From May 18-26 June, the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) and the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) ran an online COVID-19 Reporting training for 15 journalists across 15 different countries, including Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Brazil.
The training was open to alumni of the Professional Development programme previously delivered by TRF and IFAD. Through a series of online sessions, tutorials and presentations from guest speakers, the training focused on equipping journalists with the knowledge and skills to accurately cover the social, economic and environmental impacts of COVID-19. One participant reflects on his experience below.
By Paulo Beraldo, reporter for Estadão, a São Paulo-based daily in Brazil
There are significant challenges that come with reporting on COVID-19, a global pandemic that has reached every corner of the world and every aspect of people’s lives. Overnight, journalists had to reorganise and start producing content about a virus that health experts, governments and researchers were still scrambling to understand. There were - and there still are - many uncertainties. Regardless, worldwide lockdowns have forced us to quickly adapt to working from home, a totally unimaginable reality just a few months ago. Journalism is all about being out in the world and talking to people, making meaningful connections and finding new leads: now we must find and establish relationships with our sources from behind our computer screens.
COVID-19 is a continuously evolving story. As journalists, we need to constantly keep pace with new policies, guidelines and critical learnings that continue to unfold daily, whilst also identifying fact from fiction. It’s not easy. That’s why when I saw that the Thomson Reuters Foundation and IFAD were offering a six-week online COVID-19 Reporting programme, I knew it would be very helpful.
Back in 2018, I participated in a Professional Development programme that the two organisations hosted in Rome. It was the first time that I had entered a UN agency and interviewed officials of such a high-level, including IFAD’s President, Gilbert Houngbo. That training opened the door for me to report on topics such as food security, rural development and the Sustainable Development Goals, which don’t get the attention I believe they should in the press. I have since continued to report on these issues using the skills I gained during the training, and just a year later, I was the only Brazilian chosen for the Reham Al-Farrah Journalism Fellowship, organised by the UN in New York. I am sure both experiences are linked, and I am very grateful.
I decided to take part in the COVID-19 Reporting training because I believe that these programmes make us more capable of performing our work as journalists. We’re all in new territory with COVID-19, and so hearing from health officials and other journalists reporting from the frontlines of the crisis has been very helpful. As an international reporter, it was also great to be part of such a global cohort, with the other participants based in countries from Togo to Pakistan to Peru to Kenya. Discussing and listening to their questions, hearing their answers, and reading their stories was an awesome benchmark for me, and certainly one of the highlights.
On top of that, over the six weeks, we had the opportunity to connect and speak with a range of influential people, including: the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa Agnes Kalibata, IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo, Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist Ndaya Beltchika and IFAD’s Senior Technical Specialist Pedro de Vasconcelos.
I was able to use many of the interviews that we conducted during the training in stories I was writing at the time. Our discussions also gave me inspiration for articles that I am currently developing. I can safely say that several of these stories would not be possible, or would have been less complete, without the knowledge I gained from the programme - and, of course, the great mentoring I received from the trainers, Nick and Camila. One of the articles I produced was about how an IFAD project in Brazil is empowering women. I got to speak to three girls who shared their experiences on how the project has provided them with opportunities for personal and professional development. And that's what matters the most, right? Giving a voice to people through our stories.