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Miron Varouhakis

Reprinted from Spring 2010 InterCom
Visiting Assistant Professor Brings the Heart of Embedded Journalism to USC

By Mandi Sordelet, Student Writer

Fifteen minutes before Dr. Miron Varouhakis’ class begins, two men in army uniforms enter the room.

media briefingNormally, such a sight might imply some national emergency. But in this Media and the Military class, visiting soldiers are common.

When the clock strikes 1530 hours, the soldiers launch into a presentation about embedded journalism and the rules and regulations military reporters should follow. Dr. Varouhakis interjects a few times, offering examples and anecdotes from his own experience as an international correspondent.

Dr. Varouhakis is a visiting assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Before he came to USC, he covered stories about torture victims, international politics and security at the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece, the first after the September 11 attacks.

Although this is the first time the class was offered, Dr. Varouhakis saw a need for Media and the Military long before he arrived at USC. He noticed there were many embedded reporters who didn’t understand the dynamics of the military. “My goal was to create a course to familiarize future journalists with the culture and structure of the military,” he said.

Dr. Varouhakis wasn’t always interested in journalism. He harbored a passion for photography as he grew up in Greece. After high school, he attended a photography school where he befriended a photojournalist returning for a photography degree. Together they covered major events and political trials, which led to his enthusiasm for print journalism.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, he returned to Greece as a reporter for the Kathimerini-International Herald Tribune. By 2002, he was an international correspondent for The Associated Press in Athens. In 2005, he returned to Michigan State University to earn his doctorate in Media and Information Studies.

Although Dr. Varouhakis is dedicated to international and military journalism, he said his other passion is human rights. After reporting about torture victims, his research led to numerous articles and inspiration for his recently released book, Shadows of Heroes: The Journey of a Doctor and a Journalist in the Lives of Ordinary People Who Became Victims of Torture.

It features accounts of torture survivors from across the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, Europe and South and North America. The book includes excerpts from interviews he held with Dr. Maria Piniou-Kalli, former president of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims based in Copenhagen. From these testimonies, he analyzed recent torture trends, identified human rights groups that work in the area of torture and investigated the issue of asylum.

Varouhakis interviewIn Media and the Military, Dr. Varouhakis teaches the purpose of embedded journalists and the art of covering the military. He noted that writing about the military is a particularly complex beat.

“There is no similar course taught anywhere, so this is a unique opportunity for students,” said Dr. Varouhakis.

Chris Hudler, a fourth-year public relations major, said, “I think there’s nothing more valuable than practical experience. You can tell he has lived and experienced the stuff he is teaching and you feel you are learning something you will actually get to use.”

The students linger at the end of class, genuinely interested in what their professor has to offer. Whether they plan on international reporting, becoming embedded journalists or writing about the military, they know Dr. Varouhakis’ class is the best for following those dreams. After all, he is the J-school Military Man.

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