Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Cook County welcomes 10 journalists from around the world for a public forum

Mar 15, 2023 06:37AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Laura Durenberger-Grunow

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - March 14, 2023

The 58th group of journalists from the World Press Institute (WPI) fellowship program gathered on stage at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts on Monday, March 13 for a roundtable discussion. 

The event started with introductions - a chance for each journalist to share a little bit about themselves, their work, and their country. This was followed by a speed round question from event moderator and host Marja Erickson, Board President of the Cook County Historical Society. 

The question was directed to all 10 journalists and touched on the idea that many stories fall into the ‘24 news cycle’, but some last much longer. The journalists were asked to share what headline or topic was continuing to appear in their country, without any additional context.

Many of the journalists answered that their countries are currently going through the election process, so many headlines were around that topic. 

Alexander Uggla from Finland shared that the story that keeps coming up in his area is: ‘why aren’t we (Finland) a member of NATO yet’?

Tarek Kai, originally from Lebanon, but now a resident of France and a senior reporter for a news TV station in Paris, answered: “Why do French people insist on refusing to work more”, adding that extending the retirement age is being debated on a federal level, and residents aren’t happy about it. 

Climate change

The first audience question was about climate change; specifically how other countries perceive it. 

Many journalists shared that in their country, climate change is a big concern. Many of them, including those from Australia and Pakistan, shared their experience regarding the devastating environmental impacts their countries have faced due to the changing climate.

But it was Saquib Tanveer, a social media editor for a newspaper in Islamabad, that added more to the climate change perspective. 

Tanveer shared that as a country that has been impacted by climate change, residents are very concerned. However, Tanveer shared that taking action against the climate crisis is a luxury that lies with more privileged countries. 

In Pakistan, Tanveer added, they often have to rely on cheap goods and other resources as a developing country. Unfortunately, sometimes those cheaper goods and resources are also contributing to the climate crisis, but it’s all they have access to. 

He shared that people in his country (and others like it) are most affected by climate change, but are least likely to contribute to it. 

This point was emphasized as Uggla shared that the Nordic countries haven’t seen the devastating consequences and impacts that other countries have experienced. There is a portion of the population (generally aged 45 and younger) that is concerned about the climate crisis and is trying to make change.

Uggla mentioned that Finland has invested in a well-functioning recycling system, and that they are focusing heavily on green energy technology.  

Changes in journalism 

The next audience question was regarding changes in journalism - what have they seen? Where do they think things will go?

Most of the journalists that responded to the question mentioned developments in technology being one of the major changes in the last decade. But it was Fauziyya Tukur from Nigeria who had a lot to say on the topic. 

Tukur is a senior journalist for the BBC and focuses on investigating and researching disinformation. In response to the question, she specifically brought up the rise of artificial intelligence, and how it has the potential to replace journalists in the future. 

From the perspective of disinformation (or fake news), she shared that she doesn’t feel optimistic about it getting any better due to increases in technology. The reason, she shared, is that while there are tools that can identify and counter fake news, there is technology being developed to counter those tools (just as quickly or quicker). 

Tukur stressed the impact disinformation has is far, far beyond what the majority of people can imagine. This statement was echoed by some of the other journalists throughout the night. 

She finished her answer by recommending that people should question everything they see online. Later on in the evening, Danilo Alves Silva, who covers national news for Brazil, repeated that statement and added that this should include news stories too, because even the most ethical journalists and publications can get things wrong. 

The other theme that came from this question around change was the political polarization of not only citizens in a particular country, but also in journalism and publications.

Some of the journalists expressed that it can be difficult to get unbiased information when reporting on a story for a variety of reasons. Additionally, the information they do get can be complex, limited, and manipulated. 

In a quote from the World Press Institute, “some of the WPI 2023 fellows work in countries where to tell the truth and be accurate, unbiased, and fair requires taking a lot of risks.”

Piyumi Fonseka from Sri Lanka, who specializes in investigative reporting, talked about the rise of “celebrity journalists” or social media influencers who cover news stories - something that wasn’t seen a decade ago. 

This rise has raised ethical issues in regard to the type of information being shared (mostly sensitive data). Fonseka said that many of these people aren’t held (or don’t hold) the same ethical standards that journalists do. 

Lying politicians 

Another audience question raised the question of how each country handled lying politicians and the people who believe them. Most of the journalists were reluctant to share a lot on the topic, but the general theme was that most, if not all, of the countries, deal with lying politicians. 

One interesting comment on this topic came from Fonseka (Sri Lanka), who said that the media is partly to blame for keeping these politicians in the “spotlight”. Many publications will publish what these politicians say just to get “hits”, which only exasperates the problem. 

War in Ukraine

One of the last audience questions was regarding the war in Ukraine, and what the journalists had seen or experienced. 

Kai (France) has covered the Ukrainian War in person twice: once when the war first started, and the second time a month later. Kai’s demeanor changed as he answered that it is a tragedy that is likely not ending any time soon. 

Kai shared that the Ukraine War assignments caused the station he works for to implement mental health components for journalists when they returned to process what they experienced.

Milena Kirova, a political reporter from Bulgaria, shared that her country has accepted 80,000 Ukrainian refugees. She went on to add that the Bulgarian government has made sure that those that have entered the country are well taken care of; the people are working in Bulgarian businesses, and the kids are attending Bulgarian schools. 

Kirova echoed Kai in stating that the war is likely not going to end any time soon. 

Both Kai and Kirova shared stories about the people of Ukraine they had been in contact with or heard about. The overall theme of humanity quickly became the focus as the two journalists talked about the war. 

The WPI 2023 fellowship class will spend two months in the United States. On March 14, they head to Grand Portage for the day, before coming back to Grand Marais for a public potluck. They will be visiting other major cities across the country, farm country in Iowa, and then back to Minnesota. 

WPI fellows must have at least five years of professional experience in journalism, must be currently employed as journalists working outside the US, and must be fluent in oral and written English. 

To learn more about the World Press Institute, visit:


2023 WPI Fellows from left to right

Far left: Marja Erickson, event moderator and host, Board President of the Cook County Historical Society

#1: Alexander Uggla, Finland. Uggla has a background in television, radio, creating documentaries, and more. 

#2: Piyumi Fonseka, Sri Lanka. Fonseka does investigative reporting and is the first person from Sri Lanka in the program in over 20 years.

#3: Fauziyya Tukur, Nigeria. Tukur is a senior journalist for the BBC and focuses on investigating and researching disinformation. 

#4: Milena Kirova, Bulgaria. Kirova started in journalism at just 20 years old. She is now a political reporter for the Bulgarian National Television network. 

#5: Saquib Tanveer, Pakistan. Tanveer is a social media editor for a newspaper in Islamabad. 

#6: Julieta Nassau, Argentina. Nassau is a digital editor for a newspaper in Buenos Aires. 

#7: Tarek Kai, France. Originally from Lebanon, Kai is a senior reporter for a news TV station in Paris. Kai mentioned he covers a lot of international affairs.  He has a double major in journalism and classical music. 

#8: Feyza Gumusluoglu, Turkey. Gumusluoglu is a foreign news coordinator for a TV station in Istanbul. Gumusluoglu is the author of two books and has her own weekly television show. She mentioned she is the first journalist as part of the program since 2010.

#9: Bridget Rollason, Australia. Rollason is a political reporter for the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) in Australia. She mentioned that they are funded by the Australian government to create unbiased news. 

#10: Danilo Alves Silva, Brazil. Alves Silva covers national and international news; past ones include Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and the Pope’s resignation, He was also the first Brazilian journalist to interview then Presidental candidate John Kerry. 

#11: David McDonald - World Press Institute Executive Director. 

Related post: International Journalists Visit Grand Marais

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here