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Malagasy media relations

Part of my responsibility here is to provide media support necessary to help tell ACU’s story and publicize the Commencement ceremony Saturday. I brought 25 press kits that ACU PR director Lynne Bruton and her student employees helped assemble the day before we left Abilene. They include news releases and background information, photos of Malagasy graduates, a four-minute film about the Madagascar Presidential Scholars Program, and 2 other DVDs of ACU films, Throughout the World and The Mission (our Centennial film). All but two of the press kits, however, are in my missing luggage. Key contacts with media were made prior to our arrival by invaluable event planner Délicie Rasolofomanana and her assistant, one of our new Malagasy graduates, Moustafa Laza Assany (who goes by Assany). Assany took me and Ryan Britt to the nearby headquarters of Televiziona Malagasy (TVN), the state-run television network. At 8:30 a.m., we meet TVN director Volatihina Ranaivomanana, who is already familiar with ACU through DVDs of films we have sent him previously; projects I work on annually with Phillips Productions Inc. of Dallas (whose production director is alumnus Martin Perry). It is amazing to me that Volatihina is already familiar with several university administrators on this trip: president Dr. Royce Money, vice president Dr. Gary McCaleb and provost Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, through these films. Volatihina gives us a tour of the station, which is relatively new but spartan in its decor. Framed photos of Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana are the only wall hangings I see. TVN broadcasts to Madagascar and to all of Africa. Its three most popular programs are Teen Talk, music videos, and a fashion show for women. Teen Talk is the runaway favorite, a talk-show format with about 100 teens in a live audience who are entertained by musicians, participate in talk-back segments and are treated to the “Word of the Day,” a deliberate attempt to spread English fluency among the youngest Malagasy generation. Ravalomanana believes widespread adoption of English is one of the keys to his country’s continued growth and relevance in the 21st century. Volatihina invites us to return Wednesday morning for studio interviews with Tyson and an ACU Malagasy graduate to use on news broadcasts that evening and on Teen Talk that same night. Filming them in the morning will allow them to translate the interviews for English subtitles when aired later. TVN plans to cover the Commencement on Saturday, and Volatihina is genuinely excited about the opportunity. He speaks excellent English and we really enjoy visiting with him. Today, Tuesday, is a very busy day, with two scheduled excursions: the Croc Farm, where we also will eat lunch, and an orphanage where some of our Malagasy graduates are working this summer and where several ACU alumni are volunteering this summer on a medical mission. There are rumors our luggage may finally arrive late tonight, and the prospect is exhilarating!