media development

Support News and Information for Refugees

President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries has been disturbing to many, including myself.  I work with two videographers from Somalia who regularly travel back Mogadishu and Nairobi to see family, and this may now be up in jeopardy.  This also touched me personally because my whole family immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1970s so I could have better opportunities.  Many of them also have green cards.  I worry about how Trump will expand the order in the new future.

I have been lucky to meet with many immigrants and refugees throughout the years through my work at Global Wire Associates, where we provide basic computer literacy and media development training to those who support making communication accessible to all.

Many immigrants and refugees depend on clear and concise news and information to stay abreast of issues directly affecting them.  Internews in South Sudan has developed an innovative recorded audio program to provide life-saving and life-enhancing information to people displaced at four of the UNMISS Protection of Civilians sites across South Sudan following the conflict in that broke out in that country in mid-December 2013. The service utilizes a quad bike that moves around the site playing the programs in dedicated public spaces, at “Listening Stops”, through speakers that are bolted to the bike. A USB flash drive with the twice weekly professionally produced program is plugged into speakers.

Internews is a leader in humanitarian communication.  If you can, please consider making a donation to the organization to help them to continue their good work!

Dilemmas in Media Development

News imageAs many of you know, I have been working on starting a news startup with a group of Jamaican journalists for the last two years.  I am a big supporter of media development.  I feel that I am lucky to live in a country where press freedom and democracy are upheld, and when I can, I try to provide as much support and resources to my counterparts in countries with limited reporting tools.

One of the members of this group, Jared Jameson, I first met on one of my first UN-funded media development projects I worked on in Nigeria over ten years ago.  Jared is a veteran photojournalist who has done fantastic work throughout the Caribbean and West Africa.  Four years ago he asked me to help him start an online news site focused on the northeastern part of Jamaica, mainly in the parish of Portland.  Most of the writers and photographers are from the area and the United States.  Portland is a major agricultural producer of coffee, mangoes, bananas and the national fruit, ackee.

You would think it would be easy to start a news website around economic development, but there is a reason it has taken two year to get this off the ground.  Some of our bumps in the road may be familiar to other media development practitioners, especially around money.

Investments – Getting investors continues to be a big barrier.  It is hard to get financial support for a media project like this because investors want to see how the product will work out first.  That’s a Catch 22!

Money for issues, not for growing independent journalism – Unfortunately, the little money that is available for media development projects is not used to develop long term, sustainable journalism, but rather for short term issue projects.

Write for pay – Of course writers should be paid for their work, but most of the time news startups in developing countries, money for content is not immediately available at the beginning.

Training & Resources – Even if there is some money to keep the news operations afloat for a while, who is going to be in charge of website maintenance? Who fixes the website when it goes down?  Who is trained to do this. In most small news startups of this nature, it might be one person doing everything.  It can be expensive and time consuming to hire and train more people.

Luckily for us, we are now in negotiation for a sponsorship right now that will help us get going by the end of 2015.  More to come on this soon!