Northeastern University

Page Content   Local Links   Utility Links   Footer Links

Northeastern University

Foreign correspondents for the summer

June 28, 2012

Prior to arriving at their first class in Jordan, which was sched­uled to begin shortly after a jet- lag- inducing flight across the globe, jour­nalism grad­uate stu­dents Matt Kauffman and Melissa Tabeek received an assign­ment from jour­nalism lec­turer Car­lene Hempel.

“She said she wanted some­thing on protests and Syria, so we started reading and absorbing every­thing we could,” Tabeek explained. In short order, the pair of jour­nal­ists had plans to attend street protests and visit uni­ver­si­ties in the cap­ital city of Amman.

Kauffman and Tabeek’s resulting sto­ries were part of a larger col­lec­tion of work by more than a dozen under­grad­uate and graduate- level jour­nalism stu­dents on a five- week Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram to Jordan. Hempel and Denis Sul­livan, a pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence and director of Northeastern’s Middle East Center for Peace, Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment, led the Dialogue.

The pro­gram, Hempel said, took on the qual­i­ties of a long- term embedded assign­ment fit for a pro­fes­sional for­eign cor­re­spon­dent. Over more than a month, stu­dents met with top gov­ern­ment offi­cials, built strong ties with com­mu­nity mem­bers and pro­duced sto­ries on topics ranging from the Middle East con­flict to busi­ness and sports.

“I kept saying to them, ‘Your audi­ence is The New York Times readers. That’s who you want to gear this for,” Hempel said. “And the cov­erage did span the whole news­paper, from the front page to the back.”

Within a few days, Kauffman and Tabeek made con­nec­tions with local offi­cials and non­profit orga­ni­za­tions with the help of their trans­lator, a uni­ver­sity stu­dent studying Eng­lish. The goal of the source gath­ering, they said, was to find Syrian fam­i­lies who had become refugees in Jordan after fleeing the harsh, oppres­sive regime and the near- constant threat of violence.

With the help of locals and refugee advo­cates, Kauffman and Tabeek built close rela­tion­ships with refugees, many of whom were ini­tially fearful to speak of their expe­ri­ences even on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

“We were able to look at these issues through the eyes of the fam­i­lies affected, not just through sto­ries that might quote one refugee and cite sta­tis­tics from a gov­ern­ment or the United Nations High Com­mis­sion for Refugees,” Tabeek said. “Because we became someone who could be trusted, they were able to talk to us about their lives.”

Sto­ries by the student- reporters were posted daily to the class­room blog, and The Boston Globe pub­lished a story co- authored by Tabeek and Kauffman, which included a cor­re­sponding video that ran online. The video, filmed in a small neigh­bor­hood with nearly 400 refugee fam­i­lies crammed into their homes, was an espe­cially chal­lenging assign­ment: The jour­nal­ists had to press their sub­jects to tell per­sonal sto­ries while remaining respectful of the trauma they induced.

“I think it was the first time I really felt like I was a jour­nalist, like I was doing some­thing impor­tant,” Kauffman said. “When I left I didn’t feel like I was fin­ished there. I want to go back.”

Kauffman and Tabeek will com­plete their grad­uate pro­gram in jour­nalism this August. To read work from all the stu­dents who reported from Jordan, visit http:// north east er nuni ver si tyjour nal is m2012 .word press .com/.

Local Links

Text Only Options

Top of page


Text Only Options

Open the original version of this page.

Usablenet Assistive is a UsableNet product. Usablenet Assistive Main Page.