A reporting trip to Argentina results in stories inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s television work
By Craig Duff
Medill Journalism Professor
Every year, graduate journalism students at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University pause their regular studies for a mid-winter trip. In a program called Medill Explores, students spent a week in February visiting sites and networking in U.S. cities and practiced global reporting and experiential learning in locations like Tokyo, Johannesburg, San Juan and Buenos Aires.
When planning the Buenos Aires trip for our video journalism cohort, I wanted to find a way to jolt students into a more creative storytelling mode, to challenge them to think outside of the conventional broadcast reporting they were studying in their foundational courses. As I researched options, I re-watched the Buenos Aires episode of the Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown series on CNN. Bourdain’s death by his own hand last June was on the minds of many of us who were fans of his and the aesthetically rich series he hosted.
Parts Unknown found a way to discuss culture, politics and the reality on the ground by Bourdain breaking bread and chatting with real people at dinner tables around the globe. The writing had a unique voice; the production of the series was simply exquisite; the cinematography often evoked an auteur’s vision (for the Buenos Aires episode, the look and feel was an homage to visionary Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai’s “Happy Together,” most of which takes place in the Argentinian capital).
My co-instructor, photographer Sally Ryan, and I urged students to think cinematically as they reported, seeking the most interesting people who could help us see the issues confronting Porteños (as the people of Buenos Aires are called) in vivid and lively ways. Much like the producers at Zero Point Zero — the team behind every Bourdain series since his first, A Cook’s Tour, in the early 2000s — sought to do in each episode of Parts Unknown. (To see a video about our student’s efforts click the video player above.) Continue reading