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Why Training Day Matters: An Investigative Journalism Program in Zambia

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

With the growing number of journalism training programs being conducted in the developing world, it would be interesting to know how these programs are designed and assessed. For instance, are they focusing on the right success factors? Are they comprehensive or strategic enough? As stated by Shanthi Kalathil in her how-to-guide on media development, “a program that plunks down a sum of money for ‘training journalists’ then measures success by the number of journalists trained is unlikely to have a substantive impact.” Instead, she recommends piecing together a series of programmatic activities shaped by strategic insight into the country’s media sector. This is precisely what the World Bank’s Governance Team in Zambia did with an investigative journalist training program in Zambia.

About a month ago, our colleagues in the Zambia country office wrote a short case study on an investigative journalism training program that they launched in April 2011 with the Media Institute of Southern Africa. The goal of the program was to increase the quality of informed journalism in the Zambian media, which would improve the ability of citizens to hold government and service providers accountable. The program was not only focused on building capacity, but it was also about creating incentives for journalists to remain engaged beyond the training week.

The program targeted the most passionate and promising candidates, who were provided with a full week of training by a world-renowned investigative journalist. Afterwards, the trainees developed in-depth pieces that were submitted for possible publication. The winning entries were not only published in a book, but the journalists were offered media internships at well-known media outlets in the UK and South Africa, which was announced at a major awards ceremony

According to the some of the preliminary results of the program, as of July 2012, there were quite a few promising outcomes that came from this training, including improvements in the skills of those who attended training; increased number of investigative articles in the media on topics that covered education, water and sanitations, and public health; and increased marketability of journalists undertaking investigative journalism.

Another notable element of the training program was the dialogue generated at the awards ceremony, where high profile officials in government called for informed journalism and an engaged public. According to AllAfrica.com, there were other speakers at the ceremony that called for reflection on state of the country’s journalism by pointing to the dismal performance of both the private and public media in their election coverage. Long after the ceremony, there is still a debate going on about the state of the media in Zambia.

Whether or not the dialogue generated after the ceremony was a result of the program is not necessarily the point. But it is the combination of programmatic interventions meant to sustain the engagement of journalists with knowledge of an enabling media environment that made the difference.

 

Picture Credit: flickr user Multimedia Photography and Design-Newhouse School

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