"You have to train", states International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) president Joyce Barnathan when talking about how to maintain quality journalism in a time when the profession and audiences change radically. The ICFJ, founded 26 years ago, works to improve the quality of journalism as well as working conditions and standards for journalists around the world.
"Stories go out on various platforms nowadays, and audiences are not solely consuming any longer - they want to be producers themselves" Barnathan explained. This so-called citizen journalism constitutes a challenge as its quality is questionable. The ICFJ is very active in providing training to journalists, among them a huge number of citizen journalists to date, equipping them with the necessary skills and tools in the multimedia arena.
Barnathan summed up her recommendations on multimedia training for journalists in four points. Firstly, journalists have to learn how to involve their readers as this will attract increased numbers of readers to the respective newspaper and website. As an example, Barnathan mentioned the ICFJ training project in Malaysia, where the website malaysiakini.com experienced a massive boost in traffic after citizen journalists made use of the website to post their videos.
Secondly, key staff members need to know how to apply new multimedia technologies and overall, staff has to be familiarized on how to use the tools. There are also several projects on the web which give citizen journalists easy access to multimedia technologies. Barnathan pointed to a Peruvian website, mipanamatransparente.com, which uses the free map software Ushahidi developed in Kenya which enables citizen journalists to pinpoint a place on the virtual map and link it to reports they have written on fraud, riot or corruption.
Thirdly, Barnathan strongly recommends training journalists to be experts in areas which are most interesting for the readers. This will enable them to find interesting stories in their field of expertise that others would have problems to identify.
However, "there is no need for a big budget in order to train journalists in the multimedia area" Barnathan says. To use the web for training purposes is a great way, as it is inexpensive but can have great dividends. Channels such as the YouTube Reporting Center and the ICFJ Anywhere platform allow for journalism training online in areas where on-the-spot training is not possible. Furthermore, it helps to identify where there is potential for good journalism and direct training would be expedient. Concluding, Barnathan spurs her colleagues that "we can all be better journalists if we embrace the mutual!"