Professor Swibold teaches seminar in China

Professor Dennis Swibold and his students at the Shanghai International Studies University.

Photo: Dennis Swibold with his journalism seminar students from the Shanghai International Studies University in Shanghai, China.

Montana Journalism faculty member Dennis Swibold recently spent two weeks teaching a graduate journalism seminar at the Shanghai International Studies University in Shanghai, China.

His seminar focused on American politics, the press and the relationship between the two. Swibold started with the history of the press in the U.S. and how it has evolved. After the first week of answering questions about professional journalism and the role of the press in political coverage, he then dove into press coverage of the 2012 presidential election. 

“I took them through the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal so they could see the whole tradition of U.S. media of criticizing and questioning authority. They were fascinated by it,” Swibold said.

His class was also interested in seemingly mundane topics like how American journalists are allowed to cover courts and how Congress works. 

They were also interested in subjects such as race in American politics and covering controversial issues like Obamacare.

“Some of them knew quite a bit of the facts,” he said. “But they didn’t have a sense of how it all fit together and I think maybe I provided that.”

Swibold learned a lot about the Chinese government and press system while he was there, and notably the strict media laws. When he tried to show them a Frontline documentary, access was blocked, so one student was able to find the video on an unblocked British site.

“They are incredibly creative at getting what they really want but they don’t know what's out there,“ he said. Despite the limited press, Swibold stresses that the students are proud to be Chinese and proud of their government, saying their leaders can take action when necessary.

This summer, a dozen SISU students will come to UM in July. Swibold and professor emeritus Clem Work are teaching a month-long workshop on local-level American journalism. The program will also feature job-shadowing with Missoula journalists and side trips to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Swibold and the School of Journalism hope more student and faculty exchanges are in the future.

“I had wonderful experiences with the faculty at this school, and the students were just great. They were sending me emails after I left and I was only there for two weeks!”

- posted on 04/29/14 -