Field Academy: Seeking Truth in Greece

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The goal of journalism is not to make a moral judgment. It’s to hold up a mirror reflecting what is happening in society. Sometimes you can do that so well that it’s impossible for the audience not to draw a moral conclusion, said award-winning international journalist Micah Danney to a group of students preparing for a three-week field study in journalistic storytelling.

The students, who eagerly sought Micah’s advice on reporting, will spend the next three weeks on Field Academy in Greece using journalism as their lens to seek out and examine varying perspectives on the country’s contemporary issues, such as the impact of the influx of refugees; its position in the European Union; and the legacy of Ancient Greece, the birthplace of Western civilization. Their students’ goal is not to return with an ultimate truth, but to gather enough perspectives to be able to assemble a truthful approximation of the state of Greek life.

Led by Cultural History instructors and trip leaders Kevin Snyder and Jessica Pollina, the delegation's journey will begin in Athens, where they will be embedded with a journalist representing national broadcast news outlet Skai TV. The reporter will guide students in their interviews with Greek locals, as well as the residents of a refugee camp, where they will work to gain insight into Greece’s most pressing issues. Then the group will leave mainland Greece to explore life on the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini.

While some of the students in the class have previously taken Kevin’s journalism elective course, for many, the trip will serve as their first foray into this form of storytelling. Micah’s visit provided them with an opportunity to better understand what to expect in the field and how to navigate tricky situations. Chief among their concerns were how to communicate with a subject who speaks a different language and how to balance being sensitive and having a productive interview when speaking with traumatized subjects.

“People care when you care,” Micah told the students. “As you speak to people, consider what purpose you are stepping into their lives for. Find what connects you, and let that guide your interactions with them.”

Ultimately, Kevin hopes this course will help his students to become better storytellers and more informed consumers of the news. “No matter the historical or current context, there are always many stories to be told,” he said. “We hope that our students grow to love telling these stories and sharing them through journalistic writing.”