Laura Schneider, German Doctoral Student and Journalist.

German Doctoral Student, Journalist, Spends Month as Visiting Scholar

Laura Schneider, a doctoral student from the University of Hamburg, completed a four-week visit to the Cox International Center at the University of Georgia in late April where she worked on her dissertation research and on a collaborative research project on discrepancies in press freedom indicators.

Schneider, who did research for her master’s thesis on press freedom in Mexico, fielded an online survey on expert opinions on the ideal components of a media freedom index during her stay at Georgia.

She also worked with Drs. Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad on differences in how Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders rate media systems around the world.

Freedom House, based on New York, and Reporters Without Borders, have competing annual evaluations of press freedom around the world. Earlier research by Drs. Becker and Vlad has shown that the two reach largely similar conclusions about the individual countries they rate.

The researchers found, however, that the two NGOs use their scales differently, with Reporters Without Borders rating countries more favorably than Freedom House. And the way the two countries spread the scores across their indices is different.

The trio plans to present the findings of their research, still in the preliminary stage, to the international conference Media and the Public Sphere, to be held in Lyon, France, July 2 and 3, 2012.

The Cox Center is partnering with the Institute of Communication, Lyon, France, and with the Center for Communication Studies, Bucharest, Romania, in organizing that conference.

Dr. Becker is director and Dr. Vlad is associate director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Schneider is working on her doctorate at the Graduate School, Media and Communication, Department of Journalism and Communication Science, University of Hamburg.

During her month-long stay as a visiting scholar in the Cox Center, Schneider met with other graduate students at the University of Georgia. She also gave an interview to an undergraduate class taught by Dr. Becker on news reporting and writing.

Schneider talked with those students about her research in Mexico, explaining that one of the big differences she observed between journalists in her home country of Germany and journalists in Mexico had to do with competition.

German journalists always want to be first to tell a story, she told the students, while Mexican journalists do not.

The reason is simple. Mexican journalists fear for their lives, particularly when they write about drug violence.

“There was one story where about 30 people were killed yet nobody wanted to cover the story because they felt unsafe,” she said.

Schneider works as a freelance journalist while doing her doctoral research, including for Spiegel online.

When she left the Cox Center on April 20, she was heading back to Mexico for more research on the work of journalists there.