Class Agenda – Monday March 20


New dates: Tuesday the 28th and Friday the 31st. From start to finish the time commitment should be from 11:15 to about 1:15—however, if you need to leave a little early, we can let them know and they’ll have someone walk you out.

We’ll meet at the entrance (46th Street and 1st Avenue) at 11:15. Be ready to go through security at 11:30. BRING YOUR IDs.

The noon briefing will finish around 12:45 and the Q&A section where they take questions from reporters will go for about 30 minutes.

So for next week, we will not have class on Monday (this trip is taking its place) but we WILL have class on Wednesday.

Intro to the United Nations

It was established after WWII to prevent something like that from ever happening again. How successful has the UN been in that mission?

That’s debatable.

Members include nearly every nation in the world: 193 out of 196 (or 195 depending on whether you count Taiwan). When it was founded, they wrote the UN charter (sort of like its constitution) and a universal declaration of human rights.

The United Nations is made up of a number of main bodies:

General Assembly: This is the chief policymaking branch, and it plays a significant role in codification of international law. It’s the deliberative body of the UN, in which all member states have one vote. Issues on which the General Assembly deliberates and makes recommendations include matters of peace and security, budgetary matters, and nearly anything else within the scope of the UN Charter. Major questions require a two-thirds majority, and minor questions are resolved by a simple majority. It meets to go into session every year in the fall.

Security Council: This department is charged with maintaining international peace and security. Its main functions include hearing complaints, recommending peaceful solutions, and working to end conflict in areas where hostilities have already erupted through such means as cease-fire directives and UN peacekeeping forces. It is in charge of sending “peacekeepers,” also known as blue helmets, who are only supposed to use force in self-defense and who have been known to cause some problems of their own.

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, also known as the Permanent Five, Big Five, or P5, include the following five governments: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The members represent the five great powers considered the victors of World War II. They’re the only ones with veto power, which ruffles some feathers.

Economic and Social Council: This body discusses international economic and social issues, identifies issues hindering the standard of living in various regions of the world, and makes policy recommendations to alleviate those issues.

International Court of Justice: Located in The Hague, the ICJ is the judicial body of the UN. It includes 15 elected judges and settles cases according to International Law.

Secretariat: This body is the administrative branch of the UN and is charged with administering the policies and programs of the other bodies. The Secretary General is the top official in the Secretariat. The current secretary-general is António Guterres, a Portuguese diplomat who was previously the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees between 2005 and 2015.

Aside from the main bodies, the UN has 15 specialized agencies. These are autonomous organizations working with the UN and each other and governments through the Economic and Social Council as well as at the inter-secretariat level.

These agencies include:





The World Bank


The rest can be found here.

Covering the UN as a journalist

As an international journalist, it’s good to be familiar with how the UN works for a number of reasons. Its affiliated agencies are often extremely helpful for journalists, especially freelancers, but you have to be very careful about how accepting assistance from these agencies could affect your objectivity as a journalist.

Aside from that, the UN itself can be a bountiful source of stories, and it’s good to examine it with a critical eye to hold it to account. No matter how noble its mission, it is a massive bureaucratic entity run by fallible people. It’s prone to corruption and is known for fostering a culture of impunity as well as mismanaging funds. (The UN has a LOT of money—member states pay dues—and wherever large amounts of money can be found, you can always find people being tempted to do bad things. Good rule of thumb for any humanitarian crisis situation: follow the money.)

I Love the U.N., But It Is Failing

“Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.”

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals for the year 2015 that were established by the United Nations in 2000. All 189 United Nations member states at that time, and at least 22 international organizations, committed to help achieve the following Millennium Development Goals by 2015:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

The MDGs have since been replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals. This sort of thing can provide excellent news pegs.


The UN used to have its own news agency, IRIN, but in 2015 IRIN split off to become its own nonprofit entity devoted to covering humanitarian news:


Not to be confused with UN agencies, there are also a number of high-profile nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) out there doing similar kinds of work with similar aims, but they’re not affiliated with the UN. These also merit scrutiny. Aid business is good business.

A few of the most well-known of these include:



World Vision

Partners in Health

Save the Children

The Red Cross

The Central Asia Institute


Class Agenda – Wednesday, March 8


Avoiding problematic narratives in international reporting

The thing is, news is often—inherently—bad news. That just logically follows from the very definition of news.

So the question is: how do you report the news, but avoid falling into the trap of playing into these tired tropes/stereotypes of coverage?

How to Write About Africa as performed by Djimon Hounsou

Lara Logan’s Ebola coverage

How to Write About Pakistan

How to Write About the Middle East

Dismantling Visual Cliches in the Palestinian Territories

When Anti-Cliché Photos Turn Out To Be Clichés

Africa is a Country

Haiti Needs New Narratives

How to Report on Cuba Responsibly

Famine babies and crying war widows: unpicking the cliches of conflict photography

New Narratives: Africans Reporting Africa

“Africa Rising”


Ruddy Roye’s commentary on IG photo of naked schoolboy

The problem with photojournalism and Africa

Deconstructing the Visual Cliches of War Photography

Look! I’m Just Like Lawrence of Arabia


For Monday, read the prologue of Guns, Germs and Steel and write a short blog post (about 300 words) about how the history of your chosen country fits into the historical patterns discussed, and reflecting on how this history may shape some of the common narratives you sometimes see about these countries in the press.

Final draft of story #1 due next Wednesday, 3/15

Pitches for story #2 also due next Wednesday, 3/15 

Class Agenda – Monday Feb. 27


Potential risks of international reporting


Press freedom around the world

The top watchdog groups for a global free press are The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Mission statement:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.

What are some of the ways that the press can be silenced?

Anyone care to guess where the US ranks in terms of press freedom around the world?

RSF rankings

Recent concerning developments regarding press freedom in the US

Ed Ou prohibited entry to cover Standing Rock

WSJ reporter Maria Abi-Habib detained on return from Beirut

In 2016, there were 259 journalists jailed worldwide

In all of 2016, there were 48 journalists killed worldwide in cases where it’s confirmed that they were targeted for their work

So far in 2017 there have been two journalists killed (where motive is confirmed)


According to RSF, nearly half of the world’s population has no access to freely-reported news and information.

So how do you navigate this as a journalist? How do you get the story AND protect yourself—not to mention your sources—at the same time?



Get accredited if it is advisable/feasible to do so

Things to consider:



Whether or not you’re trying to keep a low profile

Potential consequences for not being accredited (without it, if arrested, some governments may take the opportunity to accuse you of espionage, for instance, or of being a combatant)


Protect your data and your sources

Make sure your phones, laptops, tablets, etc. are encrypted

Communicate with applications like Whatsapp and Telegram if you’re discussing anything sensitive

Be careful what you share on social media

Travel “naked” if you have a lot of sensitive sources on your phone. No matter how good your encryption, if a foreign government is determined to seize your phone, they’re probably going to do it.

Remember that it’s NOT JUST YOU you’re protecting here. Especially if you’re American, your local sources and fixers will often be far more at risk than you will.


Be prepared

Take a hostile environment and/or first aid training if you have the opportunity to do so

Have the right gear. If body armor is recommended where you’re going, make sure you don’t skimp. It can be difficult to bring this stuff across borders so often there are local journalist organizations where you can find gear to borrow or rent.

Have an action plan, as set out in ACOS Alliance

Work with a trusted fixer

Stay at a safe hotel

Dress appropriately

Do your research

Use your network, talk to people who’ve already been there to get some advance street smarts

Don’t be a hero


Other common-sense safety precautions

For those of us who aren’t doing front line reporting or working in countries with repressive regimes, there are still some important safety items to consider.

How close will you be to good medical care?

What vaccinations or other precautions are recommended or legally required for the place where you’ll be reporting?

What are the roads like where you’re going?

What is the weather going to be like?

How remote is the assignment?

Do you have insurance? (Evac, equipment, etc.)

Class Agenda – Feb. 15, 2017

Update on Baruch journalism Facebook group

How to pitch a story

The purpose of a pitch is to sell your editor on your story. Convince them why it matters, why it’s a good fit for their publication, that you can get it, and that you’re the right person to do it.

A pitch should essentially look like the top of a story. By that I mean you should have a clear lede and nut graph. (Quick review: what is a lede and a nut graph?)

  • Types of ledes: anecdotal, straightforward summary, funnel
  • A nut graph puts the story in context and tells readers why the story matters
  • “So what?” — it tells readers why they should care about the story
  • It provides a transition from the lede to the rest of the story
  • It often tells readers why the story is timely
  • It contains the story’s angle

Moving on…

Your pitch should also demonstrate that you’ve already done at least some preliminary reporting: For instance, that you’ve already locked down at least one important source, or gotten some crucial access approved.

From there you can get into the broader vision for your story, and this will differ depending on the medium you’re working in. Who do you plan to interview/have you already interviewed? What kind of sounds or visuals can we expect? Also, if you’re pitching a radio editor, you’re going to want to write for the ear to convince them you know how to write a script.

It’s good to name drop a connection if you have one (“Hi Dustin, I’m a colleague of [person who’s freelanced for them before]” and to include a link to your portfolio website so they can easily see some of your previous work. (You should all build one if you don’t have one already!)

Here is an example of a pitch that was accepted:

subject: the refugee crisis that’s bigger than Greece—but far more humane

Hi Jennifer,

It’s been awhile! I hope you’re doing well. I recently returned from a reporting trip to Uganda with a story that I think is really important, and would be great for The World.

When most people think of the world’s biggest refugee crisis, they think of the people risking everything to reach Italy and Greece by sea—a crisis that is staggering in size. In all of 2016, there were over 360,000 boat arrivals in Europe.

They may be surprised to learn, however, that 445,000 refugees have crossed into northern Uganda just since July 2016 as they flee the brutal conflict in South Sudan.

“It has been unrelenting,” said Nasir Fernandes, UNHCR’s senior emergency coordinator overseeing the Uganda crisis. “It has been a massive scale emergency.”

Six months ago, the world’s second-largest refugee hosting site, Bidibidi settlement, was sparsely populated scrubland. After topping a quarter of a million people in December, it was closed to new arrivals. A second camp is already well on its way to being filled and UNHCR is preparing a third to accommodate the 2,000 people who are crossing the border every day, most of them on foot.

There has been very little coverage of this situation, which is hard to believe having just witnessed the scale of it. I spent a week reporting there at the end of January, and while the situation is desperate, there’s also cause for optimism. This is because of Uganda’s surprisingly humane refugee policy that relief workers are touting as a model for the rest of the world.

Refugees are given freedom of movement, the right to work, and plots of land to live on and to farm. And in this age of fear and suspicion toward migrants, Ugandans in the surrounding communities have been refreshingly welcoming toward the refugees. Many are former refugees themselves, and the ballooning population has created business opportunities.

This feature will be sound-rich. I visited the border and recorded refugees crossing into Uganda on a rickety wooden bridge as rebel soldiers watched from the other side. I went to Palorinya settlement area and recorded the sound of more than 3,000 people being herded onto buses and trucks and driven to a patch of desert where they will build their new homes. I also have tape of women singing and drumming at a women’s center, and of dozens of children playing at a playground—a full 68 percent of the refugees in this crisis are under the age of 18. I interviewed a number of recently-arrived refugees whose stories range from horrifying to hopeful.

I have images to accompany the story online; I’m attaching a handful to give you a sense of the visuals. Please let me know if you have any questions!


Assignment: Pitches due Wednesday 2/22 for story #1

If you choose to do a print story, it should be 800 words and there should be at least one photo. You don’t have to check out a DSLR camera for this; your phone is perfectly fine. You just need some sort of visual to run with it.

You may also choose to do a video. It should be a two- to three-minute video; whether narrated or non-narrated is up to you. You may also opt for a text “narration.” If you prefer to do something a little more broadcast (with a standup, for instance) and a little less web video, that’s fine. If you do a video, when you file the story, it will need to be accompanied by a brief (100 words or so) blog post that introduces the story.

If you choose to do a photography project, there should be 12-20 photos. This can be in slideshow form with strong, informative captions, or you can lay them out in a blog post where the photos are interspersed with text as you scroll down.

If you choose to do a radio story, it should be a three-to four-minute narrated package with at least two separate interviews and one natural sound (plus ambi). Give yourself a sign-off: “For Baruch College, this is ____ _____ in ______.” Your scripted host intro can serve as your intro paragraph for the blog, and you should also include at least one photo.

For those of you who have NOT taken my multimedia class before, one final thing: News Photography 101


Class Agenda – Monday Feb. 8, 2017

The Baruch Journalism Students and Alumni Facebook group is live here.


What is news?

There are a number of different, oft-overlapping factors that can make a story newsworthy. Most good stories have at least two or three of these.

  1. Novelty: Is there an element of the unexpected? A twist of the usual narrative?

Timeliness: In breaking news, you’re quick or you’re dead. But it’s important to be first AND to be right. Timeliness is also relevant when it comes to something called a news peg. Have a story about climate change that you think is great but which has been rejected by multiple editors? Try pitching it ahead of the global climate change summit. Have a story about the public health crisis caused by open defecation in India? Wait until World Toilet Day rolls around, then pitch it.

Impact/Consequence: Is it about something that will have a direct effect on someone, especially the outlet’s readership/viewership? Contaminated water, public school funding, etc.

Proximity: The above mentioned contaminated water isn’t particularly big news to a small town newspaper in Connecticut if it’s happening in Ukraine, but if it’s happening right in their town, that’s huge news.

Conflict: This is why people often criticize “the media” for being so negative, but it’s unavoidable to some extent. The millions of people who don’t get murdered each day aren’t news. The few who do are. Conflict doesn’t have to be violent or super dramatic; it just means that tension has arisen between people who want different things. Lawsuits, NIMBYs getting mad about vendors in their local parks, etc.

Human interest:  This is a little tricky to define, but generally speaking, people are interested in other people. Looking into someone else’s life as part of a well-told narrative appeals to human nature. Ideally, a human interest story will have some other news element to help it get some traction (a news peg of some sort). Some stories, like this one, are pegged to something that happened awhile ago but it was such a huge, news-cycle-dominating story when it happened that people remember it well and tend to prick up their ears when they see some sort of follow-up.

Prominence: Imagine this headline: “Area Woman Announces She’s Expecting Twins.” No one cares. Now try this: “Beyonce Announces She’s Expecting Twins.” Prominence is obviously a subjective thing, and it can sometimes be tricky when it comes to ethics because it plays into who is fair game as a public figure. That’s why this Gawker story was so controversial.

Global news stories

Having gone over all of this, one way you guys can be assured of some news value in the stories you report this semester is to peg them to a larger “evergreen” issue. There are some topics that are almost always going to be newsworthy because they are ongoing sources of global conflict and impact, and it’s up to you to provide the proximity factor by looking for local angles on these international stories. So let’s take a look at some major issues affecting the world today and brainstorm some ways they affect people here in New York.





Climate change

Public health

Refugees and migration

Economic development

Labor issues

Women’s rights



Due next class (Wednesday, because there’s no class Monday):

Pick a country (or stateless nation) as your beat for the semester and write a “beat memo.” In this document you will compile background information (languages spoken, religions practiced, history, most-read and most-viewed local news outlets, current events, demographics and popular neighborhoods for the immigrant community in New York) as well as contact info for relevant local and international sources whom you may call on for interviews and research throughout the semester.


At least 800 words, not counting contact info
Should include quote or quotes from at least one interview with one of the people you’ve found

How to approach a potential source for a story?


Class Agenda – Monday, February 6


Your blog posts on media organizations

What is the media climate right now in America and abroad?

Should journalists protest in Trump’s America?

Fact-checking under President Trump

Assignment: Pick a country (or stateless nation) as your beat for the semester and write a “beat memo.” In this document you will compile background information (languages spoken, religions practiced, history, most-read and most-viewed local news outlets, current events, immigrant community in New York) as well as contact info for relevant local and international sources whom you may call on for interviews and research throughout the semester. DUE DATE: Next Wednesday Feb. 15

Next class: We’ll discuss the major news stories/important issues unfolding around the world right now, including but not limited to climate change, public health, refugees and migration, economic development, labor issues and women’s rights, and the possible local angles you might find on these major topics here in New York.

Class Agenda – Wednesday, Feb. 1


How to do a local angle on an international story? How are events overseas affecting people here? Alternatively, what are some issues that are unique to the immigrant community here in New York?


The earthquake in Haiti:

Voodoo, An Anchor, Rises Again

Haitians Struggle to Make New Lives in New York

Trump’s executive order on immigration:

Students Stranded Worldwide By Trump Order

NYC Taxi Drivers Stage Airport Strike to Protest Trump’s “Inhumane & Cruel” Executive Order

Castro’s death:

Cubans in Louisville, Ky., Quietly Mark Castro’s Death

Miami’s Cuban Exiles Celebrate Castro’s Death

Puerto Rico debt crisis:

For New York Puerto Ricans, debt crisis begins to hit home

Suicides Soar Among New York Koreans

Immigrant profiles:

From Turkish Immigrant to Immigration Specialist

Portrait of an Armenian Painter

Building a Bedrock for Fellow Immigrants

In New York, Mexico’s richest immigrants lend hand to their countrymen


Best Places to Look for Story Ideas and Reporting Resources

Organizations that have a local office: Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Facebook events and pages: Yemeni Businesses Shut Down & Rally Against “Muslim Ban” and “Religious Organizations in Flushing, New York”

Community groups: American Indian Community House

Consulates and embassies

Restaurants and shops

Google’s news tab




Your brainstormed beats for the semester. How do all of the above fit in with the ideas you’re considering?



Pick a news outlet that publishes international stories and write a short overview of its style, history and model of foreign reporting. What’s their reputation? Have they been involved in any controversies? Find an example of a story (or a couple of stories) that you think exemplifies this and link to it with your write-up on the class blog.


Associated Press


The New York Times

Foreign Policy

Huffington Post


The Daily Mail

Washington Post


Al Jazeera English



The Christian Science Monitor

The Wall Street Journal

The Miami Herald


PRI’s The World



The Daily Beast

The Economist

The Atlantic

National Geographic


Intro to International Reporting


Professor Emily H. Johnson


International Reporting Syllabus


The life of a foreign correspondent is full of new horizons and surprises, risks and frustrations, and unrivaled opportunities to create rich journalistic work. The goal of this course is to prepare you to step into that role by reporting real international stories here in New York City.

Each student will choose one country (or nation) as a primary focus and will report on issues involving that country throughout the semester. By the end of the course, you will have spoken to a diverse array of sources, compiled in-depth knowledge of the country’s geopolitical significance, and defined issues and the major stories unfolding there. You will become familiar with the local media of that country and be able to speak knowledgeably about its successes and failures. You will spend time reporting in immigrant communities, interview people abroad via Skype, and learn about many international agencies and organizations, including the United Nations. You will also learn best practices for reporting safely and responsibly across languages and cultures and in remote places.

You will produce three stories over the course of the semester, along with other assignments. This course is not medium-specific, and you are free to focus on video, radio or photojournalism — if you can demonstrate competency — rather than writing.


It used to be that even smaller newspapers had foreign correspondents, but in the digital era the old models have fallen by the wayside. These days, the “big four” of American print (NYT, WaPo, WSJ, and L.A. Times) still have overseas reporters but most other papers rely on wire copy for their international stories. Meanwhile, the places opening foreign bureaus are new media organizations like Foreign Policy and Buzzfeed (which is actually doing some incredible journalism).

What does this mean for aspiring journalists who have their hearts set on working abroad? It means that there has been an industry-wide shift toward reliance on freelance content, which is fantastic news for anyone who is willing to take the risk of just picking up and going somewhere and trying to make it on their own. There are certainly still overseas staff jobs, but they’re harder to get; not impossible, but the bulk of the opportunities are on the freelance side.

The last few years have also been a notably dangerous time for journalists around the world. Press freedom is an increasingly fragile thing, even here in the United States.

DISCUSS: Student introductions. What are you hoping to get out of this class, and what would your dream journalism job be? (Either full-time job or story assignment.)


Read “The Myth of the Reckless Young Freelancer” by Anna Day and come prepared to discuss.

Also, start thinking about which country/NYC immigrant community you would like to cover this semester, and do some preliminary research into the types of stories you would likely be able to cover from here in New York. Write a short blog post detailing which country/nation/community you would like to cover (or which ones you’re deciding between) and some of the pertinent resources and sources that would likely be available to you here.

Some ideas/resources:

New York’s Neighborhoods By Ethnicity

The Newest New Yorkers

18 Ethnic Micro Neighborhoods in NYC