South Asian Journalists Learn to Cover Climate Change Using Multimedia

Jun 112012
  • Each journalist was given an iPod Touch to shoot and edit stories.

During a new regional training initiative, South Asian journalists from six countries created iPod Touch videos of farmers in southern Sri Lanka, where rising sea levels have increased salinity in fields and changes in rainfall patterns have disrupted the rice-planting season.

Climate changes have contributed to the farmer’s loss of income – but so have the drainage channels they dug initially to drain the fields, which now bring in seawater.

“This is primarily a water management problem,” explained Knight International Journalism Fellow Harry Surjadi of Indonesia, who taught sessions on science reporting for the Sri Lanka workshop. His sessions helped journalists understand the complex challenges facing farmers and others in the South Asian region, where climate change is fast crumbling coastlines and forcing migrations.

Journalists worked on regional story projects while advancing their digital skills in new new training initiative aimed at increasing cross-border dialogue in South Asia. Other regional story topics include human trafficking and youth at risk.

“For the first time, ICFJ used cross-border online training in three languages: Hindi, Urdu and English,” says Lucinda Fleeson, program consultant for the project. A six-week online course for 82 journalists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka taught multimedia story-telling, ethical practices for social media, and reporting in-depth stories. The journalists who had proposed the best story projects were invited to Colombo, Sri Lanka for an advanced workshop, April 23-27.

South Asia has been described as the most disjointed region in the world; the training allowed journalists to form friendships and to begin talking about regional issues. As a result of the workshop, the journalists formed a South Asian Forum of Climate Change Journalists.

The journalists learned how to shoot video, edit on a hand-sized iPod Touch and upload it to the Internet. The iPod Touch – basically an iPhone without the phone component – is a state-of-the-art digital tool that delivers high-quality HD video and sound. NPR reporters, for instance, now conduct their field interviews on iPhones or iPod Touches.

“While television reporters used to go into the field with big cameras and sound equipment, now they can create their stories with something they can fit in their pocket,” says Jamie McIntyre, a University of Maryland adjunct professor and NPR newscaster. He led the video part of the Sri Lanka training, coaching reporters on a field trip in southern Sri Lanka to investigate climate change, and helping them edit their stories into two-minute packages.

Fleeson began drafting plans for the training program while on a Fulbright Scholar award in 2011, while affiliated with the Sri Lanka College of Journalism and Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI).

The U.S. Department of State funded the project, which established a partnership between ICFJ and SLPI.

Although ICFJ had directed hundreds of journalism training programs throughout the world, this project was the first to be conducted in three languages – Hindi, Urdu and English. During the online course, each lesson and participant response was translated daily into the three languages.

See Jamie McIntyre’s video about the training project here.