UMass Amherst Journalism Faculty Member Stephen Simurda Wins Fulbright

AMHERST, Mass. - Stephen J. Simurda, a faculty member in the journalism department at the University of Massachusetts, has been named a Fulbright Scholar. Simurda will spend the upcoming fall semester teaching journalism at two universities in the Slovak Republic, part of the former Czechoslovakia. He will teach graduate courses at Academia Istropolitana Nova in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, and an undergraduate class at the University of Cyril and Methodus, which is located in Trnava, the oldest town in Slovakia. Both schools were founded in the late 1990s.

Simurda, who is part Slovak, said he feels a strong connection with the country, which he visited briefly in 1992, just as it was beginning to move away from decades of Communist rule. As a journalist, Simurda spent much of the late 1980s and early 1990s writing about the economic changes that came to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Thegraduate program at Academia Istropolitana Nova attracts journalists from throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Simurda said. This fall’s class will include 15 young journalists from eight nations. "This is the first generation of journalists entering the profession without a government-controlled press," noted Simurda. "They’re making an effort to try to form a free, open democratic press, so it’s very exciting to help teach them what a free press is, and how it works." The course will be particularly important, he says, because not only do the Eastern Europeans lack journalistic mentors, "they haven’t grown up reading the Boston Globe or the New York Times every day, so they aren’t necessarily familiar with seeing the free press on a day-to-day basis, including articles that openly criticize elected leaders, or are skeptical of the government’s stance on various issues. I’m curious to see how interested they are in doing hard-hitting journalism, or if there will be a reluctance to do stories that reflect negatively on their home countries."

Simurda has worked since 1986 as a freelance journalist, specializing in writing about the media, business and economics, racial issues, and New England. His work has appeared frequently in the Columbia Journalism Review, WorldBusiness, International Business, and the Boston Globe. His articles have also appeared in The Nation, The Washington Post, Lingua Franca, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. At UMass, he teaches courses in media criticism, magazine writing, and readings in 20th-century journalism. He began his career at the former Amherst Record, worked at the former Springfield Morning Union, and also for the Associated Press in San Francisco.

Stephen Simurda can be reached at 413/268-3131 or ssimurda@journ.umass.edu.