go down a valley or over a ridge and there’s a herd of elephants, or a lion chasing an impala or a baby white rhinoceros. It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.

During a three-day weekend, I saw four of the park’s “Big Five”: lion, elephant, rhinoceros, water buffalo. I did not see a leopard, the remaining biggie in the Big Five.

I also saw baboons, giraffe, impala, kudu, warthogs, zebra, crocodiles and hippopotamuses.

I most enjoyed watching the colony of about 15 baboons and later the herd of 20 elephants interacting in their natural environment. I couldn’t do anything except stare.

Flying into the park was a little reminiscent of scenes from Jurassic Park. When you enter the camps, with their big, electrified gates that close promptly at 6 p.m., and when you stand on the balcony of the restaurant and see an elephant trudge by, and when you realize that electrified fences surround the camp, you get even more of a feeling of Jurassic Park.

Dusk at the camps in the park is the time for the most fantastic, loud symphony of bird songs you’ve ever heard. It truly is the Symphony of a Thousand. (They definitely have Mahler beat.)
 
I’m not sure if I can ever go to a zoo again.

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Facebook in South Africa

My students’ Internet skills range from those who are not quite sure what’s happening when they create a link from their blogs to another web page, to those who are looking for audio and video to add to their blogs and who have their own Facebook pages.

Almost all of the students use a mobile social networking site called Mixit. I was at a party last week where a young man didn’t know anyone there, but heard about the party through Mixit and an SMS.

I was more than a little surprised two days ago when having lunch at Skukuza Camp in the middle of Kruger National (Wildlife) Park, to overhear a group of thirty-somethings next to me talking about how Facebook has made it easier to steal the identities of those people who fill out detailed profiles. They are giving a little too much information to those who want to use it for illegal purposes.

Then, when driving out of the park and listening to a South African rock station, the DJ announced that he was going to read from a Facebook page he likes. It was a list of “You know you’re South African if …”

(Even after just a few weeks here, I could understand some of the jokes, particularly those dealing with driving. Like, “You know you’re South African if you run a red robot (stoplight) and three cars follow you.” Or, “You know you’re South African if you’re driving 120 kph on the highway, and you’re the slowest one.”)

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