Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spotlight on: Media Helping Media


When lack of time and money began preventing senior British editor David Brewer from accomplishing everything he wanted with his media development projects around the world, he turned to a place where time and space don’t exist.

“It’s about cost, capacity and accessibility,” he said via e-mail. “It was clear that there was a need for training resources to be made available, free-of-charge, written to address the client’s training need. It was also a matter of helping them train their own staff.”

Media Helping Media, a 7-year-old website full of resources for developing media outlets, began as a basic forum. Today it is a rich hub of resources geared to aid media in post-conflict areas.

Four deep sections of static modules are available: media management, editorial ethics, journalism training and investigative reporting. The site also hosts issues-themed articles from around the world. It also boasts a new forum section.

Everything is published is under a Creative Commons 3.0 license, so content on the site may be redistributed with attribution for noncommercial use.

Brewer pays for it all out of his own pocket.

There are 22 modules in the section on journalism training, making it the biggest category. These chapters include information about creating journalistic content with words, sounds or images.

Many of the modules were created upon request. Brewer said he writes most of the modules while travelling, often in airports or on planes.

“Recently, a journalist from the border tribal region in Pakistan wrote asking whether there were any training modules about interviewing politicians … so I decided to write a module entitled ‘Interviewing Politicians for TV and Radio’,” he said. “A few weeks ago another journalist from Africa asked for a module about how an online news story should develop, so I wrote ‘Updating an Online News Item’. Others are contributed by colleagues, such as the piece about the public interest, entitled ‘The highest purpose in journalism’.”

Brewer got his start in newspapers before moving over to radio. He worked seven years with Radio Merseyside in Liverpool before continuing on to the BBC for another radio gig. He served nine years as political editor for BBC Regional Political Unit. In 1997, he was selected to launch BBC News Online. He launched Europe, Middle East and Africa in 2000.

It’s possible to follow him on Twitter.

In 2002 Brewer started Media Ideas International, a business under which he does consulting work and runs Media Helping Media. He operates the site by himself on the free, open-source software Joomla.

One of his proudest Media Helping Media moments came when he was solicited to help write a chapter for a handbook for journalists in exile. TP Mishra, a local journalist who had been using Brewer’s training resources for three years in his work in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, approached the Briton for help. Brewer helped Mishra with the training necessary to write the book.

“TP is the editor of The Bhutan Reporter and says that MHM was the inspiration for him to achieve what he has achieved,” Brewer said over e-mail. “I also enjoy writing training modules that are well received and which I then find out are being used as the foundation modules for in-country training courses run by local journalists for local journalists. That is extremely satisfying.”

There are several challenges Media Helping Media seeks to help news outlets meet:

Reaching financial sustainability en route to editorial independence
Setting out a compelling content proposition (digging where others don’t) to informs the public debate via issue-led journalism
Introducing editorial values of balance, impartiality and objectivity
Creating converged, multiplatform news offerings that deliver content to whatever devices the audience may wish to turn to in order to access information
Identifying the audience, both the current audience, the target audience and the potential audience
Building a sales and marketing strategy that matches the content proposition, the target audience and the market.
Building capacity, to train their own staff and take on to train others in the region.
Published: March 26, 2009

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