Last week, my mentor Greg Victor and I sat at his desk and discussed on how to make the best out of the fellowship as I already had hopped a number of sections and wanted to enliven my stint which was bordering on boredom.
I suggested to him that I wanted to spend time at Art/Design, Photography and Wire/International sections. I also expressed my desire to learn some copy editing and watch the production of the newspaper. I am doing this hoping that the knowledge and experience when shared with my colleagues back home would be fruitful and enriching. We postponed the copy editing and production schedule for a week or may be after the mid-term seminar at Poynter.
On Wednesday, PG photographer Pam Panchak and I drove to Washington County through the thick Pittsburgh woods. She said she had two assignments to cover. We reached an elementary school where kids were going play with chicks as part of life cycle education. As Pam took pictures, I watched the kids' reaction (and wonder). I also got a chance to see how kids are taught in an elementary school. The teaching method and the environment are entirely different in Nepal. Here was a quiet school in the middle of woods. In Nepal, schools are located in the city area (partly because of easy access) and are chaotic and noisy.
The way the teacher treated the students gently is also a contrast to the schools back home where teachers are prone to beating students with a stick. In my school days, most teachers were (and I guess they still are) feared by the students because of their cruel teaching method coupled with punishment and fear psychosis. But the strictness often resulted on breaking the rules and indiscipline.
In US, more emphasis is given to slow natural learning whereas in Nepal the kids bear the brunt of piles of homeworks and the method is largely a parroting the text instead of understanding.
After a coffee break at a Starbucks, we headed to our second destination: Children's Therapy Center of Washington Hospital in Peters, PA. The hospital was organizing a pet therapy session for the kids with autism. Pam said: It's an animal day today. But to me it was also a children's day. Here's the link to the story (there's no byline, I wondered why). I was particularly impressed by Drue Tepper, an autism patient who seemed pretty good at caring and training animals. When his mom showed us the photos of his several excursions to zoos where he caught all sorts of animals, he reminded me of legendary crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.
Art Director Chris was waiting for me on Thursday morning. He was designing Forum, a Sunday section of opinion and ideas edited by Greg Victor. We talked about several issues on newspaper/magazine layout. Chris said that he favored simple and plain style of layout. His favorite magazines were The New Yorker and The Spectator. He disliked the way New York Times Sunday Magazine did it's layout. It puts a lot of emphasis on design and reduces the significance of the text, he said.
He said it's been PG's policy not to publish pictures of dead bodies in the newspaper. He said while designing the front page, he makes sure that there are at least six news pieces and one main photo in the page. According to him, the selection of one good picture in the front page adds to the beauty and focus of the most important page. Then, I spent the day talking to his colleagues at Art section. I was impressed that women comprise almost half of the section (FYI: PG's half of the staff are women). In Nepal, this sort of work is done mainly by men. I have never seen any woman designer in Nepal.