Almost a year ago exactly the journalism department at Penn State decided to begin a new course in international reporting. Our purpose was not to prepare young journalists to join the shrinking pool of foreign correspondents working overseas — though I'm absolutely confident some of our students will ultimately do exactly that.
Rather, our aim is to train students for the practice of journalism in a global environment — an interconnected world where the issues, problems and concerns of other nations will end up on the doorsteps of even the smallest Pennsylvania towns.
To this end we took 17 of our best print and broadcast students — all juniors and seniors — to Mexico City for a nine-day reporting trip from March 7 through March 15. We chose Mexico City because it is relatively close and fairly familiar to most Americans, yet distinctly foreign in language and culture.
Mostly, though, we chose Mexico because there are great stories there. Our students did stories on familiar issues such as immigration, crime and the economy, but also tackled difficult and complicated stories about the environment, religion and the changing nature of Mexican society. There are features stories galore in Mexico City and we did our share of those, too — on food, shopping, the bizarre spectacle of Luche Libre wrestling, on graffiti and on the growing cult of the "death saint," Santa Muerte.
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As we discovered, Mexico is a complicated place. To get our stories done, our students had to overcome the obvious language and cultural barriers, as well as deal with issues of safety and security. Perhaps most challenging of all, they had to learn to navigate through the chaotic vastness of the Western hemisphere's largest city.
We are delighted and extraordinarily flattered that a news organization with the sterling reputation of McClatchy has agreed to provide an outlet for some of our stories. We hope you’ll find them interesting and enlightening. Please feel free to get in touch with your comments.
The Foster Professor of Writing and Editing
Penn State University