Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Trained more than 200 journalists from 17 countries

This is the entire team of the Digital Journalism Center: Norma Cerda is the administrator, with more than 20 years of experience at the University of Guadalajara. Alfonso Fonseca, right, is a 25-year-old computer whiz who built our website and manages the technical part of our center.

Since coming down here in July 2008, my job has been to start and run a center that trains Latin American journalists in how to use new tools to publish on the web.

The idea was to offer courses online that lasted several weeks each with a hands-on training in Guadalajara at the end.

That meant creating the courses from scratch, in Spanish, putting them on a distance learning platform and then teaching them.

So far, I´ve created and taught six courses online, each of them lasting five to six weeks: how to run a digital newsroom, public service reporting, digital skills 101, environmental reporting, new business models for digital news, and how to write for the web.

The project is partnership of the International Center for Journalists in Washington and the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico´s second-largest.

Journalists from Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia edit audio during a course on digital tools for public service reporting.

Response has been great

We publicize the courses through various online channels, including our own website and my blog.

We get about three times as many applications for spaces as we can handle. Preference goes to people with leadership responsibility (we want to train the trainers), people who have already done something on their own and those with a compelling story.

So far, we´ve had more than 200 journalists through the courses from 17 countries, including Cuba. Probably a third are from Mexico, with the next largest groups from Colombia and Argentina.

Guest lectures and seminars too

In addition to these online courses, I´ve run shorter seminars of one to three days for easily another 200 journalists here in Mexico. Add to that a fair number of lectures and presentations in Puerto Rico, Spain, San Francisco, Monterrey, Mexico City, Puebla, etc. and I´ve been very busy.

These journalists in Chiapas, in the south of Mexico, run their own eight-week digital journalism training seminar each year. They do a lot with very little. The guy at bottom center, Isaín Mandujano, is a freelance journalist who makes it all happen. I did the last session, on how to start and run your own news site.

Demand exceeds supply

The big media outlets in Latin America have digital media offerings that are equal to the best regional newspapers in the U.S., but not at the level of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Still, there are not a lot of journalists who have the basic training in producing online journalism. The demand is great, so anyone with skills is considered an expert.

Here´s an article about one of the courses we offered here.

Here´s a 2-minute video synthesis of a "conferencia magistral", or lecture, on the future of digital journalism that I gave at a university conference in Puebla, Mexico.

ABC newspaper in Spain heard about our program and did an interview.

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