Backpack Journalism: Venezuela to Washington

WASHINGTON, 11 October 2009 — I arrived late last night after a week-long speaking tour at universities in Maracaibo, Valencia and Caracas, Venezuela. Time now to sort through notes and newspaper articles, etc., that I picked up along the way. Above is a write-up of the tour that appeared in the Tuesday 6 October edition of Maracaibo’s “Diario Version Final.”

I spent most of my time during the journey underscoring to students the importance of balanced reporting during times of tension and conflict. Your future work will both reflect and guide the national dialogue, I told them. And part of the responsibility of good journalism, I told them, is to avoid taking sides during that dialogue. The polarization of the media both reflects and exacerbates the polarization of political discourse. And once the middle ground is lost, everybody loses.

I think, and I hope, they understood this.

Myself and colleague Ana Arana were invited by the U.S. State Department to Venezuela to address university students at four institutions, as well as to interview with numerous media outlets in that South American nation.

During the week-long tour, I also took the opportunity to discuss backpack journalism and its role in our future, as well as my work at American University’s School of Communication.