Recap: Our visitors at the HvA
We already had some quite interesting guest lecturers at the HvA: Rob Corcoran, for example, national director of Initiatives of Change in the United States. He gave a mini workshop about trustbuilding and how we as journalists can use some principles in our line of work.
Or Leon Willems, director of Free Press Unlimited, who discussed with us the Arab Spring and the influence of media in the Middle East on politics.
Or Marianne Heselmans, a science reporter from the Netherlands. How can we report about the issue of Climate Change? How do we translate complicated scientific findings into a language for our readers?
And – one of my favourites – Piet de Blaauw: He works as a correspondent for the Dutch Network NCRV, more or less as a freelancer. In his lecture, we focused on the death of the Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans in the 2008 Goergian-Russian war. Piet was the first journalist who interviewed the cameraman’s colleague Jeroen Akkermans who witnessed the attack. Here some pieces he did – unfortunately all in Dutch.
So far so good – my colleagues and I thought. But then, Oklahoma arrived.
Kole Kleeman and his truly memorable voice jolted us up from our wintry-lazy-mood. With startling passion and a dramatic tone, the professor of the University of Central Oklahoma lectured us for two days about violence and the representation of female- and male-roles in the media.
His presentation started with the words: “How US-Americans are obsessed with hatred and violence in the media!” Seems like this is going to be a very “US-American” lecture, I thought at the beginning – and I was going to be right.
Without doubt, one of the most interesting, but also one the guests we discussed controversially after class. Kleeman has a very strong view about the influence of media on how people behave: George Gerbner’s “Mean World Theory” was one of his favorite argument he referred to. ‘Bad journalism’ – which uses stereotyping, scatogating in its reporting, and/or which dehumanizes groups of people – is the foundation of a society, obsessed with violence not only on screen, but also in real life, Kleeman said.
“When you dehumanize others, you are absolved because you see the pain as less than your pain.”
One point he really stressed is how important the media is that a society “does not forget”. For him, documentaries are the best format to achieve this task. Like
Our lecture didn’t end with his presentation about various forms of violence in everyday media. We also had to apply what we heard to our work: In pairs, we prepared interviews with victims of trauma. They were played by two actresses – Geerteke van Liertop and Saskia de Boer.
And that was an experiece, for sure! Although we conducted the interviews in a ‘safe environment’ – in class, in front of our colleagues, with actresses – we all were more or less excited.
The goal was to get as much information our of a traumatized person without causing too much stress and without asking inappropriate questions. Most of us did a good job. And I am glad about the “dry run” before we all have to go out and work in this “mean mean” world.