North Central College - Naperville, IL

Student Learns About Crisis Journalism From Front-line Reporters

Ryan Piers ’11 heard first-hand stories about the horrors of a 20-year civil war from journalists during his spring break trip to Kampala, Uganda, as part of his research project funded by a Richter Independent Study Fellowship. A broadcast communication major, Piers examined archived newspapers and asked international journalists and Ugandan reporters about their strategies for covering nonstop violence and how they continued to communicate what was happening so others would listen and relate to the issues of a long war.

“I got to sit across the table from reporters who covered the stories and hear their first-hand experiences. It was an amazing, mind-opening experience. They had seen unimaginable tragedies carried out by a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army,” he says. He used his interviews to analyze whether the reporters used “good crisis journalism” talked about in Susan D. Moeller’s book “Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death.”

Although Piers had traveled to Africa earlier as part of a North Central service trip, this experience was very different. “This was all research. And being in the city, I got to see the upper- and lower-class cultures trying to work together. The whole experience was very exciting and I was humbled that the Richter committee granted me this opportunity.”

Piers is presenting his research at the College’s 2010 Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research. He hopes to present his findings at academic conferences and for his senior honors thesis next year. Piers is active with WONC-FM 89.1, does freelance reporting and wants to pursue a career in sports broadcasting or reporting about world events.

North Central NOW Spring 2010