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Annual IMS Trip Takes Students to Paris

SoC students Katelin Buell (C10) and Ross Neumann (C09) shared their experiences on the 2009 spring break trip to Paris. The first article is from Katelin, and the following travelogue is a combined effort from Ross and Katelin on the day-to-day activities on the trip.

Northwestern students who chose to spend their spring break at the School of Communication’s annual International Media and Communications Seminar certainly had a different spring break experience than many of our peers. In addition to touring around the City of Lights and drinking cafe au laits, about 20 students participated in discussions about new media, dealing with the dying newspaper industry, and the differences between French and American newspapers.

These topics were accompanied by some of the lesser thought about forms of media. For example, our group went to the home of John Morris, a major photojournalism editor for a pictorial slideshow of some of the world’s most historical and memorable moments. At the home of Lee and Berna Huebner, we got a chance to speak with students from around the world who attend the American University of Paris about media in their home countries. (Lee Huebner is a former Northwestern professor and founder of the IMS trip.)

Photographs by Debra Webster


Also, our group heard from Harriet Welty, a Medill graduate, about French culture and its differences from American culture, and got a chance to discuss some of correspondents Jim Bittermann and Pat Thompson’s most interesting experiences while working in the Paris Bureaus for many of the major news corporations. Finally, our group listened to individuals discuss their experiences covering Parisian fashion shows, financial markets for Bloomberg, and war reporting all over the world from many prominent journalists who currently call Paris home.

In addition to discussions at the American University of Paris, our group took many field trips around Paris to talk to various individuals about the future of media. We visited the French newspaper Liberation, and discovered that French newspapers, unlike their American counterparts, are highly political and enforce the opinions of a particular party.

We also visited the headquarters of the International Herald Tribune (IHT) where senior editor Ann Bagamery gave us a tour and discussed the future of newspapers, and how the IHT strives to deliver objective news to all areas of the world. Cynthia Smith, a press information officer with the State Department, gave us a behind-the scenes look at the American Embassy in Paris. There, we learned about how to start a career in the State Department, how information on U.S. policies are transmitted to a country’s media outlets, and how foreign policy work has changed and yet remained the same since the inauguration of the Obama administration. Our final field trip of the week was to France 24, a 24-hour international news station that broadcasts simultaneously in French, English and Arabic, to stations all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East and in some parts of the United States. In addition to a discussion about how to launch a major international news station that rivals CNN, our group got a look at how a segment was broadcast — from the filming to the cutting room floor.

Overall, students participating in the trip gained a broader world perspective and found out how important international news is for a healthy global environment.

– Katelin Buell (C10)


Sunday, March 22

Just got off the plane. It’s 6 a.m. in Paris, but it feels like midnight yesterday. Plan is to drop the bags at the hotel and use a combination of copious amounts of caffeine and sightseeing to stay awake. Hope this works.

Made it to dinner without passing out. Mission accomplished. Had a great meal at Professor Huebner’s incredible apartment. Students from places like Macedonia, Niger and Cambodia talked with us about their respective media environments. Fascinating stuff.

Monday, March 23

Early morning start at 9:30 a.m. First we heard from Professor Huebner on how globalization is affecting the media. Later, we had a great talk with Eileen Bastianelli, a former director for advertising firm BBDO, who helped produce some really cool content for the Obama campaign abroad.

Second half of the day was a little bipolar. Started with an insightful but intense talk with Janine di Giovanni who was a war correspondent in Rwanda and reported in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. Ended the day with an upbeat lecture on French culture. Did you know it is considered offensive for a woman to pour herself a glass of wine?

Tuesday, March 24

Some really interesting talks today. We started off with a session focused on the media culture in France. Biggest takeaway was that most media has a declared slant. Think of it this way, if Fox News were to suddenly declare it backed the GOP, then it would resemble the vast majority of newspapers in France. Later we talked about the clash between John Stewart and Jim Cramer over the role of financial reporting in the lead up to the financial crisis with a former staffer for Bloomberg. His take was that financial reporting is much more limited than mainstream journalism in scope and consequently does not have the same obligations to perform investigative reporting.

Met with two incredible people to round off the day. First was John Morris, who is widely considered to be the most influential photo news editor of the 20th century. In addition to off handedly mentioning a number of evenings spent drinking with Earnest Hemingway, Mr. Morris did nothing short of act as a living history book. Our second talk was with CNN’s senior on-air correspondent Jim Bittermann, whose all-time favorite story involved a dislodged Russian ice shelf, a group of Soviet soldiers stationed by their government riding said piece of ice and to top it off the drifting of this ice sheet into Canadian waters.

Wednesday, March 25

We heard from Jean Marc Illouz, senior international correspondent for France 2 TV, who spoke about covering International News in France and how American media often cuts the international short, doesn’t cover them, or gives them a more “American” spin. We were then off to the American Embassy to listen to press information officer Cynthia Smith discuss jobs in the State Department, covering communication for government abroad, etc. Later in the day, Peter Barnet, associate professor at the American University of Paris, gave a talk on International Media Marketing.

Thursday, March 26

The big outing today was a trip to the headquarters of the International Herald Tribune. As it turns out, the average salary for an IHT reader is in the neighborhood of $500,000, and a majority of those readers also own two properties.

Friday, March 27

On Friday we had the tour and information session of France 24 and then participated in discussions by Cathy Nolan about covering celebrity journalism in Paris for People Magazine and Heidi Ellison about arts and culture reporting. Ellison also talked about how to make your own web site for writing.

– Ross Neumann (C09) and Katelin Buell (C10)

Learn more about IMS.