Uganda isn’t a popular vacation spot, but one North Central College student chose to spend his spring break there studying crisis journalism, such as civil war or catastrophes.
Ryan Piers, a North Central College junior, majors in broadcast communication. It took him nearly a year to plan his trip before he finally landed in Kampala, Uganda. He spent 11 days studying how journalists covered the 20 year war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government.
Piers says the most important thing he learned was the importance of humanitarian stories.
“You have to tell a story of the mom that found out her son dies, or the family whose house has been destroyed and what they’re going to do now. War–and just a crisis in general–is not just about the political implication,” said Piers.
Piers’ trip was fully funded by a grant from the college. The Richter Independent Study program was created to fund student research.
Piers’ project advisor says the assignment was something that hasn’t been done before.
“The kind of research he was proposing to do was something that even well-established media studies scholars don’t really do that often, because it’s so challenging and you need to actually travel over there to do it,” said Steve Macek, Associate Professor of Speech Communication at North Central College.
Piers’ mother was worried for her son’s safety in Kampala, but Ryan said this was the perfect time to make the trip.
“In Uganda, they have had peace in the last four years, since 2006, yet the crisis and the reporting strategies are still fresh in the journalists’ minds,” said Piers.
Piers hopes others will learn from his experiences, and be inspired to help improve the situation in Uganda.
“Because we learn about these other countries, maybe we can help them and they can help us,” said Piers.
For the time being, Piers must focus on writing his 20-page paper for the Richter program. He plans on using his research for his senior honors thesis on war reporting.
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