Wetenschap - 9 november 1995

No news is not good news

No news is not good news

For most MSc students it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain accurate and recent information on what is happening in their home countries. The Global Village, if it exists at all, seems to consist of numerous unconnected sectors. Khalid Shah from India suggests that departments accommodating foreign students should subscribe to an international newspaper. I do not expect them to have an Indian newspaper but I guess that an international one in English must be feasible."


At home it is usually easy to keep up with the news. You wake up and read the morning paper, you listen to the radio, discuss events with friends or colleagues and in the evening you can watch television. Being abroad means that you have to find other ways to obtain news which is of importance to you, but where? Nowhere," replies Ibrahim Kahlil Conteh, from Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by internal armed conflict since 1990: Most of the news I receive is in letters from friends in Freetown. However, the reliability of the news is doubtful since most of it is just hearsay."

Professor Paul Richards at the Department of Technology and Agrarian Development is an extra source of information for Conteh since he travels to Sierra Leone once a year. Conteh explains that Richards used to be his professor in Sierra Leone. Conteh contacts Richards by E-mail every now and then and sometimes they meet in person. Conteh also uses E-mail for communicating with other people from Sierra Leone who are living and working all over the world. The network is called Leonenet. He suggests that other students should set up such networks as well. For international news Conteh reads English newspapers in the public library. Babes Fernando from the Philippines is equally worried about what is happening back home. Last week the northern island Luzon was hit by the strongest typhoon in the history of the Philippines, resulting in severe floods, at least 300 casualties, over 200,000 displaced persons and an enormous amount of damage. There was only a short news item about the
disaster on CNN. She managed to read a few articles in newspapers at the International Agricultural Centre, but coverage was not very extensive. Fernando goes on: It is very frustrating and upsetting not being able to find out more about it."

Mururoa

Greg Leach from Australia admits that he has not really pursued all possibilities for obtaining news from Australia. He continues, I am missing it greatly though. My wife is now in the United Kingdom and she sends me Australian newspapers once in a while." Most of all Leach misses the news about Australian politics and the Australian perspective on general global news. Leach takes the case of the French nuclear tests on Mururoa: I have read and heard news about Mururoa here, but I find it distorted in a way. The subject is covered from a very different political point of view in Australia." He explains that television, the BBC for instance, does not show Australian news items. He does use Internet for communication but not for getting news, although thinks that it might be worth trying.

Khalid Shah, from India, does not use Internet either. He puts this down to the fact that Internet is only available through the departments and when you have to work you can not search on the net for possible news and read it in a relaxed way. Together with three other fellow students from India Shah shares a news magazine from India to which one of them subscribes. Taking out a subscription to an English newspaper as well as a Dutch paper would be too costly in a student corridor, but Shah believes that it would be possible if there were more international students in one wing.

Angelica Saez from Spain does not experience any of these problems. Having lived in the Netherlands for three years already she has become more interested in Dutch news. Besides," she continues, Spanish newspapers like El Pais are easily available and I also read The European." Although Saez is not yet confident about speaking Dutch she is well able to understand it.

Reading room

Several foreign newspapers are available in the reading room of the public library in Wageningen: Al Arab, the International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, El Pais and the Frankfurter Algemeine, as well as international magazines like Time and The Economist. Foreign newspapers are also available at the International Agricultural Centre. The central university library, Jan Kopshuis offers the Times, Le Monde and El Pais. According to Gert Spikman of the documentation and information section of the university library the papers are mainly read by students who have to wait for books they have ordered at the counter. He says that students do not come to the library specifically to read the paper. Furthermore, Spikman believes that the public library is by far the most suitable place to provide these services and is already doing so. Spikman relates, We used to have the so-called Studium Generale collection in order to offer more general material to students, but, since the publ
ic library has an outstanding collection of not only newspapers and magazines but also novels in different languages, we plan to gradually phase out this collection." He explains that the foreign newspapers will remain, and every so often the subscription will be changed.

At present Sound Session, the shop selling compact discs and magazines in the Hoogstraat, is the only place in town where foreign newspapers are sold. I take about 90 guilders a day, which means I sell about 30 newspapers," the vendor indicates. Besides the papers already mentioned they sell other European papers, some East European and Turkish papers, two Arabic papers and a Chinese one. Also available here is the Guardian Weekly, which brings together main news items from the Guardian, the Washington Post and Le Monde in a weekly English edition.

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