Top adventures in media development

by Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 8 January 2015 13:49 GMT

In Nouakchott, Mauritanian journalists got to grips with taboo subjects such as rape and sexual harassment on an unprecedented “Reporting Women’s Stories” course.

Across Africa, reporters learned how to track illicit financial flows such as money laundering and tax evasion and put their knowledge to practical use.

In Hong Kong, journalists wrestled with questions of newsworthiness in a course on “Editorial Judgment” that put ethics and integrity at the heart of their news gathering.

These were just three of the journalism training activities undertaken over the past year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s media development team that has to date trained more than 11,000 local journalists in almost 120 countries and in seven languages.

But 2014 was also a year we focused on a more holistic approach to media development, seeing training as just one tool available to help raise journalistic standards, support independent media, and ensure fact-based, impartial reporting reaches the largest possible audience.

Other tools range from mentoring, project grants, and newsroom consultancies, through to the creation of independent news agencies in challenging environments.

Highlights from the past 12 months showcase our broader approach as we launch projects worldwide where needs are most acute.  Not included are the many achievements of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Visit their website for details of the institute’s stellar year.

1. Aswat Masriya - Accurate, impartial news in Egypt

Set up after the Egyptian revolution in 2011, Aswat Masriya has become the go-to news service for accurate, impartial coverage in an increasingly polarised environment.

In addition to a loyal online following, Aswat Masriya gets huge exposure as articles are republished daily by dozens of Egyptian media. Its reports are frequently quoted by international media including Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera, the Financial Times, the Guardian, NPR, the Huffington Post, USA Today, La Stampa, NRC Handelsblad and Foreign Policy magazine.

More than 300 journalists have been trained by the Foundation and many have gone on to write for Aswat Masriya through its long-term mentoring programme.

During this year’s presidential elections, the team had an exclusive on the budgets of the campaigns of candidates Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and another on factories that were coercing workers to vote.

We are now registering Aswat Masriya as a wholly owned Egyptian entity. As the service develops plans to become financially sustainable, the team is shifting the editorial focus to what economic issues mean for ordinary people, using infographics as storytelling tools.

2. Wealth of Nations – Investigating dirty money

In the second half of 2014 we launched the Wealth of Nations, an ambitious investigative journalism programme focused on "following the money" in Africa. The project recognises every nation has wealth, from oil and other extractives to tax revenues and intellectual property, but it asks why many countries are losing vast sums each year - and where it goes. The programme is funded by Norway's development agency Norad which is also supporting Wealth of Iraq, an initiative looking at oil reporting in Iraq.

Our goal is to train 150 journalists across Africa and work closely with 12 media outlets to deepen expertise in investigating illicit financial flows. Already we are seeing results from journalists who have taken part in our investigative reporting courses. Wade Williams, a journalist from Liberia, uncovered a corruption scandal involving Liberia's foreign embassy in Brussels.

This is a three-year programme in its early stages so watch this space.

3. The Source - Independent business news in Zimbabwe

The Source, our independent business and financial news service in Zimbabwe set up in partnership with the European Journalism Centre, has become a truly national news agency with freelance contributors trained across the country.

report by the Center for International Media Assistance singled out The Source as a case study in how business journalism can thrive “even under repressive regimes”.

“Zimbabwe is a country that needs (foreign direct investment),” Editor-in-Chief Nelson Banya told the report’s author. “Potential investors are looking for trustworthy information. The economy is now more important than politics. The players in the local economy are starved of economic data.”

Our challenge now is to make The Source profitable. That includes monetising content widely praised as impartial, accurate and timely. We’re also looking at ways to boost advertising revenues and provide business intelligence services to companies and investors inside and outside Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, its new website is sleeker, easier to navigate and can host multimedia.

4. Global Security Seminar

In partnership with The Stanley Foundation and Gerda Henkel Stiftung, the Foundation hosted a  three-day event bringing together world experts in global security with senior journalists from countries as diverse as Syria, Iraq, Turkey, the United States, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, India, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Headline topics included “Russia and the West – a new Cold War?”, “Our new, hotter world”, “Dirty bombs, dirty dealings and radicals with radiological sources”, “The Middle East in flames”, “States in crisis”, “Africa’s security challenges”, “Security for journalists in the field” and “Security, extremism and the media”.

“I really enjoyed listening to so many colleagues from different countries,” said Syed Nazakat, an Indian journalist who has covered conflicts in Kashmir, Nepal, Thailand, Afghanistan and South Sudan. “I gained perspectives, some story ideas and new friendships.”

Anyone is welcome to join our Reporting Global Security Facebook group, now open to the public.

5. Professional training for real journalism

Our aim is to provide training that results in stories, published either during workshops and linked to newsworthy events or afterwards through continued mentoring and, in some cases, with the help of project grants.

We’re already seeing results. Photojournalists from Central Asia produced stunning images on women’s rights during a course by veteran Reuters photographer Grigory Dukor in Almaty that have had wide exposure on social media. Participants on a “Reporting Oil” course in Bolivia have applied for grants to fund investigations that could hit front pages.

Meanwhile, we've introduced six 3,000-euro grants for cross-border investigations, available for alumni of one of our most successful programmes, Political and Economic Reporting for Journalists from Southeast Europe. Held in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, the programme involves bringing 16 journalists from the Balkan states plus Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey to London and Brussels for two weeks in May and Frankfurt and Berlin in September.

Finally, journalists attending our inaugural Reporting Trafficking and Slavery course had full access to the Foundation’s Trust Women Conference in London and produced a slew of stories. These were published by their own organisations and some on the Foundation’s website Feel free to join our Reporting Trafficking and Slavery Facebook group, now open to anyone.

6. Commercial training - Media, writing and communications

Our team contributed more money than ever to the Foundation’s philanthropic coffers, due mainly to the introduction of workshops on effective writing and communications for colleagues in  the many business divisions of Thomson Reuters. In 2014, we trained 1,330 people in 200 workshops in 24 cities including Moscow, Dubai, Bangalore, Madrid, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangalore, London, New York, Paris and Sydney.

Meanwhile, we continued to offer more traditional media training for external clients ranging from a course for 40 women MPs from different countries, funded by UN Women, to a course for one of the world’s newest and smallest governments, St Maarten, in the Caribbean. In partnership with the International Monetary Fund we delivered business journalism courses in countries including Fiji, Swaziland and Tunisia.  UNICEF funded a course in Kyrgyzstan on reporting on children in emergencies.

Funding from commercial activities help support the Foundation’s work so do get in touch if we can be of service.

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