Projects by assistant professor Giovanna Dell'Orto explore the role of foreign correspondents in international relations and border journalism
With one book recently published, two books in the works and a summer session global seminar to plan and teach, assistant professor Giovanna Dell'Orto is having a busy year.
After a four-year process, "American Journalism and International Relations: Foreign Correspondence from the Early Republic to the Digital Era," was published in March 2013. The book, released by Cambridge University Press, is a history of U.S. foreign correspondence from the 1840s to the present and its interplay with major foreign policy trends. Dell'Orto examined more than 2,000 news articles and the coverage of 20 world events to document the evolution of foreign correspondence in America.
The book also includes a forward-thinking perspective about the troubled present and future of foreign correspondence. In this chapter, Dell'Orto interviews current foreign editors in news organizations around the world, from The New York Times to Al Jazeera. "I wanted to apply lessons of history to see what the future may be for foreign correspondence," Dell'Orto said. "I feel passionate about the need for people to learn about the world to make informed decisions."
The cover of the book features Associated Press reporter George Bria working by candlelight during a power outage in the AP's Rome Bureau in 1946. Bria is now 98 years old and is included in Dell'Orto's next book project, an oral history of AP foreign correspondents. The book, tentatively titled, "Bringing the World to America: An Oral History of Foreign Correspondence," spotlights reporters who have covered everything from World War II to the Arab Spring.
Dell'Orto received a Grant in Aid and a single semester leave for Spring 2013 to travel the world -- from Arizona to Morocco to Thailand -- to hear reporters' stories. "Talking to these reporters has been amazing," Dell'Orto said. "It's amazing to see the recall that these reporters have, some who have been retired for a number of years, and the passion that they have. These are clearly people who believe in what they were doing and the value of what they do."
Dell'Orto herself worked off and on at the Associated Press from 1999 to 2007, most recently covering immigration. For this project, she wanted to focus on the AP because in most scholarly work, other news outlets are the focus, despite the reach of the AP. "The AP really sets the agenda to inform the vast majority of the public," she said. "The AP isn't about the reporter, it's about the story. I needed to convey that."
For her third book project, Dell'Orto has secured a book contract for Routledge's series Studies in Global Information, Politics and Society. "Reporting at the Southern Borders: Journalism and Public Debates on Immigration in the U.S. and the EU" looks at how the practices of journalism help shape public debates over undocumented immigration. The book, slated for a fall 2013 release, stemmed from a grant Dell'Orto received from the University of Minnesota Center for German and European Studies to co-teach a graduate seminar about the topic with Georgia Tech political science professor Vicki Birchfield, who serves as co-editor of the book. The class inspired a conference in April 2012.
With the support of the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and 10 other departments throughout the University, Dell'Orto and Birchfield were able to invite reporters, human rights advocates and academic researchers from across the U.S. as well as France, Italy, Mexico and the U.K. to Minnesota so that scholars could interact with professionals, and vice versa. "It was great watching these two groups interact," Dell'Orto said. "It allowed scholars to interact with the professionals they were studying, and it allowed the professionals to see the bigger picture."
From this conference, the book was born: Every person who attended is contributing a chapter. "It's great to have this comparative perspective and to bring the dialogue to both the professionals and the scholars," Dell'Orto said.
To explore the topic further, Dell'Orto led nearly 15 students in May session 2013 on a study abroad global seminar to explore immigration issues in the Mediterranean, focusing on the borders of Spain and Morocco. "Students interviewed border patrol officers and Red Cross workers on the borders," she said. "It was very much a reporting trip." Issues regarding border immigration are similar across the globe, whether you're at the intersection of Europe and Africa or the United States and Mexico. And it's often foreign correspondents reporting at these borders and informing the world.
Dell'Orto hopes her research not only sheds light on the role of the Associated Press, but on the role of foreign correspondence in the media and global culture. "This is brand new research," she said. "I wanted to provide a new theory of the influence of international news on international relations and foreign policy." -Sarah Howard