Mundus teacher and alumna wins prestigious award

Paulette Desormeaux Parra, Mundus Journalism 2008-2010 cohort, has been recognised for her excellence in teaching journalism at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile - our South American exchange partner university. Congratulations Paulette! Here, she tells us a bit more about the award, what she teaches, and what kind of reporting projects her journalism students have been doing.

2018.04.19 | Hannah Spyksma

The award I won is called "Premio de Reconocimiento a la Excelencia Docente", so something like "Award of Recognition for Excellence in Teaching". At Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC) we are over 3500 teachers and they gave this award to 22 of us, so I feel really honoured.

I was the only journalism teacher to be awarded, and the only woman in my category (which is called "Initiation" - teachers that have been hired for less than 5 years). The winners are chosen by representatives of students, professors and authorities from UC.

In my case what they value the most is my commitment with my students, my innovative teaching methodology, my professional experience beyond university that I bring into the classroom, and the passion for investigative journalism I communicate to my students.

Many of them fall in love with journalism when they take my class, and realize how far they can go if they work hard, apply the investigative methodology that I teach them, and stay focused on the public service that journalism is about.

Basically, I created an innovative method that has proved to be consistently successful at teaching investigative journalism. 

With a practical approach to knowledge and learning, it has enabled students to systematically produce relevant investigative journalism stories, focusing on data, access to open sources and Freedom of Information Act requests. 

Since 2014 my students have won all the awards that are given in the country for excellence in journalism at the undergrad level. 

The stories they have produced and published as an outcome of this teaching method include the sterilization in public hospitals of women with mental disabilities, the misuse of public funds by parliamentarians, the illegal working conditions of inmates employed by private companies, among others.

I created this course  in 2013. It is called Advanced Journalism Workshop  and they learn how to do investigative journalism. I started with 4 students and two years later I had over 40 wanting to enroll and it became key before graduation. This semester I have 65 students taking the course, that now is divided in print press, audiovisual format and data journalism. 

Last year I also created a course on Transnational Investigative Journalism, in which my students investigate topics of public relevance that affect Chile and Perú, along with Peruvian students. When I started thinking of good partners to work with in this project, it was clear to me that I had to do it with my friend and former classmate at Mundus, Hildegard Willer, who teaches at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú, in Lima. 

I have also trained reporters on investigative journalism methodology and data journalism in newsrooms in Chile, Paraguay and Cuba, and I cofounded and preside "Red de Periodistas Chile", a network of journalists that focuses on promoting freedom of expression, access to public information and investigative journalism in the country.

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(Image: supplied)

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