With the Push of a Button, A New Era Begins

Oct 232010

Editors Note: Knight Fellow Rachel Jones talks about the new possibilities after receiving more than $43,000 for a new Health and Science Writers' Association.When I pushed the button on an email application for a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement grant back in late April, I was thinking a lot about the direction my Knight Health Fellowship would take in the months to come. I’d just committed to staying a third year in Kenya as a Knight Fellow for the International Center for Journalists, and was starting to consider exactly what it would take to build on the developments of the previous two years. I’d already mentored scores of journalists at the Nation Media Group and the Nairobi Star, spearheading the push for a new weekly health feature for NMG. I had also served as an advisory board member for the Kenya Science Café project, which led to more than a dozen pubic events on health and science information. I’d helped to organize the KSC’s 2010 “Grand Debate,” and conducted radio reporting workshops for the Media Owners Association. Through work with dozens of freelance and affiliated reporters as well as managers, I felt I’d establishing a solid foundation of new institutional knowledge in health reporting.

The logo is a work in progress, but I want it to highlight the new direction this group represents.

Now it was time to start raising the structural frame, cementing the bricks, sealing the roof. I knew I had to push myself harder to extend my reach beyond the “comfort zone” of Nairobi. I knew there were policy angles to push, reporting themes to explore, and more journalists to equip to do just that. I needed to find a realistic way to reach out to a broader range of reporters--without the messy, complicated process of having myself cloned. A great many avenues to explore.

And so when that email wish lobbed at the universe returned with the approval of the Wellcome Trust application recently, I found myself thinking of new directions. The grant provides more than $43,000 to create a new, nationwide journalism association that will extend training far beyond the parameters of the capital city.

What would this new association need to move the Knight Health Fellowship Program in Kenya forward, with positive energy? The funny thing is, since I’d already crafted the nuts and bolts plan of action in the application, the first thing that popped into my head was more creative: The Kenyan Alliance of Health and Science Reporters would need a logo. What would be a good image to symbolize what this new organization would provide for Kenyan journalists? The answer came fairly quickly: a compass. You can see the latest version here, with a compass at the center.

KAHSR is intended to chart a new direction for training and mentoring in Kenyan media. It provides for five-day training workshops every quarter in regions outside of Nairobi. It funds five regional “Town Hall” events across the country. It even allows for access to mentoring sessions, health researchers and a monthly online newsletter.

There’ve been lots of efforts through the years, some more credible than others, but few have really risen to a national stature. Few have offered a consistent level of support, information and… well… direction. So I’m staying focused on my vision for KAHSR, and the direction in which it will lead Kenyan health and science reporting. If it unfolds in real time like it’s been playing out in my head, I predict smooth sailing.