Tag Archives: Journalism

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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Filed under Journalism, Teaching Journalism

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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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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Filed under Africa, South Africa, Teaching Journalism

It felt like Jurassic Park, with slightly smaller beasts

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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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Filed under Africa, South Africa, Travel

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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Filed under Africa, Journalism, South Africa, Teaching Journalism

Teaching blogging

Students at the Pretoria campus work on their assignments.

Students at the Pretoria campus work on their assignments.

First day of classes at Pretoria campus.

First day of classes at Pretoria campus.

More photos of my students on the Pretoria campus

I’ve been having a fun teaching students here to create blogs using Blogger.com and create web pages using Adobe GoLive.

It’s such a pleasure to see their smiles when they realize that what they have just done is on the web. A week before I got here, they went to Cape Town to cover parliament. So their next assignment from me is to write their parliament coverage on their blog.

I’m particularly pleased because at the beginning of the class, many of them told me they don’t read blogs, they think blogs are junk and irresponsible, and they want to do serious journalism.

That’s when I told them the story of NOLA.com, the web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. They all had heard about how Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans. I told them that the only way they knew about New Orleans after Katrina was because of blogs.

The Times-Picayune offices, presses and computers were flooded. Their reporters and editors were dispersed. The only way they could publish was via the blogs that their owners (Newhouse) had recently installed. The blogs were hosted elsewhere. Their servers weren’t flooded. Much of what we know about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Orleans is because of the tool called a blog.

I think I made it clear to the students that a blog is just another tool they should have in their toolbox.

Once they saw that they could be serious journalists and use blogs, they let loose and had a great time.

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Filed under Africa, Teaching Journalism

Science journalism conference

Wednesday, the students at the Tshwane and the Soshanguve campuses of Tshwane University of Technology met on the downtown Arcadia campus for a daylong conference on science journalism. Pedro Diederichs, head of the journalism department, organized the conference as part of his expansion of the journalism department. His next hire will be a chair in science reporting.

There were excellent talks on AIDS reporting, the ethics of science reporting and great case studies in investigative science journalism.

The students (freshmen and sophomores) were very involved and asked questions that showed they were paying attention to the speakers. There was a lot of back and forth between the students and the speakers, but the comment that riled the students was from Elsabe Brits, a science reporter for Die Burger, in Cape Town. She was encouraging students to test claims about scientific advances against reason and logic. She said, for instance, there are about 1.7 million species of creatures on the Earth. How big do you think Noah’s Ark would have to be to carry two of each of those species? It would be a lot bigger than what is stated in the Bible. It’s impossible. It couldn’t have happened in that way, she said.

That’s when I learned how deeply religious many people are in South Africa. Quite a few students started arguing with that comment. The discussion extended to intelligent design, which the speakers trashed as pure rubbish and one student in particular adamantly defended.

At this conference, I was invited to lecture to grad students at the University of Pretoria next week.

My time here is passing too fast, and I’m having such fun.

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Filed under Africa, Teaching Journalism