I am spending this quarter (Jan-March) in Iceland on a self-designed research project studying the concept of freedom of the press.
After spending 20 years as a professional journalist, I am living in the capital city, Reykjavik, talking with radio, TV, newspaper and web-based reporters about the news profession. On Feb. 9, I met with veteran newsman Bogi Ágústsson, considered the “Walter Cronkite” of Icelandic news.Western senior instructor Jennifer Karchmer interviewed Bogi Ágústsson, the “Walter Cronkite” of Icelandic news, seen here on set at TV station RUV in Reykjavik. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Karchmer.
I have also spoken to reporters at the daily newspaper Morgunblaðið and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of Icelandic parliament who co-sponsored the Icelandic Modern Media Initative. Jónsdóttir, a press freedom advocate, co-produced the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” video with Julian Assange. I chose Iceland because the country has been ranked at the top of the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index over the last decade. But despite the high ranking, some reporters are concerned about press freedom, as they’re seeing an increase in libel suits and constraints affecting the industry as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. Reporters here have lost their jobs just like in the United States.
I was asked to give a lecture, “How U.S. Media Consolidation Has Affected the News Industry” to graduate students at the University of Iceland. Also, I held a group dialogue on the same topic at the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel with travelers from Austria, Croatia, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania and the U.S.
Iceland, with a population of 320,000, received record snowfall this season. My first few days were blizzard conditions, but now we’ve had rain and warmer temperatures in the high 30s.
With only about four to five hours of daylight in Iceland this time of year, and an eight-hour time zone change from Bellingham, it took a full week to get acclimated. I plan on returning to Western in the spring to teach my favorite course, “professional communication.”
Western Front: Guest Column - Professor abroad in Iceland, published Feb. 14, 2012
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