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My Year at the Cronkite School, in Review

Aleksandar Miladinovi

Aleksandar Miladinovi, a journalist at B92 TV in Serbia, participated in the Professional Development Year program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. During his time at the school, he attended classes, interfaced with students and professors, and immersed himself in the beyond-the-classroom learning opportunities that the Cronkite School offers.

I still cannot believe it has been nine months since my plane dropped me off in the desert – I feel as though I have been here just for a single week! But it is the busy life of a typical week at the Cronkite School that made my “Arizona dream” so perfect and memorable over the past academic year. That week goes something like this:

On Mondays, you simply must be awake when Aaron Brown tells you his tales of TV history. My mission to overcome his ugly war experience, when as a CNN reporter he was held in captivity by Serbian soldiers, has succeeded.

Later, Carol Schwalbe tries to scare you off with the workload, but she actually just makes me want to know more about online media and become an expert before everyone else in Serbia. The best way to relax after such a full day is to simply linger at the school for a Must See Monday night, where it is always possible to learn a new trick from visiting professionals. Equally unforgettable was a morning talk for students by Brian Williams the day he came to receive the Cronkite Award.

Tuesdays are almost poetic, because professor John Craft asks his students to do just one thing: to make their documentaries nothing more and nothing less than beautiful. The awards his students win every year demonstrate that he has succeeded once again.

If you are tired by Wednesday, Steve Doig will cheer you up with something I never would have expected to cheer a journalist – and that is, numbers. But he knows exactly how much, or how little, math we can handle, so I see why his nickname “Teddy Bear” has endured in the hallways of this great new building. In the evening, the best way to add new knowledge, multiply enjoyment and subtract boredom is to see a journalism movie in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum.

I spent my Thursdays with the best of the best; meeting Barrett Honors students showed me the whole potential of the generations to come. Their excellence invites inspiration – Dr Bill Silcock teaches these students about terrorism and the press. For Cronkite students, he offers a “writing to video” lesson that stays with them through their careers. And with the international visitors like me, he extends infinite welcome, patience and help.

Friday is the day that completes the Cronkite School experience: The discussions about ethics with Sharon Rosenhause showed me the importance of maintaining the utmost credibility and accountability. And if you wander the corridors, do not be surprised if you bump into the newest school member, the renowned Len Downie Jr.

I even hoped for another day in the week so that I could experience what the school has to offer on the business journalism and PR fronts. Or I could spend that sixth day in the supermodern newsroom of NewsWatch – the widely distributed student-produced newscast became one of my primary news sources in Phoenix.

But my weekends did not go to waste. I spent them traveling and learning about the country that embraced me for nine months. And I will never utter the word America in singular again – it will always be “Americas” because of all the differences that coexist.

The Cronkite School is unique in its leadership, and the dean’s team made my experience memorable. Not only do they run the best journalism school in the country, they also welcomed me with dinner and helped me get a light-rail pass.

Overall, my stay at the school taught me that days, weeks and months away from home do not melt just in the heat of the sun – it is the warm welcome and the great spirit of Walter Cronkite that will stay with me forever.

Aleksandar Miladinovi
Visiting Journalist at B92 TV, Serbia