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International Storytelling Class Reports on Issues in Brazil

Posted April 15, 2013 | Nicole Gennarelli

Group develops multimedia stories during trip to Brazil

enter photo description
Kent State students pose by the Christ
the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro
during an International Storytelling class
trip to Brazil.

Sixteen students traveled to Brazil with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s International Storytelling class from March 15-31 to develop multimedia news stories about the country.

The class partnered with a journalism program at Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Brazil to assist the students in reporting and navigating the country. This was the third year that Kent State’s College of Communication and Information offered this course. In the past two years, students who enrolled in International Storytelling traveled to China and India to report on newsworthy topics in those countries. To choose the destination this year, Journalism and Mass Communication Professor Gary Hanson and Assistant Professor Mitchell McKenney thought about emerging countries with growing economies.

Choosing Brazil
“Brazil came about because we were thinking about the BRIC countries,” Hanson says. “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 says. “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 worked in pairs with other students in the course and from the university in Brazil. Each student was expected to produce two to three stories in print, multimedia or photographs.

“All the students were expected to do more than just take pictures, write or take video,” McKenney says. “The idea is that we’re combining skills and working collaboratively.”

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,” McKenney says. “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 had to think on their feet and find different story angles if a lead doesn’t seem to work out. They learned when to abandon one story idea and continue with another.

“We prepared with story ideas, and we did research on the Internet before the trip about what might be newsworthy,” McKenney says. “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 wasn’t all hard work for the students. They got a break at the end to sightsee and relax in Rio de Janeiro for three days.

“That was right at Good Friday coming into Easter,” McKenney says. “There’s the Christ statue in Rio that was a must-see. It was an exciting time to be in Rio.”

Moving Forward
International Storytelling is designed to show students where media jobs are headed, Hanson says.
“What I want the students to understand from this experience is that international travel is possible,” Hanson says. “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 gather to live their lives.”