Journalism in the Jungle

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By: Taeler Kallmerten

In January 2017, five students were chosen from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University by journalism professor, Holly Wise, to take part in the Global News Team’s second trip to Nicaragua.

The Global News Team is a study abroad program created in 2015 that embeds mass communication students with international service learning teams.

This year’s Global News Team embedded with 28 students and faculty from the College of Health Professions on their service learning trip to Nicaragua where they assessed and treated patients in rural villages.

The 2017 inter-professional teams consisted of three medical professions –  nursing, respiratory therapy and clinical laboratory science.

Preparation

“Flying in the first thing I noticed was the terrain. It was so mountainous and I could see numerous volcanos from the plane.” – From the daily reflections of Global News Team contributor, Taeler Kallmerten (TK)

Prior to their January departure, the Global News Team met three times in November and December to brainstorm story ideas and their travel itinerary.

Exsar Arguello, a senior journalism, said he researched the country’s health care and culture before leaving.

“I think it’s good to have a general understanding of the place you’re going to, but as an industry where everything changes so fast you live by experience,” he said.

Websites like Reporters Without Borders and World Health Organization provided the team with a better understanding of Nicaragua.

According to RWB, Nicaragua’s constitution allows the government to censor and restrain the press. The country is ranked 75th among 180 nations in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index. In comparison, the United States is ranked 45th and Nicaragua’s neighbor Costa Rica is ranked number six.

Two flights and a school bus ride later the team arrived at Hotel El Raizon on Jan. 2. The Global News Team assembled and began preparation for the busy on-site days.

On-Site

“I overheard that Ivan, our translator, telling Jessica that in order to keep his English skills up for translating he watches Judge Judy and the People’s Court.”    -TK

The first day outside of the hotel, the teams were split into groups and sent off in different directions in the rural communities of Nicaragua.

The goal of the health professions team that day was to log information about the living conditions of the community members in the area. The health teams asked community members questions about their health while the Global News Team took notes and began looking for potential story subjects.

Monica Grice, a journalism major, said she didn’t really know where to start.

“I started taking pictures and videos not really knowing what to capture,” said Grice.  “Eventually you just kind of mold yourself into the environment and then you know what to look for as far as documenting goes.”

For the majority of the first day, the Global News Team was busy observing people, places and things.

Darcy Sprague, a journalism major, said she focused her attention on Jennifer Pemp and Andrew Pagel, a nursing student and clinical lab science student she noticed on the plane.

“I was really just observing them and taking notes about what they were doing,” said Sprague. “I didn’t ask them any questions, but for the rest of my stories I was just trying to be present in the moment and decide what would be possible.”

The Global News Team members split up into three groups and traveled with the health professions students to report on their work.

Sprague said the timing of the work amongst the health professions teams and the Global News Team was the most difficult part about producing the stories.

“It seemed like when they were working, we were off and when they were off we were working,” said Sprague. “It was also constant work even when you were sitting around you would see the person you wanted to interview and you would be thinking about questions.”

Despite the time spent observing and staying in the background, the Global News Team interacted with community members and helped the health professionals whenever possible.

When the teams traveled to a nursing home in Nicaragua, only one Global News Team member planned to create a multimedia project. The four remaining students washed dishes, sorted through moldy fruit and helped residents into their rooms.

Team Dynamic

“We walked into our room and turned on the lights and boom scorpion on the floor. Darcy screamed, I ran out of the room, but Monica flipped out. She screamed not knowing exactly what she was screaming at but that we were screaming and she should too. It was the greatest thing I experienced in Nicaragua.” -TK

The time spent working together bonded the group and at the end of long days the Global News Team would stay up and talk about their day amongst each other before having to wake up at sunrise and do it all over again.

Ally Fluker, a digital media innovation student, said it was this time together that bonded the Global News Team.

“That kind of environment strengthened our ability to work together and it wasn’t weird and there wasn’t any hostility toward each other,” said Fluker.

Fluker said the time constraint made the trip intense and immersive.

“This showed us what it’s like to be a real life journalist to get in what you need when you need it in a time constraint,” said Fluker. “Whereas if you’re on campus for a whole semester you have more time and you have a professor spoon feeding you. We were there and Holly was like ‘OK, go.’”

Overall the Global News Team produced over 30 pieces of multimedia content and written stories and were co-recipients of the Texas State University Quarterly Team Award.

 

 

 

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