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Journalist Alice Su discusses reporting on Middle Eastern refugees

The freelance writer led an on-campus presentation March 12, highlighting her work abroad that focuses on topics relating to refugees and the Middle East – specifically Lebanon and Jordan. The School of Communications and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting co-sponsored the lecture.

Journalist Alice Su speaks to an audience during her March 12 presentation at the School of Communications.

​To begin her March 12 presentation at Elon University’s School of Communications, journalist Alice Su put the topic of Middle Eastern refugees – specifically issues facing Jordan and its Syrian refugee population – into perspective with a simple comparison.

According to Su, the United Nations has registered more than 620,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan; the Middle Eastern government claims nearly twice that figure, but their estimates are often inflated. “It’s as if in America, we had the entire population of Canada come into the U.S. at once,” Su explained. “That’s the scale of comparison to the Jordanian population.”

Likewise, Lebanon, another country Su reports from, estimates it houses nearly 1.2 million Syrian refugees. “That means one out of every four people [in Lebanon] you meet is a Syrian refugee,” added Su.

These stark figures properly set the stage for the remainder of Su’s presentation, titled “Interim Lives: Refugee survival in Jordan and Lebanon,” held in the McEwen Communications Building. The School of Communications and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting co-sponsored the event as part of their Campus Consortium partnership. Photos from Su’s presentation are available.

Having reported extensively from the Middle East for the past year and a half, the 23-year-old Princeton University graduate has gained an international perspective that few individuals ever achieve. Her work, which is supported by the Pulitzer Center, focuses on everyday issues facing displaced populations, examining how refugee businessmen, mothers, students, artists and others forge an existence. Just sustaining a meager lifestyle can be challenging, Su explained, noting that family members are often displaced from one another and reside in poor, haphazard living conditions. Additionally, refugees are not legally allowed to work, so earning a living is difficult, if not impossible.

During her presentation, Su detailed the conditions under which she reports, as she opens lines of communication with individuals who often have no idea where their next meal will come from. The journalist attempts to uncover stories of how the refugees work to help themselves any way they can — because few others offer assistance.

Glenn Scott, associate professor of communications, commended Su for her global citizenship and her interest in bringing to light underreported stories. “We appreciate that Alice has decided that she wants to tell the world what’s going on in Jordan, and that their refugees do not remain invisible from us,” he said.

Prior to Su’s lecture, Eric Halperin ’15 (left) and Katherine Blunt ’15 detailed their work in the Pulitzer Center Student Fellows program.

​Su’s written works have printed internationally in publications such as The Guardian, The Atlantic, Wired and Al Jazeera, among other outlets. She has already established herself as a trusted news source. In 2014, she won the Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize from the United Nations Correspondents Association.

Prior to Su’s lecture, Katherine Blunt ’ 15 and Eric Halperin ’15 were recognized for their work in the Pulitzer Center Student Fellows program. In January 2015, the two School of Communications students traveled to Guatemala for six days to report on issues facing the Central American country and its population.

Blunt, a journalism and history double major, reported on Guatelmalan women using the Internet to sell and promote products. A broadcast journalism major, Halperin is putting the finishing touches on a video he created highlighting a contaminated lake in the country and the issues facing the indigenous communities surrounding its shorelines.

Tommy Kopetskie,
3/13/2015 10:40 AM