Students and professors at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala await the beginning of Juan’s presentation on digital tools for journalists

 By Juan Luis García | 

After the Alfred Friendly Press Partners Fellowship, I traveled to Guatemala to spend some weeks with my family.  What started as a visit to relatives also became an opportunity to share some of the lessons we learned at the Missouri School of Journalism.

One of the primary commitments of the program is to spread what we learned from and experienced with U.S. journalists. So I decided to direct my first effort toward students of the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, the only state college in the country.

I graduated there in 2013 from the School of Communication Sciences, an outlet with around 7,000 students. With about 90,000 students taught at the main campus, the institution has found it challenging to apply new technologies and update their subject matter in the fields of study. Journalism is not an exception.

As an alumnus, I reached out the director, Sergio Morataya. I was hoping to have the chance to speak with a group of students about digital tools for journalism, something we learned back in Missouri with Mark Horvit, a faculty member and former director of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Those lessons included explanations of reporting tools that help people use advanced search and deep web search techniques, use geolocation, visualize data and determine Twitter history and who’s behind a certain website.

Morataya gave me more than what I asked for; he offered to let me to speak in the auditorium of the school (Escuela de Ciencias de la Comunicación) and to get a conference organized. Signs publicizing the Oct. 5 event showed my name and title, Alfred Friendly Fellow.

Anyone who wanted to attend was invited to join the main group — journalism students in their final semester. (In this college system, students must study three years in journalism to get a technical degree and another two years in communication sciences to earn a bachelor’s degree.)

About 40 people attended the seminar — students as well as four professors, including the former head of the School of Communication Sciences, Gustavo Bracamonte.

I explained every tool and used local examples to show how they could apply them.  

The students were interested in what kind of things they could discover with these tools, especially how they could track people or information in social media, or how they could see their social interactions.

I genuinely believe the information will be as useful to them as it was for me. Some of the students are already in the media industry; some others have an immediate use through the school news outlet, ElSanCarlista.

I think it is still a big challenge for journalists in developing countries to understand the power of digital tools. Some of them don’t have full-time access to the internet, and some others work in newsrooms where the digital transition hasn’t taken place yet.

However, I reinforced what some professors have been trying to do, bringing students attention to the newest tools and how they can find them useful. Some of them asked me after the conference if they could get the presentation I prepared, so I shared it.

Two professors said they are going to use this presentation as part of the content they are trying to update for their students. I am especially excited because on one of them is Byron Garcia. He is the editor of the university newspaper, and I think the impact could be considerable if they apply these tools there. They chase University and national stories.

I believe this initiative was a success, and it will have benefits for future journalism students.  Also, teaching what I learned made me study the material again, which is great for me, too. Learning is a treasure people keep and pass along.

Note: Juan Luis García, a reporter from the Sin Embargo digital news in Mexico City, worked at the Miami Herald and Texas Tribune before graduating from the six-month fellowship program in September. He joined his 2018 classmates during their final week for work sessions to prepare and practice their lesson plans for colleagues back home.

Juan Luis Garcia is recognized along with other graduating Fellows at the gala in September at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7