Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Ghana: Tackle Poverty, Engage Citizens with a New Health Radio Show

Knight Fellow Sylvia Vollenhoven is interviewed on Joy FM about her mission to improve coverage of poverty-related issues.

Sylvia Vollenhoven created a weekly radio show that has transformed coverage of social issues and poverty in Ghana. On the popular “Hotline” show, Joy FM, the country’s top English language station, reporters have produced NPR-quality documentaries on topics ranging from the plight of illegal miners and the threat of erosion on fishing villages to the consequences of chronic flooding that kills dozens and leaves thousands homeless every year.

“Hotline” stories are featured on the station’s website and also aired on Joy FM’s five sister stations across the country, further increasing their reach. Listeners also can weigh in on these issues through telephone, Internet and SMS chats. Joy FM’s station managers formally launched the show this year to great fanfare—with at least two national advertisers on board.

After establishing "Hotline", Vollenhoven began building a national network of development reporters. She trained and mentored nearly 20 regional print and radio journalists in the production of in-depth features on social issues such as declining fish stocks that threaten Ghana’s food supply.

Our Stories


  • Jul 102010

    Endless Possibilities of the New Media

    Editors Note: Ghana's Sylvia Vollenhoven attends Knight Foundations/MIT COnference on the Future of News and Civic Media 2010.

    My career started on the media timeline with yellow copy paper in triplicate and an Olivetti typewriter. In my son’s book this era followed shortly after the Gutenberg Bible. I am now at a place where the possibilities stretch into infinity and I’m not sure my head can hold it all or that we’re still talking linear progress here.

  • Jun 22010

    In Ghana, Development Journalism Has a Troubled History

    I stand in front of a sea of eager young faces expecting wisdom. There is a moment of panic when I feel that I don’t know anything worthwhile. But soon passion replaces the panic and I surprise even myself.

    _You really made development journalism simple for us. You brought to the fore the need to make people the central characters of our articles. I have written several articles on telecom but most of it focuses on the issues rather than the people affected by those issues. Thanks again.

  • Jan 192010

    Earthquakes & Media Freedoms

    Editors Note: Media freedoms in Ghana compromise credibility of news.

    This morning thousands of people all over Ghana arrived late for work and they were exhausted from being up all night… all for the same reason. No, it had nothing to do with a sports match in a different time zone. Ghanaians everywhere did not sleep because they feared an earthquake.

  • Sep 142009

    Bygone Colonials And Freedom Fighters Break Bread

    The Highway Africa conference smorgasbord makes me salivate but then I fall prey to indulging in the hors d'oeuvres only to flag halfway through the main course. The HA event at Rhodes University is the largest annual gathering of the African media. Seasoned professionals and young students — some still in school uniforms – consume the fare side by side in buzzing lecture rooms.

  • Sep 22009

    Charming Editors & Engaging Audiences

    Editors Note: Highway Africa hosts a DIGITAL STORYTELLING IN DEVELOPMENT JOURNALISM Workshop in Ghana.

    Development Journalism makes editors yawn and drop these stories to the bottom of the pile, especially on TV. But when we put innovation and creative storytelling back on the development agenda we can charm editors and engage broadcast audiences.


  • In Ghana, Knight International will enable journalists to monitor programs designed to alleviate poverty in the country's rural areas. Knight Fellow Sylvia Vollenhoven will develop a network of professional and citizen journalists, who will communicate with each other via mobile technology, in an effort to increase coverage of issues such as microfinance and rural education and sanitation. The goal: to draw greater attention to these topics and spur effective public policies.

  • Knight Fellow Sylvia Vollenhoven is interviewed on Joy FM about her mission to improve coverage of poverty-related issues.