College Students Cover The World Cup

World Cup 2010 is kicking off this week in South Africa and a group of twelve students from Florida A&M University is on hand to cover the month-long sports craze. Professor Joe Ritchie explains the intent behind the project and student journalist Anamarie Shreeves shares what she has discovered so far.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

On to a very different story involving young people today. Thousands of soccer fans and journalists and athletes are descending on South Africa for the month-long soccer tournament, the World Cup. The opening match is this Friday. South Africa hosts Mexico. Then Saturday, the U.S. plays one of the world's most dominant teams, England.

History, culture, the sport, a chance for South Africa to strut its stuff - what better place for Florida A&M journalism professor Joe Ritchie to take six of his student journalists for an extended reporting trip? Ritchie was a longtime foreign editor at the Washington Post and has himself covered three World Cups. So we've decided to catch up with Joe Ritchie and one of his student journalists, Anamarie Shreeves of Florida A&M, speaking to us from Johannesburg. Welcome to you both.

Professor JOE RITCHIE (Journalism, Florida A&M University): Thank you.

Ms. ANAMARIE SHREEVES (Student Journalist, Florida A&M University): Hello, thank you.

MARTIN: Now, I'm going to try to contain my jealousy that you're there and I'm here. But if you hear the green-eyed monster peaking out, you can just, you know, call me in check. So Joe, what gave you the idea to take the student journalists on this great adventure?

Prof. RITCHIE: Well, there are a couple of different things that played into it. One of things was, I had a student a few years ago who actually is on the trip. She was an undergraduate studying at Florida State, and we were talking about World Cup soccer - born overseas, and she was a big fan. And I had talked about my experience covering cups before.

And I'd also since then been looking at ways to get our students some international experience because it's one thing they really lack. Very few FAMU students ever get to go abroad for anything, let alone to work in an environment that's different, in a different culture.

MARTIN: So Anamarie, what about you? Were you a soccer fan? Have you ever covered soccer before making this trip?

Ms. SHREEVES: No. This is my first time covering soccer. So it's been a big learning experience for me in preparation for the trip, just learning about the game and the players and the different teams, and the difference between a club team and a national team. So it was a course in itself, I would say.

MARTIN: OK. Why did you want to go?

Ms. SHREEVES: I always wanted to study abroad, do some kind of international work, preferably on an internship. And I had a class with professor Ritchie in the fall, and I had stood up and told about myself and where I was from. And I said, I want to go to South Africa next summer. And he pulled me aside at the end of the class and he said, you know, I'm trying to get some students there next summer, so keep your ears open, basically.

And I - that's what I did. I kept my ears open and in January, he put out the applications and I applied. And I was lucky enough to get one of the six spots.

MARTIN: Well, what's been the best thing so far? What's been the hardest thing so far?

Ms. SHREEVES: The hardest thing was the trip. I traveled for three days - from Tallahassee to Tampa, from Tampa to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Jo'burg, from Jo'burg to Cape Town. And now we're back in Jo'burg, but that was the hardest part. I got over that very quickly because as soon as we landed, it was like, I'm here, wow. And it's still surreal to me, so I overcame the hardest part already.

MARTIN: OK, and what's been the best part?

Ms. SHREEVES: Meeting the people here. They're amazing. They're inviting. And I know a lot of people who say, oh, you're going overseas, so be careful and watch your stuff. Not to say that I'm not being mindful of those things but at the same time, they're so inviting, and they make you feel welcome and at home. And I'm about ready to move here, honestly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Let's not tell your parents that just yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHREEVES: Oh, I've already mentioned it. I've already mentioned it.

MARTIN: Joe Ritchie, tell me about some of the things that you did to help the students prepare for this trip.

Prof. RITCHIE: I gave them a reading list, and most of them have done most of the reading. I did not give them an exam, and I've been thinking about that. But they had to read Nelson Mandela's autobiography, "A Long Walk to Freedom"; a couple of things by Allister Sparks, who used to file excellent reports from the Washington Post, and he's got a book that I recommend to anyone - even though it's a little, slightly dated - a book he wrote before apartheid was over, called "The Mind of South Africa." And he had a couple of follow-up books, which I put on the list as well.

We watched "Invictus" to see the interplay between sports and society in South Africa. And even though it was about another sport that they knew nothing about, rugby, it told them a lot about South Africa, and I think it was an excellent depiction. So we did some of those kinds of preparations. We also put them in touch with some of their partners. Oh, I didn't mention that. We have...

MARTIN: I want to hear more about that in a minute. I'm just still sitting here, why didn't I have a professor like you when I was in college? I don't understand this. What happened? Where did I go wrong? But I understand that you...

Prof. RITCHIE: You didn't go to FAMU.

MARTIN: I know. I don't know. I messed that up. Joe, I understand that there were also six Chinese students reporting on World Cup in South Africa with you. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Prof. RITCHIE: Well, I was on sabbatical leave a year ago and spent a time in Hong Kong, and made a connection through someone at the University of Hong Kong -where I actually worked for a few months as a visiting professor - who also ran or runs a journalism program at a university at the mainland, Shantou University.

And we kind of got to thinking it would be real interesting to have some students from Shantou University work together with our students because they could interact and work together across their own cultural boundaries, and have a real cross-cultural experience in an unprecedented way. And I think it's working out. There's some interesting things going on, and you might want to ask Anamarie a little bit about that.

MARTIN: Well, I don't know, Anamarie, tell me.

Ms. SHREEVES: We're in a totally new country for both the Chinese partners and the American partners. And it's weird because we're trying to grasp onto the idea of what the South African culture is, but at the same time we're trying to figure out, what do you do here and what do we do here? Oh, we wake up and do this. Or this is what we eat for breakfast. So it's interesting. And then we go back and forth with phrases and different types of songs that we may listen to.

It's a big melting pot inside of the home that we're staying in because it's so much culture going on, and everybody's sharing their different experiences. So it's interesting. I'm still trying to get onto that as well.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Joe Ritchie, the Knight Chair in journalism at Florida A&M University. He and six of his students are on a month-long trip to South Africa covering South Africa and World Cup. Also with us is one of his students, Anamarie Shreeves.

Joe, I do want to ask you, though, as I've mentioned, you'd covered three previous World Cups over the course of your career. How is this one for you? What are you I know that they haven't sort of gotten into full swing.

Prof. RITCHIE: Well, this is special.

MARTIN: But tell me about it.

Prof. RITCHIE: Right. It's always been a special place for me. And when I first visited here back in 1996, I fell in love with the country. With all the issues that it still has that need to be resolved, with all of the problems, as Anamarie pointed out, the people here are fantastic, welcoming, open, and eager to make this country work. And I'm just fascinated by it.

But the fact that the world's greatest game, the world's most popular game is being played at the highest level for the first time on African soil, as an African-American teaching at a historically black university, there's a little special twist there for me, and I think for most of my students.

MARTIN: So finally, Joe, tell me what you have planned opening first official opening game, as we said, is June 11th. What do you have planned for coverage? Give us a scoop.

Prof. RITCHIE: We may - we never know; there are a couple of things pending - but we will be everyone will get to a couple of matches in the first round. We're going to flood the fan zone - who will give some of the color that surrounds a match. We will still be able to provide some very interesting things.Both universities have active websites up, which we're doing not only stories about soccer, about the World Cup, but we're also writing about the South African culture and life in general, politics.

We've been to Robben Island. We've met a few members of parliament, sat in on a parliament session. And we're going to be putting up a lot of great information, I think, about all of these things. And if we don't get to do blanket coverage of the first match, we will still have interesting things for people who come to our site to see.

MARTIN: Joe Ritchie is the Knight Chair in Journalism at Florida A&M University. Anamarie Shreeves is one of six students from the university who's part of a month-long trip covering World Cup, and they both joined us from Johannesburg. Thank you so much. Keep in touch.

Ms. SHREEVES: Thank you.

Prof. RITCHIE: We sure will.

MARTIN: To learn more about the Florida A&M class covering the World Cup and to follow their daily reports, go to FAMUstu.net. And remember, at TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. And now we'd like to hear from you. With World Cup kicking off this Friday in South Africa, where will you be watching the opening round games? Who are rooting for? Who are you rooting against? Or are you simply one of those many Americans just oblivious to the world's most widely watched sporting event?

Don't worry, we won't hold it against you. To tell us more, call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again, that's 202-842-3522. Or you can go to our Web site. Just go to the new NPR.org, click on the TELL ME MORE page, and blog it out.

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