All is Global and All is Local: Teaching Glocal Reporting Today for Tomorrow

As part of my teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno, I have designed a new course called International and Cross-Cultural reporting, a subject which remains rare in journalism programs, even though students with wanderlust, and the dream of being a roving reporter, seem extremely enthusiastic while enrolling and during the class itself.

While I was voicing in a studio in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, in the 2000s.

Being Inspired as a Student by a Guest Speaker

When I journeyed through my own undergrad journalism studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in the mid 1990s, I remember vividly one guest speaker who spoke of worldwide freelancing in multiple media forms.

This guest talk of 30 minutes, when I was 20 years old, by a white-haired, slightly crazed but passionate border-crossing journalist propelled me to a 15-year reporting career in radio, text, video and photography in Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta, Washington, D.C., Rio de Janeiro, and across West and Central Africa. Now back in the United States with young children, I have focused most of my content work on cross-cultural social justice documentaries and establishing collective community reporting websites.

A flyer for the first time I taught my new international reporting class at the Reynolds School of Journalism. The photo was from the first time I crossed into rebel-held territory in Cote d'Ivoire as a reporter.

Interacting with New Communities, both In Person and Online

The international and cross-cultural class I've designed starts with participants presenting their own cultural DNAs and biases, and then via this initial introspection looking into the perception of the “other”.

Guidelines I then expand upon for so-called “glocal” reporting range from the ethics of reporting on communities other than your own, striving for transparency, engaging as a journalist in virtual sub communities and channels, such as Reddit (example here) or WhatsApp (example here), both to curate content and to find new sources, trying out different translation and verification tools to access a broader catalog of source materials, as well as interacting effectively with often unpredictable but crucial citizen journalists.

A recent documentary series I worked on focussed on Latino voters in Washoe County, Nevada, a swing county in a swing state. Watch Part 1 here.

Helping Students Pivot from Inward Looking Citizens to Outward Looking Journalists

The students themselves have their own fascinating cultural heritage and already practice citizen journalism on their own platforms, so the pivot to professionalization and cross-cultural reporting is not difficult. Assignments which force them to extensively research and write about particular groups, transnational themes and geographical areas give them reassurance to explore issues as reporters beyond themselves and their known geographies.

Due to the insular nature of Reno, surrounded by mountains, often snow-covered during winters and often treacherous to drive through due to storms, forest fires, boulders and mudslides, students respond energetically to these new vantage points, mapping out in extreme detail, down to their last available penny, hypothetical trip files, and coming up with survival techniques to confront real-life situations of kidnappings, propaganda, spin and resurgent warm weather diseases.

An example of student work, looking into Gulenists in Reno. A description of the project can be found here.

Examples of Student Glocal Reporting

In terms of glocal reporting, some of the work my students have pursued include investigating Gulenists in Reno, who coordinate local popular charter schools and occupy important faculty positions without identifying as such; or “Dreamers of Reno”, students and workers with an uncertain legal future as a comprehensive US immigration policy remains unfulfilled.

I try to empower students as well in how stories are told, with new tools and presentation methods, as I explain these are perpetually in flux and up to them to invigorate or modify as future professionals. Underpinning the class, I remind them, even as they cross new lines of different geographic, tribal, economic, administrative and religious power structures, they must always shine a light on dark corners of abuse and wave flags to oncoming concerns of our time.

Thoughts? Questions? Don't hesitate to ask me here or via my Twitter @usnico.