29.10.2003 -

Media Training: Impact in the Workplace

How much impact can a one-week workshop have on the way journalists cover HIV/AIDS? UNESCO wanted to assess the impact of its first workshop for women media professionals on the use of ICTs to report on the science of HIV/AIDS, held last April in Kampala, Uganda. Co-organiser SciDevNet (the Science and Development Network) sent a questionnaire to all 17 participants five months later . . .

"Now I know how to sound like an AIDS specialist after just an evening surf of the Internet," wrote Zipporah. She and 16 other women have learned to access HIV/AIDS information on the Internet with speed and simplicity. At first, all of the women wanted to enhance their ICT skills to be able to find deeper and alternative information for their stories on HIV/AIDS. After the training, they are able to independently investigate a story and rely on much more than the contents of a press release.

 

The week-long workshop provided three broad areas of training to strengthen the role of the media in the fight against HIV/AIDS - ICT skills, HIV/AIDS science, and HIV/AIDS journalism. The training provided awareness of the range and quality of HIV/AIDS resources on the Internet, instilled a better understanding of the basic science of HIV/AIDS (infection and spread; opportunistic diseases; diagnosis, treatment and prevention), and of HIV/AIDS science as a potential source of new stories including latest developments in basic research and implications for local communities and society at large.

 

"There is a big gap between scientists and reporters, because most journalists in Uganda are not trained in science, and rely instead on acquiring knowledge along the way . . ." said Margaret Juuko, University of Makerere, Department of Communication, in her address to the participants, "The role of journalists is not only to provide information but also to protect their sources."

 

". . .In the past; reporters were chased from the homes of patients and their families and friends for their aggressive and insensitive manner - journalists need to be sensitive and tactful towards their subjects," remarked Joan Mugenzi, New Vision newspaper.

 

Equipped with ICT skills on the one hand and aware of HIV/AIDS science on the other, many of the trainees are now comfortable in establishing contact with local organizations, NGOs, medical professionals and scientists. "It [the training] has given me confidence and enhanced my knowledge on the disease - HIV/AIDS. I can explain how the virus attacks the immune system and provide websites where people can access information," said Sofia in her written response to SciDev's questionnaire.

 

Aware of the different aspects of HIV/AIDS, the trained women media professionals are producing an increased number of stories including reports on scientific conferences such as those held by the Federation of African Immunological Societies and the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). Susan Musukuma has become the first journalist to ask local Zambia researchers about their HIV vaccine programme, which is about to begin.

 

Linda says she now writes through the people living, affected and infected with HIV/AIDS so that people can relate more easily to her stories. "I have generally learnt to give the story of AIDS a new angle," she says. Fellow trainee Roida has produced articles on social aspects of HIV/AIDS, which she feels are better researched and contain better background information on HIV/AIDS statistics.

 

Gloria has discovered a wealth of information from numerous websites that have increased the number of her written stories. She is now working as a freelance writer for SciDev, and has produced three TV documentaries for Ugandan national television and TV news. "http://www.hivinsite.com has been very helpful especially in enhancing the productions I have been doing for the last months," she wrote in response to the evaluation questionnaire.

 

"My most recent feature was about Kenyan and Ugandan women being inhibited by culture to participate in AIDS vaccine trials," said Esther.

 

The strongest impact of the training appears to have been from the use of the Internet because of the wide range of resources it provides on HIV/AIDS as well as other development related topics.

 

"The wealth of knowledge that is made available through ICT and Internet has inspired me and now I am taking MSC in Community Economics through distance learning," wrote Munira to the workshop sponsors.

 

"The workshop has improved my communication. In this sense I was honored as the Best Reporter in reporting ICTs for Development by the Economic Commission of Africa in May at Addis Ababa," said Brenda.

 

A popular impact of the week-long training is the networking opportunity provided to the participants. Networking has boosted the confidence and standing of the women communicators.

 

Susan Mwangi wrote "The contacts have been useful as information on regional happening has been passed on. I have also been able to know when one of us is attending a related workshop, by e-mail".

 

Linda reported, "I have fortunately linked up with some of the members who benefited from

the training . . . and with an internet newspaper for women by women." Linda is constantly being contacted by others who require information on HIV/AIDS.

 

More basic science tuition and more time for ICT training are among the recommendations made by the trainees to contribute towards the development of both training material and practical experience that can be used as the basis of similar workshops in other locations. Rosemary requested more applied journalism training, "More time could have been given on . . . how one can do an investigative story through examples."

 

Two obstacles cited in general were the cost of internet access and limited access to training on website production, radio production, graphic illustration and design.

 

HIV is one of the most devastating epidemics in human history with an estimated 60 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, 5 million of whom are estimated to have been newly infected with the virus in 2002.




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