Monday, January 9, 2012
I suppose it's time for another report on Malti the rat, and his visits to Andrea and Jennifer's room. The news is that there is no news. Apparently a pink towel stuffed into a hole with blue painter's tape covering a window's crack is enough to keep him out.
You know, media gets a lot of criticism these days for what it doesn’t report. That’s true of social media as well. As I was thinking over the posts in recent days, I realized that I haven’t been reporting on the most important part of the trip – what’s happening in the backpack journalism lab. It’s not news if everyone is working hard and we’re making great progress. But that’s what is happening.
We got off to a great start before we came when we selected the current group of student assistants. Andrea Anderson, Jim Burns, Jennifer Solorio and Chris Whitman are a wonderful blend of journalists, technicians and, I think, great teaching potential. Maybe not as classroom teachers, but these four are going to be teaching others their entire lives, both on the job and in life. Their work ethic has enabled us to progress so far that we can have time for the sightseeing we’ve been able to do. It helps that we start our days early and keep going until well into the evening (OK, well into the night). For example, in all the time we’ve been here, I’ve only been able to take time for one short nap.
This workshop follows my personal philosophy of giving students guidance, knowledge, then get back out of their way and letting them go with our help as needed. It’s resulting in some excellent stories, in all mediums but especially in the ones we worry about most – video and photos. Students have been in the lab writing and editing every day since we arrived, including Saturday and Sunday, and generally until we boot them out when we’re all tired. Then they’re here early the next morning. Yesterday, for example, a student came for the lab key while we were eating breakfast more than an hour before the lab “officially” opened.
Another result of this dedication is that four of the six teams are virtually finished as of now, with two days to go. And the other two are well on their way. Sure, I anticipate glitches (I’m still editing their print stories, and videos are still in rough version), but I’m hopeful that we won’t have the extended work into the wee hours as sometimes has happened.
A journalism cliché is to say that it’s not news when dog bites man – and that’s why I haven’t written much about the classroom. It’s just business as usual, students doing great work. It’s why I love this business
Sunday, January 8, 2012
One of the nicer aspects of this year's visit to St. Xavier's is the positive reinforcement that our prior visit really paid off. A check of that roster shows that nine of the 34 students and professionals in that class are now employed as journalists, including one in England. Another nine are currently enrolled in masters' degree programs that should lead to careers in journalism. Few Indian colleges offer straight journalism programs. Generally students enroll in a masters' of English class to pursue a journalism degree.
We in the U.S. talk a lot about small business and jobs. Here's an example of small business in Ahmadabad -- a barber shaving a customer on a sidewalk with a lot of onlookers. There was another barber within 50 feet. And this particular sidewalk, as with many others in this city, are filled with entrepreneurs. Of course they don't think of themselves that way. They're just making a living.
Thank God that ordeal's over. Finally my seeming neverending birthday is over both here in India and in the U.S. With the spread of the Internet and Facebook, I ended up with more than 70 people from four continents wishing me a happy birthday. Enough already.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Dining at the St. Xavier Jesuit Residence was excellent as usual today. Breakfast offered great omelets, and lunch had chicken. That was different from last night’s chicken curry, or the fried chicken the day before or the chicken in rice the day before. Oh, are you seeing a trend here? Yes, we get served chicken at almost every meal except breakfast (then it’s eggs). It’s all good, but the neverending poultry offerings might grow pretty boring after a while. The chicken run is broken up by fish (excellent tuna steaks in a masala curry a few days ago), but the mainstay is chicken.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Let’s continue the tale of Malti the rat. As you may remember, that’s the name Andrea and Jennifer put on the rat that graciously offered some companionship at 3 a.m. the other night (actually Andrea growls that rats don’t deserve names). They originally named it Monty, but were persuaded to switch to the Indian spelling since it’s an Indian rat. Anyway, Malti first entered their lives via an unexpected entrance, especially unexpected was Jen’s scream, chasing the poor rat away (for a first-hand report, go to Andrea’s blog).
The addition of Malti to the cozy household was passed on to various people. This morning, the Fathers Vincent (Braganza and Saldanha) were with Andrea, Jen and me at the dining table when Father Braganza (pictured above) started to explain that he had arranged for a rat trap to be installed in their room. “You’re not going to kill it?” Andrea exclaimed. Oh, no, replied Father Braganza, it’ll be a cage trap with cheese. As he asked for details, it became obvious that once he had made sure the serious aspects were covered that he and Father Saldanha were beginning to enjoy the reactions from Marquette’s finest women. As one or the other scored a point (as evidenced by a reaction from one or, generally, both of them), they would exchange a finger bump just as American students would exchange a fist bump.
My main job here is to teach writing, both for print and video. But yesterday we let the students loose with the toys they really crave -- video cameras. It was fun watching the joy and pride on their faces as they completed a simple video exercise, which meant go out with cameras, shoot some video, then edit it into a small video project.