Days 4/5: Final workshops and the flight home

More business buildings in Beirut. Wonderfully beautiful designs.
More business buildings in Beirut. Wonderfully beautiful designs.

I know there aren’t many people reading my blog…yet. However, it seems odd that I wait 48+ hours to update on the last of the conference well after it was over. The reason being is that I usually type these posts right before I sleep; and seeing as I haven’t been to bed since 9 a.m. Lebanese time on the 20, this counts as my right-before-bed post.

The fourth and last official day of the conference was the most interesting to say the least. The topic were either the most controversial or most relevant to modern journalism. The three topics: Social media coverage of international justice, photojournalism of international crime, and a workshop with a defense attorney on preserving the presumption of innocence.

I attended the social media workshop with Robin Johnson from Sam Houston State University. Although this was mostly a refresher course for me, as he is my adviser at the Houstonian student newspaper, I still found the content to be useful for any journalist and I definitely learned new methods for reporting my own information.

The second workshop was with Abby Joules, a criminal defense attorney for the international courts. She once covered the trial of a Rwandan accused of incitement of genocide by the name of Mr. Muvundyi. Without going into a great deal of detail about the case, I found the topic both brave and intriguing. I’m sure Abby would agree with me that most people don’t consider the defense of people like Saddam Hussein important. Abby was able to show the journalists that not only is a fair trial relevant to the system, but gave us journalists tips on how to go about talking to the defense and how to incorporate it into the story.

The final workshop, with no offense to the other workshops, was the most practical and captivating for my personal needs as a journalist. Khalil Abdallah, a CNN photojournalist who has covered the White House beat as well as MENA region stories for the last several years, not only told us in the room how to shoot video and the ethics, but what it would feel like to be apart of the action. The video and stories he brought with him to the conference were unlike any seen in the other workshops. But of course video is the easiest medium to captivate an audience, especially myself.

Immediately after my last workshop I had to begin working on the package and print article I was writing for the Houstonian/Channel 7. Fortunately the quality of the video turned out fantastic, the six interviews I got were incredibly informative and empowering to journalists. The only glitch was that some of my B-roll and my stand-up video corrupted during the transfer from the card to the computer. Bummer. However, having a video package like that to show is great for my experience as a learning broadcast journalist. I have Kelli Arena and Jaimie Hebert to thank for allowing me to go on the trip pretty much for free. It was gracious of them to do so. In addition I need to thank Ayman Mhanna for being a perfect host for such a beautiful and historic city. This guy is awesome.

At lunch I had a chance to chat with Benjamin Reed, a magazine journalist working in Beirut but originally from Texas A&M, as well as Mary Fitzgerald, a reporter for the Irish Times. Ben was quite a cool, young guy who was just as new to the topic of international justice as I was. Mary on the other hand was very much used to covering foreign affairs as she has done for the Irish Times, Ireland’s major newspaper. When she was sharing some of her experiences, it was very encouraging to myself as a young, aspiring journalist that courageous people like Mary still exist. Her stories were fascinating, but for the most part hilarious, which is the most important quality in any story…right?

My total time at the conference was bittersweet. On one hand I got to meet many of the movers and shakers in the world of foreign journalism. I got to explore a gorgeous (and potentially dangerous) city. And create many memories that I’ll be able to share for years and years.  On the other hand, I had to leave and suddenly come to the realization that I still had a lot to learn and 1.5 years in college to go. But, that’s a building block I guess. As my mom always says, “you gotta start somewhere.”

On the way home (more airport stories so buckle in), the airports were the most unpleasant experiences of the trip. The food was blah and the wait was horrible. At CDG our flight was pushed back 3 hours and took an extra hour to fly, making it a total of 24 hours overall. Definitely okay with not flying for a while.

I’ll leave the posts about the trip with this final thought:

Coming from a family raised in East Texas as well as a school filled with people of the same, it is a shame to see such a lack of understanding and sometimes ignorance about land outside of U.S. borders.  As someone who is a self-confessed idiot when it comes to the MENA region, I went into the experience with a clean slate and taking on whatever came my way. I experienced a whole new culture in just one day, although I did pass on some adventures due to sheer exhaustion.

It’s important for us, citizens of the world, to act more like that. I’m not preaching one particular political philosophy, but it’s important to at least learn about different cultures and network and read about other areas. My experience was that members of all seven different countries I talked to new about American politics and news. I knew little, if nothing, of their domestic affairs. It was time for me, as a college student, to take advantage of the time I had to study and venture outside of my relatively small box.

I understand that transcontinental traveling isn’t the easiest or most affordable. However, read different media outlets. Read about foreign affairs. Check out a library book on other cultures that may interest you or at least Wikipedia the country for basic information. Global education is vital to the future of a functioning society.


One thought on “Days 4/5: Final workshops and the flight home

  1. Very well written Stephen and I couldn’t agree with you more! I wished every young person had the opportunity to travel abroad to expand their understanding of the world beyond their small ” fish tanks”!
    Was glad to hear this was a positive trip… And that you are home safe!

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