I gave a workshop on glocal journalism last Saturday at a media reform event organized by a new Twin Cities group, the Twin Cities Media Alliance.
About 20 folks showed up. I kicked off by defining glocal journalism and then asked everyone to write their own glocal story.
The participants included four Twin Cities radio journalists (three from KFAI and one from MPR), a biology teacher, several college students, a marketing professional, a documentary film maker, a social worker, a freelance heath care writer, and a St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter.
Wwe looked at a handout offering seven ways to generate glocal stories without moving an inch, i.e. right there in the workshop room.
The wow! factor kicked in right here. Everyone had a glocal story idea they were dying to tell, and they did, writing them down before the two hours were up.
Everyone shared their story idea with the others. The stories included:
1. Weather news should be glocalized. Local weather is by definition glocal -- it's the local effect of global causes. The weather is really the ultimate glocal story in journalism. So a line or two in every local weather report -- more if warranted -- should explain day's weather in terms of global warming, air currents, ocean streams, volcanoes, or pollution alerts elswhere in the world.
2. The health care system in Sweden is being privatized. What?! The health care writer in the room wants to write about this, and I can't wait to read about it. For years I've been thinking that Sweden, along with its fantastic workers' benefits and educational programs, had rock solid universal health care. I'll bet I was not alone. Has Sweden caught the dreadful privatization bug? Must find out.
3. Euthanasia is not an economic issue in Holland. In other words, becoming overwhelmed with medical bills is never part of the reason why an elderly or severely suffering person might choose euthenasia in Holland. A Dutch-American journalist at the workshop wants to write this story, in part to share the story of his 92-year-old Mom, in part to add a new dimension to the debate over health care costs and euthenasia in the U.S. I hope he does write the story.
4. A local Norweigian American says today's America reminds him of living under German occupation in Norway during World War II. He was talking about expanded government rights to search and seize, widespread suspicion of foreigners, the difficulty of going and coming across borders, and an increasing obsession with identity, patriotism, and loyalty -- the "with us or against us" mentality. These are things he came to America to avoid.
5. Elderly Hispanics in the Twin Cities are uniting across old ethnic divisions in order to keep contact with their language and culture. Old age in the U.S. is nothing like old age in central and southern America, where families stay together longer and take care of their elderly. So elderly Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans who live in the Twin Cities are joining together in order to speak Spanish together and enjoy fellowship and support.
6. The Twin Cities' Ethiopian hangouts are abuzz with talk of the country's parliamentary elections. At the Fasica Restaurant at Snelling and University in St. Paul, and at every other Ethiopian hangout, the patrons are talking of little else than what party will emerge victorious from the May 20 elections. Widespread fraud allegations, violent demonstrations against the unpopular government, and the jailing of 9 prominent Ethiopian journalists (later released) have delayed the announcement of the election results until July.
7. Where are the wounded women Iraq War veterans? That's the question posed by one woman in the workshop, an Air Force veteran of the first Gulf War, about the maimed women veterans of the Iraq war. She suggests that wounded women are being kept out of media view, just as the returning coffins of Iraq war soldiers are. Also she points out that many Iraqi mothers, as well as U.S. women vets, are being maimed by the war and thus are passing on the war's violence to more innocents.
8. A nurse who was helped at Ground Zero, and who returned the favor in Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan-American marketing executive in the workshop told of a nurse who was in New York on 9/11, and helped the wounded at Ground Zero that day and for days after. At the 9/11 site she was approached by a group of Sri Lankan nurses who happened to be in town, and ended up rolling up their sleeves and joining in the help. When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka last December, the nurse decided it was time to repay the favor, so she flew to Sri Lanka and is there even today helping the Sri Lankan nurses who helped her in 2001.
9. "All places are foreign to me." One St. Paul woman at the workshop wrote a brief memoir that touched on the themes of exile and identity. She spent the formative ten years of her childhood living in a small German village. Now living in the U.S. in her twenties, she feels no more American than a young German woman, although her passport says differently. And she surrounds herself with refugees, returnees, and immigrants, "the people I feel most comfortable with."
10. Who will remember Apollo? "Americans have big hearts ... and big fears," one participant wrote. "Sadly, those fears often get the better of our hearts. If you are like me and many others, you stop yourself from giving easily to to the homeless man you pass or sending money to an Internet site to help the poor in Africa or Asia. What we lack is the personal connection or the knowledge that allows us to see how our generosity can help ... to see and feel another person's life and needs. So let me tell you about Apollo and his family in Kenya. Apollo died a few months ago, mostly likely of AIDS. His wife has been hospitalized, most likely with AIDS-related illness..."
I sure hope I get to read the full story of Apollo one day, partly because I want to see how that workshop participant solved the riddle of making a personal connection to people he cares about, yet who live far away.
Or is that distance just an illusion?
Anyway, how's that for a story lineup?
On June 22, I am giving another glocal workshop at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, which is hosting a summer conference on curriculum development for Wisconsin teachers. The folks at UWM thought the glocal journalism approach might work well in the classroom too. I think they are onto something!
I'll write a full report on that workshop, too.
As for the stories above, watch The McGill Report which is transforming this summer from a solo website written by me, to a collaborative site with glocal contributions from students, professionals, and any interested citizen.
Got glocal ideas? Drop me a line, let's see what this baby can do.