At News Decoder everything we do is designed to foster global awareness and make us all better global citizens. Problems cross borders. The solutions connect us.

We can all be better global citizens by seeing what is happening around us in relation to what happens elsewhere in the world.

At News Decoder, we try to foster global awareness through the lens of journalism because journalism is about telling other people’s stories and understanding our own problems by connecting with others who experience similar problems.

We do this in our student story pitching process, through student-led cross-border webinars and special projects such as the Writing’s on the Wall project and through stories we publish by students and professional correspondents.

“Sometimes as a journalist, I feel like I’m a bit like a diplomat,” said News Decoder Correspondent Helen Womack. “I’m building bridges between cultures. When I was working in Russia, I was helping Western readers to understand Russia. I was helping Russian readers to understand the West.”

Womack said that in a conversation with student Clover Choi from School Year Abroad France. The two discussed the journalism profession and stories they each had published on News Decoder about Ukrainian refugees.

It is the first in a new series called ‘Parallel (By)Lines’ which brings a student and correspondent together in a one-on-one discussion around a topic in which they have a shared interest. We present this conversation to you as part of our Stories Without Borders birthday celebration and giving campaign

You can view the discussion in the video above.

The conversation between Helen and Clover is just one example of how we introduce students to the idea of cross-border connections. Let’s look at some of the other ways we encouraged students to see people, places and events through a global lens during this past year.

Global connections in story pitches

At News Decoder, we walk students through our signature Pitch, Report, Draft and Revise process. It begins when students pitch us story ideas and our feedback helps them figure out who to talk to and what research they need to do.

  • When a student in Switzerland pitched a story about the popularity of Barbie, in advance of the live action movie coming out later in the year, we suggested seeing if Barbie was as popular outside the United States and Europe. It turns out Barbie is one of the most popular toys worldwide.
  • When a student in the United States pitched a story about declining college enrolment, we pointed him to a UNESCO report that seemed to show how the United States is an outlier — in other countries college enrolment is increasing.

Stories by student and professional journalists across borders

When student Aiden Huber from the Tatnall School in the U.S. state of Delaware researched food deserts in the United States — where supermarkets serve wealthy neighborhoods but stay out of poor areas — he discovered similar problems in Namibia, South Africa, Ghana and Tanzania.

In Switzerland, meanwhile, student Luis Eberl reported what Switzerland is doing to shore up decreasing snow levels in the Alps, but connected that to the problems the United States is having in its mountain communities.

Among our correspondents, Susanne Courtney explained how the World Bank is trying to target its lending to help developing nations stave off climate change, while Jonathan Thatcher explained how banks are steering Indonesia away from coal and Richard Huber wrote how Australia has realized that money spent on climate change projects helps the countries economy.

And student Keya Dutt at School Year Abroad Italy wrote about the struggles of an Afghan woman who had to flee to Italy out of fear she’d be targeted by the Taliban, while our correspondent Rafiullah Nikzad wrote about how he had to flee Afghanistan to Kosovo as a journalist to escape the Taliban.

Student-led webinars literally crossed borders.

Students from the African Leadership Academy in South Africa and The Hewitt School in the United States delved into the world of healthcare access in their respective countries, exploring subtopics such as period poverty, abortion rights and rural/urban inequalities. Other webinars tackled a variety of important issues:

  • Students from School Year Abroad in France, Italy and Spain discussed the environmental, economic and social impacts of the war in Ukraine.
  • Students from SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College in Ghana and Miss Porter’s School in the United States discussed student mental health.
  • Students from Realgymnasium Rämibühl Zürich in Switzerland and The Tatnall School in the United States discussed human trafficking in Europe and the United States.
  • Students from the Climate Academy at The European School Brussels II in Belgium and The Thacher School in the United States discussed planetary limits and climate change.

We challenged students to find climate heroes across the globe.

News Decoder partnered with the nonprofit Global Youth & News Media — as part of an Erasmus+ climate change project called the Writing’s on the Wall — to launch a  storytelling contest that challenged teens across the globe to find and profile people fighting climate change.

They rose to the challenge submitting stories that focused on such topics as the conservation of forests in Romania, slow fashion in Slovenia and the recycling of used cooking oil for biodiesel and agricultural waste to make cutlery in India. Then in the United States, stories focused on scientists trying to create fusion energy in their lab and an organization that helps people quantify their carbon savings.

You can help us expand our programs so that we can help more students in more countries better understand their place in the world so that they can be part of tomorrow’s solutions.

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Marcy Burstiner is the Educational News Director for News Decoder. She is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School and has taught journalism for more than 15 years at the California Polytechnic University, Humboldt. She is the author of the book Investigative Reporting: From premise to publication

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