Think spring break.
Not many students would think of a palace in Austria or eating lunch with the Princess of Jordan. But for Melissa Mancini and Barrett Limoges, that’s exactly what it was.
They attended the annual United Nations Alliance of Civilizations conference in Vienna to give a presentation for a project they worked on with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the European Journalism Centre. It analyzed the perception of immigration in news media.
A nomination for a data journalism project by a King’s class the year prior inspired Mancini and Limoge’s trip to Vienna. That’s when conversations began between faculty and administration, before instructor Fred Vallance-Jones got involved with this new project that later resulted in the students’ trip to Vienna.
Mancini, a Masters of Journalism student, and Limoges, a fourth year Bachelor of Journalism honours student, worked under the supervision of Vallance-Jones. The two examined about 70 articles relating to immigration from six different Canadian newspapers.
“We’re not really used to creating your own data, which is what we were doing,” Mancini said about the project.
“We would give (the article) a rating from one to five based on how positively or negatively it related to the UN Declaration of Human Rights … We had to assign that value which was different from the way data journalism normally works, where you get the information and you analyze it.”
They searched the articles for specific keywords, coded them, analyzed them, and placed them in the European Journalism Centre database. Students from the United States, Germany, France and the Netherlands also contributed information.
“This is the first very academic sort of thing that we had done, so the methodology was very different from the way I would sit down and prepare something journalistic,” Mancini said.
“To get that sort of academic experience from the project was really interesting for me.”
Mancini and Limoges, along with the other students involved in the project, gave a five-minute presentation on their findings at the conference.
“Leading up to this conference, neither Melissa or myself were really aware of the magnitude of this conference or what we were getting involved in.”
– Barrett Limoges, fourth year Bachelor of Journalism honours student, on the conference
“Neither Melissa or myself were really aware of the magnitude of this conference or what we were getting involved in,” Limoges said. “It really didn’t sink in until we arrived, I think.”
“I think even a bit the day before,” Mancini added.
“We knew it was a UN conference, so we knew it was probably going to be elaborate. But because our whole trip was planned for us … and because we were going to be talking there, we were kind of like ‘Ah, it can’t be that big of a deal’.
“Then we got there, and the first day we were in (Hofburg) Palace and Ban Ki-Moon was talking to a room full of not that many people – two, three hundred people maybe – and we were sitting there watching Ban Ki-Moon’s address. It was just really surreal.”
Limoges agreed. “Looking at the guest speakers list, and stepping into the palace, and definitely seeing this room alive with activity of people going here and there, and all the countries represented, all the different levels of government represented, NGOs, everyone you could imagine really,” he said.
“It just hit me that I don’t know when the next time will ever be when I am going to be in a situation with this many interesting people.”
The two met the anchor for Al-Jazeera after the opening ceremonies, and ate dinner with Serbian UN delegates and the foreign affairs minister of East Timor. Mancini and Limoges were the object of interest for an Oxford research group that came specifically to listen to the results of their project.
“I just think that it was an incredible opportunity,” Mancini said.
“To be so young and so inexperienced and to be in this environment where there were so many people who had done so many things and to learn so much from just talking to people over lunch or wherever we happened to be. And to meet all these international people – it was a once in a lifetime experience.”
In the future, Mancini and Limoges plan to publish an in-depth analysis of their findings in an academic journal with Vallance-Jones.
Date submitted: Mar. 7, 2013