By Khalid Khattak

“Yay, you made your first slideshow!” These words from Reuben Stern suddenly echoed in my mind when I recalled my recent trip to Columbia, Missouri for the Alfred Friendly Midterm Seminar

Futures’ Lab Editor at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, Mr. Reuben Stern excitedly said this to encourage me and the other fellows during his multimedia training sessions at University of Missouri. We combined audio and video and made (individually) our first slideshows ever!

The week long hands-on training program was part of the Alfred Friendly Fellowship which brought me to the United States this year. Being a journalist coming from a developing democracy, the feeling of being at the world’s first and, of course, one of the most prestigious journalism schools, giving me the chance to explore modern trends in journalism, was indeed more than the words ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ describe!

Personally, I love to take pictures and have been doing this quite often, especially since I bought my first-ever smart phone in Pakistan last year. But I had no idea of techniques involved – like establishing a shot and the many angles such as master shot; close up and extreme close-up. Of course all this is not possible with my Sony Ericsson txt pro camera. But, I think Reuben was right when he said “The best camera is the one in your hand!”

And yes, who can forget frequent field exercises during the training? In the wake of annual summer break, the university town of Columbia presented almost a deserted look. It was hard to find people and action in the Tiger town (Columbia). Tiger is the official mascot of the Mizzou and believe me, everything is “tigerish” there!  

Undoubtedly, the University of Missouri (Mizzou), experience was a great opportunity to explore and learn. Besides learning how to effectively and professionally handle a camera and a video camera, I learned what the future holds for journalism (if not for U.S. but certainly for Pakistan and many other countries): the data-driven journalist or simply data-journalism.

In my opinion, the most striking revelation during the mid-term seminar was the usefulness of Excel vis-à-vis data journalism. Prior to the Midterm Seminar, I had no idea how powerful this program could be.

Almost everything offered at Mizzou was new and unique:  the online resources available for journalists; the introduction to Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) while using spreadsheets; and the use of social network analysis to find connections and exposure. This is indeed going to help me and other fellows a lot in our future careers.

As new members of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) we can explore the treasures related to our field on their website!

The week in Columbia was also valuable on a personal level. I made two new friends from South Africa, the country I earlier knew only for iconic Nelson Mandela and the gold mines. Meeting Gerben (pronounced as Khairben) and Keabetswe (Kea) revealed that South Africa has diamonds too!