A mountain is going to the provinces

Oct 292010

PANAMA -- Journalists working from the Panama provinces are not quite fortunate in regard to training: they live and work to far away from the country's capital and don’t have the same opportunities to take seminars and workshops usually available for their colleagues in Panama City.

Reporters and editors working in the provinces are usually non-staffers, working as free-lancer correspondents for the main newspaper, national TV and radio companies; Unless they are willing to travel to Panama on their own to attend the workshops, they rarely receive training.

In some instances the media companies organize journalism training programs for their correspondents in the provinces, but these journalists say the programs are not systematic and were suspended at one point. These are the main reasons why Flor Ortega, executive director of the Forum of Journalists, and I as an ICFJ Fellow decided to create a training program for the provincial journalists. The plan is to hold workshops in Chiriquí, Chitré and Colón to offer the program to all the correspondents working for our media partners in the Panama provinces.

The topics to be discussed are Journalism Ethics, How to Bulletproof Investigative Stories and How to Produce Investigative Stories while Covering Daily Assignments.

With funds from the U.S. Embassy in Panama, we organized the first workshop in David city, in the Chiriqui province, at the Panama border with Costa Rica. We invited all the correspondents working for La Prensa, La Estrella, Panama America, TVN and Medcom Corporation.

More than 30 journalists from Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro attended the workshop on October 16. They invited us to participate in a TV News Show to speak about Mi Panama Transparente, our project to train journalists to use an on-line digital map to track crime and corruption.

We were joined by Cecilia Fonseca, an editor for La Prensa, who has been trained as a trainer as a part for Mi Panama Transparente training program.

The Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro journalists were entering and exiting the room constantly because they were covering news at the same time.

It is possible that we didn’t resolve the isolation experienced by journalists working in the provinces, but at least we were able to create a system to train trainers and the take the trainers to the provinces. It means to have Panamanian journalists training their own colleagues. A mountain coming to the provinces.