Poynter to host African journalists turned away from USF St. Petersburg
The Poynter Institute will host a group of Edward R. Murrow journalists from African countries whose visit to the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg was canceled because of concerns about spread of the Ebola virus, Poynter president Tim Franklin announced today.
In an impromptu meeting, Franklin told Poynter staff that the decision to host the journalists — who are not from Ebola-affected countries — is rooted in the best traditions of the institute.
“Poynter has a long history and tradition of inclusion, it has a long history of training journalists, both here and abroad, and I think in that spirit, it’s something we can and should do at Poynter,” Franklin said.
The journalists were scheduled to visit USF St. Petersburg for five days starting Oct. 31 as part of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, which brings 100 international journalists to the United States annually. University administrators canceled that visit, citing "concerns about transmission of Ebola virus"
The university's decision to cancel the program Friday was motivated by worries from faculty, students and staff, said Jessica Blais, director of communications for the university and former director of marketing for the Poynter Institute.
“One of the things we’ve emphasized to people over the last couple of days is that given concerns of faculty, students and staff, we really did not feel confident that we could present the program in the excellent form that we’ve provided in the past,” Blais said.
On Monday, a few days after USF St. Petersburg finalized its decision not to host the event, World Partnerships Inc., a not-for-profit state department grantee that handles logistics and travel arrangements for the Murrow Program, reached out to Poynter and asked whether the institute would consider hosting the program. On Tuesday afternoon, the institute agreed to host the journalists for three days, starting Oct. 31 and continuing to Nov. 4.
Although the not-for-profit got fairly short notice to find a host for the journalists, it's used to adapting on the fly, said Gary Springer, president of World Partnerships Inc. The company often has to accommodate travel plans for many such international trips at once.
“We run programs and groups through here almost every week," Springer said.
The list of journalists visiting St. Petersburg has been altered slightly since the university's cancellation Friday. On Monday, the U.S. Department of State decided two journalists — from Liberia and Sierra Leone — would have their trip placed on hold because they come from areas affected by the outbreak, said Nathan Arnold, a spokesperson from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
When news of the university's cancellation was made public Monday, several people from Poynter suggested that the institute host the Murrow group, said Kelly McBride, vice president of academic programs at the institute.
“It seemed like the right thing to do, and I was really proud that people wanted to step up and do this,” McBride said.