Professor and Students Prepare for Journalism Conference in South Africa


The 10th Global Investigative Journalism Conference will have a Laker flair this year: Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism Jeff Kelly Lowenstein will be accompanied to the prestigious event with two Multimedia Journalism majors.

Kelly Lowenstein is taking seniors McKenna Peariso and Eric Deyo to the event, which is being held November 16 to 19 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“The Global Investigative Journalism Conference brings together close to one thousand of the world’s top investigative journalists, many of whom do impactful work while operating in dangerous reporting environments,” Lowenstein explained. “It’s a humbling and inspiring experience to meet and learn from them.”

Such a busy and well-attended event requires significant preparation, which Peariso and Deyo are learning firsthand. “We have been trying to establish a loose schedule of what seminars we want to attend each day,” Peariso said. “We are hoping to not overlap too much so we can cover as much ground as possible.”

Peariso and Deyo are meeting with Professor Kelly Lowenstein each Wednesday to learn about attendees and plan their trip.

Exploring the conference’s website, Deyo came across a participant with an intriguing story. “I eventually came across a woman by the name of Giannina Segnini, who has a remarkable reputation—including taking down two presidents through her investigative reporting,” he said. “To my luck, Professor Lowenstein is actually familiar with her, and knows her personally. So he was able to put me in touch with her via email, and I have been in correspondence with her since then. I plan to meet her and talk to her at the conference.”

Peariso’s goal is to aim each day toward specific sessions. “I am focusing more on the topics I would like to cover someday such as investigating LGBTQ issues, covering mafias and mobs, disaster reporting, and environmental crime reporting,” she explained.

The pair are not only planning to take in the conference, but to document the experience from a journalistic perspective, as well. “Eric and I are also looking into how we plan to cover the event, specifically how we are getting equipment to South Africa,” Peariso said.

Deyo recommended that the students stream their experiences via a Facebook Live video feed. “I proposed the idea to Professor Lowenstein that McKenna and I could livestream some of the event, and assign the students in Lowenstein’s classes to watch and possibly interact with us while we are there,” Deyo explained. “He thought that sounded like a great idea, and I believe we are going to do that on the Thursday we are there.”

Deyo is also interested in reporting from the conference for one of the Multimedia Journalism major’s many student media outlets, including Laker News, GVTV, the Lanthorn, and the newest addition to the roster, WGVU’s West Side Stories.

When Kelly Lowenstein asked interested Multimedia Journalism students to apply for the conference, he received a competitive group of applicants, from which he selected Deyo and Peariso.

Assistant Professor Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

“The excellent response we had from CMJ students to this opportunity speaks highly of their hunger to learn from the world’s best investigative journalists,” said Kelly Lowenstein.

Kelly Lowenstein reserved specific thanks to College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Frederick Antczak, interim School of Communications unit head Jonathan Hodge and Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Suzan Mendoza for supporting Multimedia Journalism students’ attendance at the conference, which he noted is the first to ever take place in Africa.

“I’m confident that McKenna and Eric will be fine representatives of our community. My goal is that Grand Valley students present at the next conference in 2019.”

Peariso and Deyo are both excited for the trip, and are balancing their preparation with their regular coursework. They are most eager to share what they learn with their peers.

“At the end of the day we are hoping we can come back with as much information as possible to share with the rest of the department,” Peariso said.

“Words could not begin to express how incredibly excited I am for this once in a lifetime opportunity,” Deyo said. “I’m eager to share my overall experience with everyone when I return.”

The 10th Global Investigative Journalism Conference is convened by the Global Investigative Journalism Network and Wits Journalism.