Knight Center director Eric Freedman and environmental journalism master’s student Pechulano Ali were guest speakers at a three-day on-campus program for visiting African journalists sponsored by the State Department and organized by MSU’s Visiting International Professional Program.
Other presenters included Journalism Professor Folu Ogundimu and J-School alumni Danielle Emerson, ’10 and Lauren Gibbons, ’14.
Ten print and broadcast journalists from French-speaking African countries — Mali, Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Madagascar, Senegal, Guinea, Benin and Cote D’Ivoire — took part in the program which traveled to MSU and other U.S. locations.
The State Department’s objectives were for the visitors to:
- “Examine the nature, functions and rights of a free and independent press in the
United States and the role the press plays in a democratic society;
- Expose participants to the various key players in U.S. foreign policy formulation for Africa and to the range of policy views in the public and private sectors;
- Review the influence and impact of the media, Africa-focused think tanks, trade
associations and grassroots organizations on foreign policy initiatives; and
- Illustrate the operational practices and diversity of types of media organizations in the
Freedman’s presentation, “How the U.S. Press Covers the Presidential Campaign,” examined how coverage of political campaigns is a frequent target of criticism, both historically and in 2016 , when candidates, their staffs and their supporters accuse journalists and news organizations of biased, sensationalized and unfair reporting, as well as reacting angrily to embarrassing stories.
Ogundimu’s presentation, “Press Performance, Professionalism and Responsibility in Africa,” explored the tradition of journalism in Africa, issues relating to maintenance of professional journalistic standards in largely tenuous democratic politics and whether responsible journalism is essential for democracy.
The two journalism professors, along with Ali, Emerson and Gibbons, also were panelists in a discussion about journalistic ethics and professional standards in the United States and Africa.
Ali, a former journalist in Cameroon, is a second-year master’s student who spent the summer interviewing journalists and media regulators in Cameroon as part of his thesis research.
Emerson is a reporter who covers the Michigan Senate and the Flint water crisis for Gongwer News Service, a Lansing-based daily online newsletter about state politics, government and public policy. Gibbons is a Lansing-based reporter for M-Live who covers the presidential election and federal politics.
The African participants also visited the WKAR studios, the State Capitol and the Michigan Press Association and heard a presentation on social media use by Prof. Saleem Alhabash of MSU’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations.