|Map of South Africa showing Limpopo province in red (Wikipedia Maps)|
|Scott Schmidley in front of "The Big Tree." The tree, located in northern South Africa's Venda Region, is the world's largest Baobab tree.|
This past semester, Assistant Professor of Journalism John Hatcher hosted two South African journalists, Anton van Zyl and Zaidi Khumalo. Van Zyl offered the opportunity for students to intern in South Africa for a summer.
Scott Schmidley, a senior majoring in writing studies and economics, was interested in this internship and was selected by van Zyl. He is now a participant observer at Zoutnet Group, with the Limpopo Mirror newspaper in Louis Trichardt, a town located in the Limpopo province in South Africa.
The Limpopo Mirror focuses on community journalism for the region and is printed in English. Another publication published by Zoutnet Group, the Zoutpansberger, is printed in Afrikaans.
“I am at the Limpopo Mirror as a writer, general reporter, and photographer. I’ll be reporting on whatever they ask me to as long as it is local,” Schmidley said.
Schmidley is staying in Louis Trichardt. He left on May 27 and will return on August 3. “It’s really exciting to explore another culture and see how journalism is practiced outside of Duluth. It’s fascinating to see how people live outside the U.S.,” Schmidley said.
To help pay for the trip, Schmidley used private loans and the Steven R. Fox Journalism Scholarship. In order to enhance his experience, Schmidley decided to apply for an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) grant. UMD’s UROP program is available for all undergraduate students.
“I’m really grateful for UMD’s UROP program. It gives undergraduates the opportunity to research and explore something you wouldn’t have been able to do,” Schmidley said. “I think students don’t utilize it as much as they could. I hope more students use it in the future.”
Schmidley’s research will focus on the community’s response to South African journalism, including articles that he writes for the Limpopo Mirror.
“Journalism creates a hub for community welfare, providing a place for members to gather information on issues pertinent to life within the community. The world over, journalists tell communities the local stories of neighbors, governments, and businesses, and every country does it differently,” Schmidley said. “I’m interested in finding out how differently South Africa does it.”
All of Schmidley's experiences will be captured in his electronic journal. "Everyday I will write about my experiences in South Africa and also about how the journalistic work I do affects people," Schmidley said. "I'll be writing as a way to keep field notes and, ultimately, be able to compile that into a research project that I can present to the journalism department."
Schmidley is excited about the 2010 FIFA World Cup that takes place in nine South African cities from June 11 to July 11. His research will show how a small community news venue can cover a large event such as the World Cup. As an avid outdoorsman, Schmidley plans to travel to Kruger National Park. He also hopes to visit Cape Town, South Africa.
"I'm really impressed by how welcoming the South Africans are. I've had so much fun learning from them already that I don't think I'll want to come home."
Written by Donna O'Neill and Mandee Kuglin
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