In Latin America, environmental journalists aren’t just learning how to report on land use, water resources, biodiversity and other aspects of sustainable development in the region. They are also learning to improve their multimedia journalism techniques to enhance their stories.
The Digital Journalism Center of Guadalajara, Mexico, recently launched the course “Digital Tools for Reporting on Sustainable Development,” to help journalists use Google Maps, video, audio slideshows, databases and other multimedia tools in their reporting. Cell phones are also being taught as a tool for publishing and disseminating information in communities where Internet access is limited or unavailable.
The program is being sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was launched online on September 7. The in-person portion is taking place October 22 to 24.
IJNet recently spoke to James Breiner, Director of the Digital Journalism Center and Knight Fellow with the International Center for Journalists, about the course.
IJNet: What is the program’s goal?
JB: This particular course has as its goal the establishment of a database or databases of shared information on sustainable development issues. The goal is to provide opportunities for residents of communities affected by development to become involved in not only the consumption of information but the production of information.
What digital tools will Latin American journalists learn in this course?
The big demand for training among Latin American journalists is in how to produce multimedia stories, so we have a two-day session planned with trainer Renata Cabrales, who was online editor for El País in Cali, Colombia, and is now an independent consultant. She’s going to touch on video, producing slideshows with sound, and mapping, among other things. Participants will learn some of the fine points of creating maps with data, something they already did in the online portion to a limited extent. There will be training about the fine points of maximizing their use of blogging software (most are already blogging) and we will have an introduction to some of the new possibilities for collecting and publishing news on cell phones.
Our main methodology is blended learning, that is five or six weeks of training online followed by three or four days in Guadalajara in which participants do hands-on, practical applications of various digital tools for producing video, audio, online maps and graphics and so forth, everything to do with multimedia.
In addition we have a website with tutorials and digital tools and news about digital journalism, at www.centroperiodismodigital.org.
What do you hope for participants after the program?
They will be multimedia journalists rather than just journalists. Not experts in multimedia, but journalists with a multimedia mentality. They’ll have a few more arrows in their quiver when they tell a story. We hope that they will be much more conscious of how they can benefit from engaging the audience on a higher level. By that I mean that the audience can help them more in terms of alerting them to new possibilities and giving them tips and data.
What should journalists expect after graduating from this program?
First of all, we expect them to be collaborating on environmental journalism projects. They will have tools for creating mapped databases of information.
They can expect to have a level of comfort using some of the technologies they’ve been hearing about and that they will be equipped to get into the game of multimedia reporting. They can also expect that much of what they learned about in terms of specific technologies will be out of date in six months and that they will have to learn new tools. But they will be past the part where they’re frozen by fear and don’t know where to start.
Are you going to offer this course again in the future?
Absolutely. We were very pleased with the enthusiasm of the participants. The topics — environment, citizen participation, cell phone use in journalism, ethics — produced stimulating discussions and interesting project proposals.