SSU professor develops aboard program for students to report from Panama

By Jessica SparksSPJ Georgia member, assistant professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, Savannah State University, WordPress blog “Panamanian Express”

Savannah, GEORGIA — On Friday, May 19, John Newton, the editor of La Voz Latina visited the class [SSU students going to Panama] for about an hour of discussion regarding Hispanic/Latino news outlets, audience for the publication and basic standards of journalism for the news outlet.

This trip first started in John’s office more than a year ago. I was working on a grant application to fund curriculum from the Online News Association and wanted to work with John as a media partner. The grant proposal was to create opportunities for more African-American journalism students to be introduced to foreign correspondence. Despite a long history of foreign correspondence in the African-American community (especially for African-American media), the current corps of foreign-based American reporters is whitewashed and predominantly male.

This is a huge problem for the [journalism] industry. Without representation from other groups, we often miss the stories that mean the most to our audience — the ones that can incite real change in society.

John was a great help to the students in our discussion Friday, in my opinion. Not only did he discuss hyperlocal media and the need to understand the audience, he also reminded students that their industry is one of service. “Remember, the audience might not know everything you know,” he said.

As we work to advance stories of the community in Savannah and abroad, we must remember to add as much value for our readers as we can.

Keep on the lookout for stories our students have had published by our media partners.

Jessica Sparks is a former political reporter from Indianapolis, Indiana. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She was a Back to the Newsroom Fellow in summer 2014, when she worked in the Wall Street Journal newsroom. She has done work for numerous publications including The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind., AnnArbor.comCNN.comIndianapolis MonthlyHilton Head MonthlyThe Island PacketThe Beaufort Gazette, Bluffton Today and the Savannah Morning News. Sparks’ research interests include gender issues in journalism, immersive learning through student media outlets, social media use and engagement.

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