Robert Sisi Kayan, a priest from the Democratic Republic of Congo (diocese of Idiofa), is a visiting scholar in the University of Missouri. He is currently studiying sciences of communication in Rome, at the Holy Cross University. He's interested in the field of public opinion, which he's writing his doctorate thesis on.
1. STRANGE EYES ON THE WHITE COLLAR
My first experience in the MDN, a news bureau at the Missouri state Capitol, was fun and something I will never forget. In a Senate room, were two white collars standing in a corner, listening to the Senate debate in order to write a story for publication. What wonderful training and new experience in the communication field! The 'collars' presence seemed to be unusual. It was easy to guess the question from some of the Senate members: "These two guys, who are supposed to be closed in the sacristy or in the church saying Mass, why are they here in the Senate hall?" Most of the senators were amazed and surprised with our presence, although nobody would dare ask. Interestingly the Senate hearing was about dogs. I couldn't imagine, looking at my background, that the Senate could discuss animals for about three hours. Meanwhile, I had my answer ready, if the question would be asked clearly: "The current priest is not a prisoner in the sacristy. He has to join all the scope of human life so as to sanctify it. But also, he wants to share all kinds of positive experience with everybody, without considering their faith. The work in MDN is a good thing, so these two white collars are here to share and learn more for their professional life."
2. SURPRISE, SURPRISE ... THERE'S THE BELL
It has been said that "there's a time for everything. In fact, there is a time to begin, and there is also a time to end." Besides, the time flies. Days in the state Senate and House in Jefferson City have a particular speed. From 11 a.m to 6 p.m, I felt like it was just a second. Surprise, surprise, the bell rings. Here we are. It's time to say: Thank you, pardon, goodbye and good luck...
Sometimes - or very often - it's so difficult to evaluate an elapsed time inside any organization. But it seems to be also a duty. For 15 weeks, from January to June 2009, every Tuesday was for me a "Jefferson-City day." The religion and news reporting class I had to take in the first part of this day was parenthetic, since all my attention was focused on the MDN activities in Jefferson City. As soon as the lesson ended, Emily or Christine used to drive us to the Capitol, which we usually reached around 11:30 a.m. Sometimes we had to begin by sharing a lunch with Prof. Brooks and his wife. The goal of this practical class was to get an experience in reporting activities, especially in the field of institutional communication. In fact Missourian Digital News reports basically on the House and Senate activities. By participating in the hearing session and by giving interviews to some of the senators or some officials in the building organization and by making phone calls, the students can get information for radio, newspaper or digital stories they have to write. All these take place under the kind but severe control of Phill Brooks. To reach the goal mentioned above, I had to insert myself in the MDN organization, maybe without doing anything special. I had to listen to the entire process of reporting. Observation, curiosity (to what they were doing), reading their stories on the MDN Web site offered me different ways to learn the journalism job in an American context.
The social climate of this organization is very good. I appreciated very much how people in MDN are very kind, very respectful, very available, very aware of their responsibilities and job. I can remember how the students were very willing to give us a lift to Columbia at the end the day.