Fake News Controversy and Flaws of American Journalism: Foreign Journalists and Public Relations Professionals Talk Live with My Students via Skype and Facebook Video

In this past semester, 10 current and former journalists and public relations professionals from foreign countries came to my BC&J353 (International Communication and Foreign Press) class as guest speakers.

They talked live from their homes in Spain, Germany, Romania, Denmark, UK, Ireland, Canada and Russia via Skype or Facebook Video. Two were unable to talk live with my students due to logistical reasons but they provided very detailed answers via email to questions raised by my students.

The International Communication course aims to enhance broadcasting and journalism students’ understanding of the mass media environment around the world. The course exposes students to mass media operations under various theories of the press. This class is vital to future success of my students, given that we are at a time when America is so involved in global affairs but American citizens including many of its journalists know so little about the rest of the world.

Most of my students have never been abroad. The professional experience, anecdotes and insight these foreign guest speakers shared in class were truly eye opening. For example, students said that it was interesting to know that journalism education in Spain is much worse than in Brazil and Romania media is undergoing democratic setback. Although it is reassuring to know from guest speakers that American journalism is admired across the globe in its thorough fact-finding and rigorous fact-checking process, students said that it is more important to know how foreign media professionals view American journalism’s weakness and flaws.

The following viewpoints were what intrigued students most: 1) Obsession with facts is both strength and weakness of American journalism. Facts without context, however, are meaningless. 2) American reporters are good at finding facts but they are not very good storytellers. 3) U.S. media is too partisan and many readers are left out in the national conversation. 4) U.S. foreign correspondents will be more easily bullied overseas as a result of lack of moral support from Donald Trump. 5) Fake news controversy in the United States has an impact on foreign media. Many people in foreign countries believe today it is OK to deny verifiable facts. 6) Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are not mutually exclusive. They are all part of First Amendment.

My students were very excited about being able to talk live with such a diverse pool of accomplished media professionals from around the world. One student said, “I will take these experiences and words with me as I look forward to graduating next semester and going into my own career field.” One student noted, “The Skype sessions we had [in] the past two weeks were very educational and I pulled a lot of information out of what was said.” Another student said she has learned a lot from the conversations with guest speakers and started realizing how important “being global instead of local” is today for mass communication practitioners.

Below are photos and bios for foreign guest speakers:


Claudia Granadeiro Tagliavini 

(Live from Madrid, Spain)

Professional experience:

Former reporter and editor for various Brazilian newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, news agencies and websites

Current position:

Public and Government Affairs Director, Dow Chemical Company


Ulrike Arnhold

 (Live from Berlin, Germany)

Professional experience:

Former journalist of Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Former consultant of Boston Consulting Group

Former marketing director of various fashion brands such as Bally and Swarovski

Current position:

Head of Global Communications, Willy Bogner GmbH & Co. KGaA


Cristian Ivanes

(Live from Bucharest, Romania)

Professional experience:

Former journalist of Radio Romania

Former Fulbright visiting scholar of Western Illinois University

Current position:

Founder and manager of Radio Domeldo, a classical music radio station in Romania

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Niels Ivar Larsen

 (Live from Copenhagen, Denmark)

Professional experience:

Former journalist of various Danish newspapers and magazines

Current position:

Reporter, editor and editorialist at the Danish daily, Information, a leading Danish newspaper


Paul Harris

 (Live from New York, US)

Professional experience:

Former international correspondent in London (U.K.), Johannesburg (South Africa), Cape Town (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya), Basra (Iraq) and New York (United States) for various media outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuter, Daily Telegraph, The Observer and The Guardian

Former Senior Executive Editor, AL Jazeera America

Launched Guardian US, broke the Snowden story and won a Pulitzer Prize

Author of two novels, including The Secret Keeper and the Candidate

Current position:

Head of News, Devex                           




Frances Bulathsinghala

(Live from Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Professional experience:

Former journalist for various media organizations in Sri Lanka

Current position:

Visiting Lecturer in Mass Communication, Open University of Sri Lanka



Sarah Binchey

(Live from Dublin, Ireland)

Professional experience:

Former television producer

Former journalist for various newspapers and magazines

Current position:

Producer, RTÉ Radio One, Ireland’s NPR

Producer of two radio documentaries, Never No More: Maura Laverty Remembered and One Hundred Years of Names


Flemming Rose 

(Live from Copenhagen, Denmark)

Professional experience:

Former Moscow correspondent of a Danish newspaper

Former Washington, DC correspondent of a Danish newspaper

Former foreign affairs editor and culture editor of a Danish newspaper who published the controversial Muhammad cartoons in 2005

Author of several books, including The Tyranny of Silence

Current position:

Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC


Chelsea Huixia Sun

(Talked with my students via email)

Professional experience:

Xinhua News Agency reporter/editor

Toronto Star: Reporter

Caijing Magazine (with Hu Shuli as Editor-in-Chief) Business copy editor

Caixin Media (with Hu Shuli as Editor-in-chief): Energy/metals/mining reporter

Studied at Columbia University, New York, NY

Current position:

Assistant Vice President, Language Service Division, Toronto Branch of Credit Suisse AG, Switzerland’s second largest bank



Marina Koreneva

(Talked with my students via email)

Professional experience:

Former Radio Free Europe in Saint-Petersburg

Current position:

AFP (Agence France-Presse) journalist based in Saint Petersburg, Russia



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