September 1996

Root Page of Article: Teaching International Reporting Through the Internet , by Christopher Harper


Christopher Harper
10 Washington Place
(O) 212-998-3846


Welcome to the international beat. This semester you will be studying and trying out the role of foreign correspondent. In the cosmopolitan environment of New York, you will be developing sources, interviewing experts and producing stories on international topics. After choosing a country in which to specialize, you will be writing on a range of diplomatic, cultural and economic issues.

In class, we will follow international news developments, analyze the coverage and study how reporters in the field and their news desks back at home operate. For part of the class, we will use what's called the "case study" method. A separate explanation about the method follows this syllabus.

While this course is an opportunity to focus on international reporting as a career, it is also developing skills that are fundamental to all areas of journalism and research.

International crises have dominated media coverage since the end of the Cold War. What was a bipolar world is still undergoing a period of transition, and coverage of international news has also undergone profound changes. Live television coverage of international events has become routine, forcing print media to change their ways of staffing and analyzing the flow of world news. As new nations were born and others collapsed into anarchy, crises arose that demanded massive coverage, far beyond the availability of journalists who were already on the scene or had the expertise. Reporters, producers and editors with a general background were called in without warning or preparation and had to deal with alien cultures and environments. Some were sent abroad, while others handled sidebars on the crisis from the home office. These assignments often required new sources, different reporting techniques and changed assumptions about the nature of news.

This course will introduce students to the process of reporting on governments, politics and cultures that may function quite differently from the American norm. A different mindset is necessary. In covering domestic news, the reporter, the protagonists, the sources and the audience share certain cultural assumptions, a base of common experience and a similar approach to reality. This is often not true when it comes to news from abroad. The essence of foreign reporting is to make understandable for readers and viewers events and perspectives that may be beyond their experience. The difficult part is to define events in terms that American audiences can understand without creating distortions that stem from cultural differences.

The course will involve three elements. First, students will gather background information on one region or country. Second, the class will compare and evaluate coverage of case studies in foreign reporting and foreign affairs. Finally, there will be reporting and writing assignments in which students learn the techniques involved.

The subject matter will depend to some degree on events. There will be crisis coverage (through classroom simulations) and a more subtle reporting of trends, before and after the moment of global spotlight.


This is a reporting and writing course, and there will be writing assignments during the semester. Having chosen, in consultation with me, your country of specialty, you will be producing full-length stories with deadlines usually two weeks apart. All stories must be original in their research and each should be based on a minimum of three sources.

On the first page in the upper left-hand corner, please include the date, the story slug and your last name.

Deadbeat Students

On subsequent pages in the upper left-hand corner, put the date, the slug with page number, and your last name.

Deadbeat Students 22222

Type the word "more" at the bottom of each page and "30" or "endit" at the end of the story. Written work should be triple spaced, typed on one side and free of typographical error. Use the AP style book and follow style. Use news format, with slug and page markings.


Late stories will receive an automatic "F." This is a business of deadlines!

Grades: These will be based primarily on reporting and writing performance. Rewrites, for an upgrade, can be done within one week after the return of edited copy. All assignments must be completed to pass. More than three unexcused absences will result in failure. Excused absences require advance notice and a doctor's note.

Class participation/effort 30 per cent Assignments 2-6 combined 35 per cent Final article 35 per cent

To avoid confusion, the following will be used to calculate your final grades

A = 100-95 A- = 94.9-90

B+ = 89.9-85 B = 84.9-80 B- = 79.9-75

C+ = 74.9-70 C = 69.9-65 C- = 64.9-60

F = 59.9 and below

Academic dishonesty will result in a course grade of F.

It is recommended that you record names and phone numbers of at least two other class members.

Required Reading

  • John Hohenberg, Foreign Correspondence: The Great Reporters and Their Times, Second Edition, Syracuse University Press
  • Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Princeton University Press
  • Evelyn Waugh, Scoop, Little, Brown
  • Ryszard Kapuscinski, Imperium, Vintage
  • Series of Harvard University Case Studies available at the book store

Students are required to keep themselves informed and current on international news developments. As a working reference, each student should read all the international section of each day's New York Times and bring a seven-day A section (Tuesday-Monday) file to class or Wall Street Journal (Tuesday-Monday). It is also important to bring international stories from the business sections to class. Students should also read the international English-language press and survey a range of current affairs periodicals with particular reference to their individual region of study (e.g. The Economist, the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, Far East Economic Review, U.S.-Latin Trade). Listen regularly to National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Week One

Introduction to course. Outline of goals and expectations.

Live on the Internet

The State Department

How An Embassy Works

One-on-one class interviews for biography and "foreign topic" writing sample.

Discuss selection of each student's "adopted country" that will serve as focus for exercises in research, interviewing and reporting for duration of course.

Week Two

Lecture on War by Carl von Clausewitz.

Adopted countries determined.

Story Assignment No. 1 (Due Week Three).

Week Three

International Organizations

Case Study: Bosnia

Story Assignment No. 1 Due. Story No. 2 (Due Week Five)

Week Four

Class convenes at United Nations HQ for accreditation and briefing.

Week Five

Case Study: Truman and the Atom Bomb

Story No. 2 Due. Story No. 3 (Due Week Seven)

Week Six

Case Study: The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Week Seven

Case Study: The Marines in Lebanon

Terrorism and Radical Islam

Story No. 3 Due. Story No. 4 (Due Week Nine)

Week Eight

What a Foreign Correspondent Does

John Hohenberg, Foreign Correspondence: The Great Reporters and Their Times, Second Edition, Syracuse University Press

Evelyn Waugh, Scoop

Week Nine

Case Study: Fortress Japan, the Pacific Rim and the United States

Story No. 4 Due. Story No. 5 (Due Week Eleven)

Week Ten

Case Study: The Fall of the Soviet Union

The 1991 Russian Coup

Ryszard Kapuscinski, Imperium, Vintage

Week Eleven

Case Study: The Gulf War. Hedrick Smith: The Media and the Gulf War, John Hopkins

Story No. 5 Due. Story No. 6 (Due Week Thirteen)

Week Twelve

Case Study: Somalia, Rwanda and the Future of Intervention

Week Thirteen

Hot Wars and Cold Spots: The Future of the World

Week Fourteen

How to Get a Job as a Foreign Reporter ^

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