Thursday, January 28, 2010

Journalist study tour to China 2010 - Fahamu China in Africa Programme

The Fahamu China in Africa Programme is pleased to announce a call for applications for its Journalist Study Tour to Beijing. Four successful applicants will be chosen to participate in a week-long study tour to China. Media professionals in print, broadcast, radio and online fora throughout Africa are encouraged to apply for this study tour. Lecturers from journalism schools and media programmes in Africa may also apply.
1. Introduction

Western media continues to dominate analysis and debate on China's engagement with Africa. Similarly, western media influences and perspectives can be noted in reports from African media sources. There is therefore a growing need for independent inquiry and investigation into the engagement of China in Africa from African media sources. Furthermore, the need for greater collaboration and interaction amongst African and Chinese media was reiterated during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting held in Egypt 2009.

Within this context, the Fahamu China in Africa Programme is pleased to announce a call for applications for its Journalist Study Tour to Beijing. Four successful applicants will be chosen to participate in a week-long study tour to China that aims to:

- Strengthen the capacity of African media commentators on China's engagement with Africa
- Facilitate greater understanding of perceptions of China in Africa, and vice versa
- Expand on knowledge amongst African media of China's politics, economy, society and media
- Create an opportunity for African media organisations and journalism schools to develop long-term relationships, collaborations and exchanges with representatives from Chinese media and institutions
- Provide a platform to facilitate the implementation of capacity building projects and greater media coverage amongst African media on China's activities in Africa
- Include greater media participation in discussions and advocacy in China and in Africa about China's role in Africa
- Include visits to various Chinese media organisations, friendship associations, research institutes and journalism schools as well as African media representatives in Beijing.

2. Call for Applications

Media professionals in print, broadcast, radio and online fora throughout Africa are encouraged to apply for this study tour. Lecturers from journalism schools and media programmes in Africa may also apply. Applicants must:

- Provide frequent reports to their national, regional, or local print media, radio, television channels or online fora on topics related to China's activities in Africa; or lecture at a journalism school or training programme at a higher education institution in Africa
- Have a valid passport and comply with their country's visa criteria for travel to China.

The following costs will be covered:

- Return ticket, economy class to China
- Accommodation in Beijing for the duration of study tour,
- Visa costs,
- Meals and transport for duration of study tour.

The study tour will take place between March and April 2010.

Applications close on 19 February 2010 and successful applicants will be notified in the first week of March 2010.

3. Requirements

All applications are to be submitted electronically and must include:

- A current resume including professional work history
- A letter of recommendation from your organisation head/faculty head . If journalist applicants are not employed directly through a media organisation, please provide a letter of support from the organisation to which you are affiliated, including your relationship to the organisation
- A letter, signed by your (affiliate) organisation or faculty head, motivating how participation in the study tour will benefit your professional work and the work of your organisation. This should include an action plan detailing how your experience in China will be incorporated into further capacity building and knowledge development within your organisation/journalism school in the three months following completion of the study tour
- Provide samples of four professional pieces of written work/manuscripts that have been printed or broadcast in the last 12 months; or an outline of courses taught if a lecturer in a journalism school/programme.

4. Concluding Remarks

Following the completion of the study tour, participants will be required to:

- Produce two commentary pieces for the Fahamu Emerging Powers in Africa website based on their experience in Beijing and the topics discussed
- Make regular contributions on civil society issues for publication in the Fahamu's Emerging Powers in Africa Newsletter
- Provide a follow up report detailing the implementation and outcomes of a capacity building activity completed through the participants (affiliate) organisation or journalism school within three months of completing the study tour.

Please direct all queries and applications to:

Ms Sanusha Naidu
Research Director
China/Emerging Powers in Africa Programme

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

15 criteria for picking a content management system for an ad-driven hyperlocal news website

One of the biggest early decisions a hyperlocal site entrepreneur makes is what Content Management System [CMS] they will use. One can think about this similar to picking a spouse. You are going to live with the decision day and night for a long, long time. Also, similar to choosing a spouse, each person has different criteria. I will share the criteria I used for my hyperlocal site ( so that you can consider them and prioritize them based upon your needs. Think through these criteria or your "spousal" choice may leave you feeling like Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in The War of the Roses.

Before I get into that, I will share my experience and scenario which gives you some perspective on my situation. I'm a tech industry veteran (~25 years) though my hands-on coding experience is ancient (~20 years ago) but as a non-technical person goes, I'm reasonably technical though I've been on the business and editorial side of Web properties the last 15 years.

Part of my background includes being part of the early team of Microsoft Sidewalk starting in 1995 where I ran a team that supported the cities, as well as about half the cities reported through me, so I've been working with CMSs in the local arena for nearly 15 years. SunValleyOnline (SVO) has been around for about 5 years and was built on a proprietary platform that hasn't changed in years. We are in the final stages of the transition from the old to the new site. SVO has been self-sustaining for a couple years with a small team of three people. We rely on a mix of community and staff contributions. I have personally blogged for several years and have used blogs built on Blogger and mostly Wordpress.

To jump ahead, there's lots of merit in Wordpress and the ecosystem built around it, however I felt it came up short on the criteria I established to make the decision.

Listed below are the criteria I used with a brief explanation. While everyone will have somewhat different criteria, I listed the items in priority order from most to least important based upon my experience and priorities.

  1. No developer required: In my opinion, it is no longer necessary for 98 percent of sites to have a Web developer on staff. Fortunately, there are many off-the-shelf solutions that don't require an in-house technologist. There may be occasional needs where a developer can be contracted to do specific work but at the early stages of a site's development, I think a site should be focused on other items rather than doing custom development. As long as your CMS has the ability to extend it later, you can defer bringing on a technologist and save yourself money. Of course, there are hyperlocal sites founded by people with technology skills, and they can certainly take advantage of that, but it's not a requirement to get off the ground.

  2. Easy to monetize: This relates to the next point ("Open"). Most sites are limited to generating revenue using standard display ads. While that is the right place to start, this is a highly dynamic sector and thus it should be easy to extend your site with various other capabilities whether it is turning standard display ads into video ads or incorporating high-quality ad networks, it should be as easy as "copy and paste" to add these capabilities to your site.

  3. Open: It should be very easy to add and delete modules to a page or an entire site, such as social media features, inbound RSS feeds (i.e., pulling in a news feed from another site), and widgets of all types from weather to flickr slideshows to polls to various monetizable elements from any number of third parties.

  4. Community Generated Content: It should be very easy for members of your community to contribute articles, pictures, video, classifieds, reviews, etc. The CMS should give you the ability to determine whether a specific user is able to post directly to the site or whether the contribution should go into a publication queue for review/approval. It should also allow your community to send in articles via an e-mail interface. Among other things, this can allow them to e-mail pictures and video from their smartphones, which can be critical when there are breaking news events in your community. The CMS we picked has nailed this part. It gives someone who might be witnessing a breaking story the opportunity to submit stories to the site, including pictures (and mapping those pics). What's more, once the article is posted, you can update it via e-mail replies from the e-mail confirmation the CMS sends when the article posts. This may be the coolest single feature the platform we chose provides.

  5. Off the shelf cross-promotion: It must be easy to add features that help internal site promotion. Having features sprinkled through as site such as Most Viewed Pages, Recent Comments, Highly Rated articles and so on are very helpful at increasing the time people spend exploring your site.

  6. Outbound RSS: Mentioned earlier was inbound RSS. Just as you can and should pull in RSS feeds from complementary sites, you should make various RSS feeds available so that others can pull in your content to their pages. A CMS should automatically create a range of RSS feeds (e.g., Top Headlines, department and author specific feeds, etc.).

  7. Design templates and flexibility: CMSs usually come with pre-built templates, as well as the ability to customize the look and feel. If you don't like the pre-built templates you can preview, ensure that the process to change the site design is straightforward. [Side note: I have, unfortunately, heard of designers charging sites $5,000 for a Wordpress template when a few hundred dollars should get you a solid design.]

  8. Pictures and video: Not only should it be easy to embed code that pulls in photos and video from sites such as flickr and YouTube, the platform should allow you and your community contributors to upload directly to your site. Having users be able to rate photos and videos is another way to increase engagement with your community, which is vital for your success.

  9. Integration with Social Media: Your CMS should enable you to easily integrate with Facebook (and Facebook Connect) as well as Twitter. This includes enabling you to automatically post items to your accounts on the Social Networks including shortening URLs (e.g., using a tool such as Also throughout your site, it should be easy for users to send your articles, photos, etc. to the major social tools (Digg, StumbleUpon). Don't forget e-mail - still the most popular way to share an article. "Send to a Friend" should be baked into the system.

  10. Analytics: Not only should it be easy to add third-party tracking tools such as Google Analytics and Quantcast to a site, there should also be the ability to measure success and reward contributors based upon how well read one's contributions are.

  11. Events: A community-powered Events Calendar is a great way to connect with the community. Not only should a CMS have this capability, it should allow your community to easily submit events. The system should allow for plotting of the events on a map and have the basics of an Events Calendar such as support for recurring (i.e., multi-day) events.

  12. Classifieds: While Craigslist has made it to many communities, it doesn't work well today for hyperlocal. If you are only interested in garage sales in your immediate neighborhood, for instance, Craigslist can be unwieldy. Thus, there is an opportunity to fill a niche where the big boys aren't servicing your community very well. Naturally, having features you expect in articles (maps, photos, etc.) is important for classifieds as well.

  13. Maps: The importance of maps/location continues to increase with the popularity of smartphones. A smart CMS will be able to recognize a photo or Tweet having a GPS coordinate appended to it. This gives your community another way to navigate your content (i.e., location) and becomes more important as mobile consumption increases.

  14. Mobile: Another item that I expect to rapidly grow in importance is mobile. A CMS that allows for your site to be easily consumed on various mobile platforms will be a big asset. At the moment, mobile requires a lot of custom development but this should change in the relatively near future.

  15. Search Engine Dashboard: Not a common feature yet but one we expect to become more common. Sites such as the Huffington Post are very sophisticated in analyzing search trends to drive headline selection, tagging and how visibility of articles is raised or lowered based upon search term frequency.

At the risk of this sounding like a sales pitch for the platform we chose, I was very impressed with the flexibility and extensibility of the Neighborlogs platform we chose. It met nearly all the criteria listed above. Progressively, I'm learning the platform more and more and finding more slick things it can do. If I had to summarize why it's a great fit, it is the fact it is purpose-built for the hyperlocal space whereas Wordpress, Drupal, Django and other options I consider are great general-purpose systems but not geared towards hyperlocal specifically. Like Wordpress and the others, you can't beat the price (free). They currently only charge a revenue share on the self-serve ads that are purchased through that tool (no split on the ads you bring to the table).

To provide a bit of balance, let me share some areas of constructive criticism for Neighborlogs. The platform developers are running their own hyperlocal site and local network and are very busy. They aren't always quick to respond, though it's certainly better than Wordpress where you just have a developer community and no dedicated team to support you unless you hire your own team. There are a few items that are not perfect in how they pull in RSS feeds and the accompanying social media features. Their ad system isn't as robust as some of the ad servers out there, but the shortcomings weren't deal breakers for us. Being a relatively new company and platform, there's always the risk that they don't survive, but, as good of a job as they have done, I think others will discover the benefits themselves.

Overall, I'd encourage people to clearly define their own criteria. My criteria aren't applicable to everyone. Establishing your own will greatly increase the chances you'll be happy long term. I encourage others to share their experiences, good or bad, with various CMSs they have used. I also welcome feedback on our new site. What works for you and what doesn't?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Study online with The New York Times

Study online with The New York Times

Want to learn more about the use of video storytelling in journalism? A new course, offered by none other than The New York Times, may be just the thing.

The New York Times Company has been offering non-credit distance education courses for the past two years. From this week, in conjunction with some universities, it will offer courses for credit towards certificate programs.

Director of education for the Times Felice Nudelman told Inside Higher Ed that online education was a robust area. "It is, for many institutions, a profit center," she said. "And it's an exciting way to bring together all the content from The New York Times and expertise from our newsroom, and expertise of college and university faculty."
The six-week video storytelling course is offered in conjunction with Ball State University. It costs $235 if taken for credit, but only $199 for non-credit. This is one of nine courses students must complete to obtain a certificate in "emerging media journalism", jointly awarded from the Times and Ball State.

It is expected that many of the students will be older journalists looking to update their new media skills, or journalism students at less well-resourced universities.

The newspaper and other educational institutions have teamed up to offer certificate courses in other areas. With Rosemont College, it will offer a certificate in entrepreneurship, consisting of six courses at $1,950 each. Students can take immigration law with the City University of New York, across four courses at $930 each. And Thomas Edison State College will provide separate 45-week programs in paralegal studies and nurse paralegal studies, each costing $3,920.

The Times and the offering university will share the revenue. The university will provide the professors, while the newspaper will offer educational resources including news archives back to 1851, subject-specific content modules, and topic specialists from its newsroom for guest lectures.

The Times is not the only media organisation to offer online education. The BBC announced in December that it would offer online journalism masterclasses. The difference, of course, is that these are free.

Source: Inside Higher Ed

Friday, January 15, 2010

“New” Media Crucial in Aftermath of Haitian Earthquake


New" media platforms were critical to delivering early information about damage and relief efforts in the aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake that rocked the small island nation of Haiti shortly before 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

"As phone lines went down and darkness fell over Haiti, the full impact of today's massive earthquake was difficult to know," The Sydney Morning Herald reported. "But as with many recent natural disasters and emergencies, the extent of the chaos in the impoverished Caribbean island emerged quickly online… As major news organisations published quotes from officials on what had happened, eyewitness accounts were being posted to Twitter."

The Los Angeles Times quickly created a list of Twitter users believed to be tweeting from Haiti, the Herald noted, and a Web site dedicated to happenings in the country overhauled its homepage to aggregate photos, videos, and news about the earthquake (although the latter seemed to be down at press time, perhaps due to heavy traffic). The article also pointed to a U.S. Geological Survey Web site, which published detailed data on the quake, including maps, graphs, and tables.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, mainstream reporters were relying on social media for details as well. The New York Times blog, The Lede, is regularly updating a post with news about the quake, which begins with an editor's note reading, "Some Haitians have turned to the Web to share information about the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck about 10 miles southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday evening. Any readers who are in Haiti or in touch with people there are encouraged to use the comment thread below to share first-hand accounts with us, or to point to them on other Web sites."

An excellent report by PC World provided a long list of useful social media links. Its article is worth quoting at length:

Haitian radio and television host Carel Pedre was one of the most prominent figures using Twitter to communicate with the outside world. "DIGICEL IS WORKING! CALL UR FAMILY NOW!!"…

A Wordpress-powered blog called Haitifeed is also delivering a steady stream of first-hand accounts as well as mainstream media reports from across the globe.

Reports from citizen journalists are also coming in to CNN's iReport desk where they are vetted by CNN's editorial staff.

On Facebook, a group called Earthquake Haiti already has over 14,000 members. The group is largely being used for people to show support and trade news reports; however, there are some users who seem to be posting critical information including pleas for assistance to injured Haitians.


With telephone service toppled due to the earthquake, those on the ground turned to Skype to speak with the media, aid organizations, or to communicate with loved ones overseas. A Connecticut-based missionary organization that works in Haiti used Skype to communicate with their people there to get a sense of the devastation. Pedre also used Skype to give CBS News and many other media organizations a first-hand report about Haiti's crisis.

Despite the great service rendered by these digital media and communications platforms, however, the PC World report ended with a sober, but important consideration:

What's not clear, however, is whether Haitians are using these technologies to communicate and help each other. From what I've seen so far, the use of tools like Twitter and Facebook are more helpful for delivering news about Haiti to the outside world instead of aiding those directly affected by the crisis—a recurring theme that we've already seen play out in places like Iran and India.

[Update, 12:30 p.m.: See also my colleague Greg Marx's post about the news vacuum within Haiti.]

Gawker came to a similar and equally astute conclusion about the limitations of social media:

The crowd is supposed to be most adept at covering chaotic breaking news like this. But given the conditions in Haiti, the poverty of the people and the fragility of the infrastructure, the true extent of the damage won't likely be known until news organizations get reporters on the ground—and off Facebook.

Indeed, an effective and coordinated global relief effort depends on detailed information and communications, and the mainstream media is still an important part of that process. Mediabistro's TVNewser posted a list of television reporters headed to Haiti, and their colleagues from print and radio will surely join them. But the world owes a measure of debt to new media platforms—which will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in Haiti in the days and months to come—for their assistance in facilitating the early response to this disaster.

[Update, 1:30 p.m.: The Associated Press's Jonathan Katz is on the scene in Port-au-Prince and the AP has created a Facebook page and Twitter feed as part of its coverage of the earthquake.

"Covering tragedies of the magnitude in Haiti has been a sad part of what the AP has done quickly and reliably for decades," AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll wrote in an e-mail. "By using Facebook and Twitter accounts to interact with our audience and learn more about what they want to know, AP will strengthen its already dynamic relationship with its member news organizations, other customers and news consumers throughout the world."]

[Update, 1/14 1:00 p.m.: On Thursday, The Miami Herald announced that, " has been remade to accommodate the huge amount of information and photos coming from Haiti. A part of will be devoted to enabling family members and friends to contact one another and also to share information of all kinds in both Haiti and South Florida.

You will find links to this page, under the title Haiti Connect, on's home page. We'll continue this as long as it seems helpful."]

source :

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ghana to Host focuss info initiative workshop on the use of information sharing and collaboration tools

On Thursday 28th January, Kwami Ahiabenu II will facilitate a Focuss.Info workshop in Ghana at the Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (INSTI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Accra which is based on an award granted by the Focuss.Info Initiative. The workshop is expected to be attended by a cross session of professionals from academia, research, NGOs and Information and Communication Technologies sector.

After a successful Focuss.Info workshop in South Africa, this will become the second workshop in which a local workshop facilitator in Africa, Asia or South America aims at
promoting new information and communication (ICT) skills among peers in the domain of global development research and cooperation.
As a result, the Initiative improves access to information, a fundamental right that strengthens democracy, and supports human rights. The objective of Focuss.Info also correspondents to the work of UNESCO, which helps to develop effective 'infostructures', including developing information standards, management tools and fostering access at the community level.

The workshop will emphasize on social bookmarking as a key tool for information sharing and collaboration. This is important, because the search engine incorporated in is only harvesting and indexing the websites that have been selected as value and stored in social bookmarking accounts (such as by peers in global development cooperation.

The workshop content will be uploaded as a dairy to a weblog located on the website of Focuss.Info - by clicking on 'Focuss Workshops' and 'Kwami Ahiabenu'. Based on this
interaction, the workshop is enriched with more information from the readers of the workshop weblog and also shows and tells how the local community can use social bookmarking as an online information sharing and collaboration tool.

Please keep visiting and following the workshop of the Focuss.Info Intiative in Ghana or other workshop facilitators.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Grants for investigative reporters to attend Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2010 at Geneva, Switzerland.

Investigative journalists from Russia (and the former U.S.S.R), Eastern Europe, The Balkans, Caucasus, Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America are now welcome to apply for grants that will cover their travel and stay at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2010 at Geneva, Switzerland.

We especially invite journalists who are willing to show and share their experiences and work, through presentations at the conference. If you are able to demonstrate how you worked with your life's best investigative story, you might pick up free tickets and stay at the conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Our goal is to gather some of the world's best examples of investigative journalism in recent years. Between 400 and 500 investigative reporters are expected to participate at the conference.

The main focus during seminars will be journalistic work methods, how journalists are using their skills, patience, eagerness to dig up dirt and neat techniques to get in touch with sources, better research material and in the end, good stories that makes a difference.

We are also going to cover how difficult it is to do investigative journalism in certain parts of the world.

GIJC 2010 is also going to be a unique place to do networking to get your own global contact net. We intend to facilitate trans-national investigative journalism cooperation on the topics you cover.

Please send your applications to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Please supply the application with your CV, a short summary of your work in the field of investigative journalism and personal references. It will also help us if you can get references from organizations working with investigative journalism. Please try as well and as actively as you can to get a sponsor in your own region.

Our final application deadline is 31st January. Applications will be evaluated as they come in. You will be hearing from us regarding your application!

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Google and Global Voices announce new awards to promote online free expression

Announcement and Call for Nominations: Google and Global Voices announce new awards to promote online free expression

Berlin, 28rd December 2009 – Google and Global Voices today announced the details of the "Breaking Borders Award" to honor those around the world who are fighting for free expression online. The award, totaling $30,000, will honor and support outstanding web projects, initiated by individuals or groups, that demonstrate courage, energy and resourcefulness in using the Internet to promote freedom of expression.

Nominations for the award can be submitted starting today at, the submission phase will end on 15th of February 2010. The award will be given in three categories, with a $10,000 prize for each awardee.

  1. Advocacy, given to an activist or group that has used online tools to promote free expression or encourage political change 
  2. Technology, given to an individual or group that has created an important tool that enables free expression and expands access to information 
  3. Policy, given to a policy maker, government official or NGO leader who has made a notable contribution in the field 

The winners are going to be announced and honored in spring 2010.

International Institute for ICT Journalism