November 21st, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Next Gen Journalists in Italy

Zanna and Guia

Zanna Katlyn McKay and Guia Baggi


Guia Baggi is a Milanese raised in Tuscany, early-career reporter. A year and a half ago she co-founded together with seven other journalists the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), a centre for investigative journalism based in Italy. Before embarking in this experience Guia studied in three different European universities for a two-year Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme in Journalism and Media within Globalisation, having the chance to examine for her MA thesis the organisation, the motives and the practices of nonprofit investigative journalism centres in the US and in Europe. Her journalistic experience has been mainly within local news media in Florence.

Zanna Katlyn McKay is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she designed a major in multimedia journalism and also studied film. Her thesis, for which she received High Honors, was a combination long-form written and radio piece about the housekeepers at Mount Holyoke. She now lives in Siena, Italy.

Recently, Guia and Zanna met at a café near where Guia works at La Nazione in Florence to set down in writing some of the interesting conversations they have had since becoming Next Gen partners for Round Earth Media. They are looking forward to going to Milan at the beginning of December to collect material for their first story together.  Here’s their interview of each other!


July 15th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

From Round Earth’s Next Gen Journalists in Ghana

Partners Maddy Crowell and Jamila Okertchiri reporting in Ghana

Maddy Crowell and Jamila Okertchiri are partners on a Round Earth Media reporting project in Ghana.  Crowell is an alumnus of Round Earth’s journalism program in Morocco, in collaboration with SIT Study Abroad, and will be a senior at Carleton College.  Okertchiri is a talented early-career Ghanaian journalist, a reporter for Ghana’s Daily Guide where Crowell is also working this summer.  Round Earth’s veteran journalists are mentoring this pair and just received the following from Crowell.

Slowly waking up with the rising sun, Jamila and I stepped off the airplane in Takoradi, one of Ghana’s major oil ports, beside a stream of Ghanaian natives and small clumps of foreigners. Immigration officers greeted us.

“Your passport!” A solider decked in an army green uniform pointed at me. Thankfully Jamila had called me this morning, reminding me to take it along.

“Where are you going? What are you doing here?” He asked. Controversy over the recent influx of illegal Chinese miners in Ghana had tightened security at all major ports.

“Prestea,” I said nervously.

“For what? Why?”

Jamila stepped in, calmly explaining we were journalists working for the Daily Guide (more…)

November 8th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

THURSDAY November 15 Your Donation will be MATCHED – Thursday only!


It’s easy fast and secure!  MAXIMIZE YOUR SUPPORT for these amazing young journalists and the veteran journalists who mentor them.

Round Earth’s Mexico Reporting Project: Isabella Cota and Annie Murphy reporting in Mexico

The U.S. and Mexico share deep personal, economic, geographic and cultural connections, but our understanding of Mexico is often limited by stereotype and media exaggeration. This fall, Round Earth Media is pairing young American and Mexican journalists, in a groundbreaking collaboration, to produce untold stories from Mexico, stories rich in place and humanity. These stories will reach huge audiences in the United States and in Mexico.

An indigenous village in Mexico got fed up with gangs and illegal loggers acting with impunity. So they kicked them out, kicked    out their local authorities and set up their own government. And some other villages are looking at it too.  “Josephina,” pictured above, was one of the first to get organized.  For security she doesn’t want to be identified. Photo: Isabella Cota

Click HERE to listen to this story which ran nationwide on The World.

July 15th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

Eyewitness Reflections from the Morocco Journalism Program

Nancy Fushan has had a long career as an award winning arts journalist and a program officer for major American foundations.  On her first trip to Morocco, Nancy witnessed our innovative new journalism program.  Here is her reflection.

Journalism student partners Antinnea Skipwith & Meryem Boutouraout | Photo: Nancy Fushan

It is 3 p.m. and a dozen American exchange students arrive at Mohammed V University on the outskirts of Rabat, Morocco’s capital city.  They are here on the groundbreaking journalism program, a partnership between Round Earth Media and SIT Study Abroad. For the past week, I’ve watched this group absorb information in lectures featuring well-known journalists, scholars, and artists.  I’ve shared a lunch with them in the mountain town of Azrou and heard about their adventures interacting with the locals.  Over glasses of mint tea, there have been the intense discussions as Mary and the program’s co-academic director, Taieb Belghazi, have challenged the students’ political and cultural assumptions.  They’ve developed and presented topics and story ideas that will culminate in their final Independent project for the semester, a major feature story or photo essay.

But today is special. They’re about to meet a group of Moroccan journalism students, courtesy of one of Mary’s many Rabat contacts and partners.  Today’s assignment is for the U.S. and Moroccan students to form partnerships that will provide them both with insights, context, and assistance from developing reporting resources to providing translation services.   This would be daunting for many seasoned reporters on foreign assignment, let alone this group of novice journalists, international relations, anthropology, and classics majors.  Mary knows this and even she is nervous as we step out of the bus, “Am I out of my mind to think this can actually happen?”  Moroccan media studies professor Khadija Zizi reassures her.  “Nothing to worry about…they’ll be fine,” says Khadija as the young Moroccans enter the classroom.  They sit as a group by themselves.  The tension is evident.  I myself see reason for doubt.


July 10th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?

A little girl in the doorway of her house in the Bolivian Subtropics. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. | Photo by Katherine McDonald

Here’s Round Earth Media intern Emma Foehringer Merchant with more about why some nations fail and others succeed.

It is blatantly obvious that certain states have had some sort of leg up in becoming world powers. Just what offered these countries their advantage? Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson explain in their book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, reviewed by Jared Diamond (author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel) in last month’s New York Review of Books. Here’s their take.

What do successful nations have in common?

Good political and economic institutions that form a stable state (in constrast to states with deep tribal divisions) are the main common denominator between rich countries, according to economists Acemoglu and Robinson. These institutions allow for a centralized and well-regulated government. Political and economic institutions the two authors define as “good” are those that encourage citizen participation in the economic system.  Good institutions protect peoples’ rights and livelihoods and disallow corruption and insecurity.  As Diamond explains, “people are motivated to work hard if they have opportunities to invest their earnings profitably, but not if they have few such opportunities or if their earnings or profits are likely to be confiscated.”

What makes a country poor?

Acemoglu and Robinson provide some reasons for economic deficiencies in certain states including:


June 19th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

Educating the Next Generation of Global Journalists: Meet Our Amazing Students

At Round Earth Media, we teach students to produce great journalism about important global issues. But that’s not all. When a student story is exceptionally good, we help students publish and broadcast their stories and photographs in top-tier media – like The New York Times.

Our pioneering program in Morocco, in partnership with SIT Study Abroad, resulted in student stories placed in major media outlets in the United States. Proof positive that undergraduate students can produce journalism of the highest professional and ethical standards, while receiving a powerful experience in cross-cultural learning. (Read the story our students placed in The New York Times.)

Kirsten Kortebein photographing the "toughest footrace on earth"

“I think I’ll take back, not only the notion that we can accomplish these things but also that you don’t have to be a certain age to achieve what you’ve been dreaming or working for. It gives us a legitimacy that I never thought I’d obtain for ten more years,”said Kirsten Kortebein, a student on the Morocco journalism program. In addition to the New York Times, Kortebein’s photos, produced on the Morocco program, appeared in Outside Magazine and Runner’s World. That’s an incredible accomplishment for an undergraduate!

Kortebein, a student at the University of Michigan, worked in partnership with another student on the Morocco program, reporter Jacqueline Kantor, a journalism major at the University of North Carolina. Their first big challenge was to find a good story and these intrepid young journalists went looking with a vengeance. What they found is the Marathon des Sables, often called the toughest footrace on earth, running 153 miles through the Sahara desert where temperatures can reach 122 degrees. The race draws nearly a thousand athletes from all over the world but no one had ever done a story about the desert runners who dominate this grueling marathon.

“It was cool to be able to tell their story.” said Kantor. “It’s pretty well known within the country and within people who are interested in desert races about these people but it wasn’t out there [in the press]. So now I like the fact that if you Google ‘desert Moroccan runners,’ ‘Sahara runners,’ people will know who they are.”

Jacqueline Kantor covering the marathon in Morocco's Sahara Desert

Both Kantor and Kortebein say they plan to pursue journalism careers after graduation. The Morocco program attracted budding student journalists interested in print, broadcast, film and photography. Many students were not journalism majors – classics, anthropology and international relations majors were among those represented on the program. Kantor remembers a time when the students were hanging out in a cafe in Morocco and one turned to her, in awe of their opportunity.

“[She] was like ‘We’re in Morocco right now, in a foreign country, and we’re all leaving on assignments tomorrow. How cool is that? Like are we going to be doing the same thing in 20 years? Meeting in some other random country?’ I feel like we’ll all stay in contact after this but also on a professional level.”

“I think we clicked really well,” said Kortebein, adding that she and Kantor supported each other in the field, which was especially challenging given the extreme desert weather.

Journalism student partners Ouiame Mitali and Shalea Harris

Partnerships are essential to the Round Earth model. Too often, American journalists parachute into a country for just a few weeks of reporting, failing to grasp the nuances and complexities of what is, for them, a foreign country. But Round Earth Media journalists avoid those pitfalls by collaborating with the most promising early-career journalists in the countries where Round Earth is reporting. Together, these journalist teams produce stories for top-tier media in the U.S. and abroad.

The journalism program in Morocco is the first time that this model has been applied to student journalists. For more than two months, six student pairs — an American partnered with a Moroccan — worked to produce what one of the Moroccan students calls “a mosaic bowl of articles” from the topic of racism in Morocco to the Soulaliyate women’s land rights movement and a documentary film about fishermen on Morocco’s western coast. Vital to the program’s success is the support and enthusiasm from Professor Khadija Zizi and her colleagues at ISIC (L’Institut Supérieure de l’Information et de la Communication), the journalism school in Rabat, Morocco.

Professor Zizi called the student partnership “a great opportunity for the [Moroccan] students to work under the supervision of a professional journalist and international leader.”

The Moroccan journalism students received a “Certificate in International Journalism from Round Earth Media and SIT Study Abroad.

Journalism student partners Stacy Wheeler and Oumaima Azzelzouli

“We were always together to discuss every detail,” said Moroccan journalism student Youssra El Hassani. “The idea of pairs is very important.”

The American students agree. “Not only have we been able to pick up valuable journalistic skills from each other, we have been able to exchange our cultures and become great friends,” said Antinnea Skipwith. “I think working in partnership is the best way to work.”

While the timing of the Marathon did not accommodate a Moroccan journalism student partner on their story, Kantor and Kortebein agree that the best journalism is produced in partnership. This chance to work together (writers and photographers, Americans and Moroccans), is just one of many rare opportunities offered by this groundbreaking journalism program in Morocco.

“I have always loved [journalism] and this has made me appreciate it even more than I did already,” said Kantor. “It’s an excuse to talk to people, an excuse to do things you’ve never done, an excuse to spend ten days in the desert wandering around one of the biggest races in the world.”

Not to mention publishing a story and photos in the New York Times.


June 9th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

What does it mean to be an American?

Sara Mansfield Taber is out to answer this question in her powerful, provocative and insightful new memoir, Born Under an Assumed Name.   The daughter of a CIA agent, Taber composes her family’s haunting story, stroke by exquisitely beautiful stroke. This vibrant family portrait of love and heart-ache reveals much about America—our passion, confusion, contradictions, and especially, the tragedy we bring upon the world despite our very best intentions.

For those of you in the Twin Cities, Sara Mansfield Taber will be reading from her book this coming Sunday, June 17th at 4:00 p.m. at Common Good Books (corner of Snelling and Grand in St. Paul).    Check out her national reading schedule here.

Listen to an interview with Sara Mansfield Taber on NPR

Taber’s blog on non-fiction and memoir writing

From the preface:

I was born under an assumed name.

It was in Kamakura that my parents first went under. “Mr. Brown,” a colleague, met them at the Tokyo airport after the endless flights from Washington. As he was driving them the forty miles to Kamakura near the coast he asked them to select a surname. Once they arrived at their new home, nestled into a mountain slope beneath an ancient, three-story high Buddha, they settled into their new identity…

April 5th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky


When you see all the fun people have in Sbaa Roudi, it is no surprise they want to stay here.

Photo: Shalea Harris

This soccer game was the first official match by the Sbaa Roudi women, who played against the SIT Study Abroad journalism students.  The match was organized by the local NGO “Development and Solidarity” headed by the female activist Lazar. The village women won in a shoot-out.

Photo: Kirsten Kortebein

The village’s 5K race was billed as a “marathon” to celebrate International Women’s Day. More than 100 women of all ages participated and wore an array of sweats, hijabs, soccer uniforms and even slippers.

April 5th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

In a Moroccan Village: Education & Jobs

Photo: Princess Goodridge

There is some improvement in the lives of twenty six Sbaa Rouadi men. At least for now.  The men are working construction on what will be a school for Islamic studies in the village.  The project is funded by the Association Abi Bakr Essedik for Education, according to Abdesselam Bouchokhi, the accountant for the project. In Morocco, private associations are building schools because the government of Morocco fails to provide all the schools that are needed. Still, while this construction project is providing temporary work for the men of the village, it is not a permanent solution to economic development here.  Louis Zeller

Even for graduates of the new school, there’s no guarantee of a job, says Bouchikhi . And while tuition, room and board will be free for the more than 200 students, the school is only for men. Bouchikhi says  “no women from the village will be able to attend.”  Princess Goodridge

Despite these challenges some people in the village are able to achieve an education – even an advanced one.  Youssef Rahmouni holds a BA in English literature and is currently pursuing a second BA in history. Rahmouni’s family hosted student journalist Veronica Jean Seltzer. Seltzer interviewed Rahmouni and started by asking what made him want to get a higher education.

Photo: Veronica Jean Seltzer

Rahmouni: The first motivation is the prophet, peace be upon him. When I was a child I always wanted to read books-philosophy, literature. I was motivated to read religious books about the prophet and how he was so humble and intelligent to unite the Arabs. I was inspired by him, his communication style. I don’t know, maybe I’ll be like him. Second is my Mom. She’s so loving. I want to help the family financially and socially. The University is two hours there and two back. Leaves you no time to revise, no time to read, but I did my best to continue.

Seltzer: We certainly did not expect to have such a scholarly host brother. What do you think about that?

R: I’m not the only intellectual here. Perhaps because I speak English we can exchange ideas. Language is just a window through which we express ourselves. The others are intellectual too. They just can’t speak.

S: Do you think you’re different from other villagers?

R: Yes, maybe I’m different. I have thoughts, ideology. I’m similar in the life; I suffer like them, I want to change things.

S: What do you see for yourself in the future?

R: I dream to improve the life of the people here. One can only do this through politics. To take their voice, the real voice, to the right hands. People should benefit from politics, not become victims of politics.

S: What is your favorite part of living here?

R: Its calm, peace, good people. Peaceful in terms of nature, people. Not in terms of politics. We’re fighting to gain our rights, to fight the corruptor, to achieve development. This is a daily challenge.

S: Could you imagine living anywhere else?

R: No, I don’t imagine myself living somewhere else. This is my place. I’d fight to improve it and whenever I go I’d fight to come back. This is a humanitarian and religious principle. I would die for this place. MORE

January 28th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

Students Arrive Tomorrow

Rabat, Morocco

The students arrive tomorrow.

The newsroom we are creating for our students in the heart of Rabat ‘s medina is as close to a US news bureau as one can find in this country, a country rife with protest and surrounded by Arab Spring revolutions. The US students will be paired with Moroccan journalism students who speak English.   Closely – and rigorously — mentored by me and Dr. Taieb Belghazi, a cultural studies professor at the University of Mohammad V in Rabat,

they will learn from Moroccan academics who study everything from literacy to women’s issues to Islamic movements along with a broad cross-section of Moroccans from rappers and film-makers to civil society groups working on issues such as domestic violence and legal reform.  This in-depth study of the issues will be combined with the mechanics and ethics of journalism along with intensive field reporting and rigorous editing.

I want to show these students first-hand how important, fascinating and rewarding it is to be a journalist in a world that’s more interconnected than ever before.  And what a difference one journalist can make.  I expect some insightful reporting from our newsroom in Morocco

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