Unemployed bloggers should apply

Unemployed bloggers should apply
: Bill Hobbs finds a fascinating job ad for journalism trainers to go to Iraq and help jumpstart a free press there. Posted by the Institute London-based War & Peace Reporting:

IWPR trainers in Iraq will lead intensive personalised training through a combination of workshop (knowledge-based) training and practical on-the-job (skills-based) instruction and mentoring.

Workshop training cycles will lead participants through a significant curriculum of basic and specialist training modules (from fundamentals of journalism, to humanitarian, peace and human rights reporting) to provide grounding in the core tenets of fact-based reporting. As part of the project, a training manual in Arabic and Kurdish will be produced to support the training process, and IWPR trainers will play a significant role in its development…. The ideal candidate will have experience in international journalism, experience as an international journalism trainer and knowledge of Arabic or Kurdish language, though candidates with two of these three attributes may be considered….

IWPR’s Anthony Borden reports:

Efforts by the US-led authority in Iraq to establish responsible media are in crisis, with bitter inter-agency rivalry, senior staff changes and poor planning undermining early efforts to launch programming and lay out a framework for media development.

The stakes are high. A prerequisite for any kind of emerging democracy is a professional and trusted media, to convey facts, support responsible debate and represent the diversity of communities and views within Iraq. But the absence of a reliable Iraqi media exacerbates the frustration, and growing anger, felt because of the lack of an Iraqi authority and basic security and services. Powerless and uncertain, Iraqis need a voice.

There has been a dramatic post-war boom in local media, with the launch of up to 150 newspapers and many radio stations. Indeed, there is a bewildering – exciting – diversity of new voices for a changed Iraq emerging from decades of dictatorship. But the majority are highly partisan media established by rival political interests jockeying for position, and could be destabilising in a fragile post-conflict environment. Many are directly produced by political parties, or by former senior Ba’athists or other figures with a political, rather than a journalistic, orientation. Informed media with balanced reporting is largely absent.

If you’ve been reading this weblog for more than a few days, you know I’m eager to help Iraqis start weblogs, since they will allow a wide variety of voices to be heard around the world.

I also think that online media can inform this journalism training greatly. Iraqi newspapers do not need to — in fact, cannot — operate like newspapers in the U.S. or Britain or Europe; they can’t afford to.

Online media have learned to do things in new, faster, cheaper, better ways and that is the best model for Iraq.

A new breed of newspaper in Iraq — a “fact-based” paper, as this group puts it — can learn from weblogs by pointing to and summarizing news sources around the world (see The Week magazine).

It can cram a tremendous amount of information into a small space (compare any weblog post to any LATimes story and tell me which is informative in less space and time).

It can use its audience to help gather news and the voice of the audience.

And these same lessons can be applied to local radio and TV: You no longer need hugely expensive equipment to gather audio and video.

Online can help teach all these media to remember that — especially in a place like Iraq — the audience is often the story. Listen to your audience and you will find the news. Listen first, then speak.

The irony of all this is that newspapers here and in Europe could end up learning from brand new newspapers in Iraq (if they’re given the right jump start). Newspapers in the rest of the world will need to rethink themselves as online gives them more competition for the attention of the audience and for classified ad dollars. They will need to rethink how to do their jobs, what makes them valuable, what makes them useful, what makes them unique, what makes them trusted, and what makes them profitable.

Iraq could turn into a great laboratory for the future of media, if it is given half a chance.