Conducted my monthly lecture at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism today. Though I was told the mid-career training was aimed at feature writing and features editors, those present were mostly writers, who worked in state (Lake House) as well as private newspapers. There were also freelancers and those who worked in the Government Information Department.
My submission to the participants was that though they may be engaged in writing and in print media, even newspapers in Sri Lanka like the Sunday Times and Sunday Leader are now going with daily news stories and updates on the web, as well as branching off into other media such as video, audio and photo essays. As ever, I told participants would not learn new media through a Keynote presentation or by reading alone, and that they had to also dive into the world of blogs, tweets and Facebook in order to leverage for their institutional work and / or personal interests, including the publication of content an institutional framework will disallow.
The response from the class – and this is in fact true more of those from the state media – was overwhelming interest, a sort of liberation even, to realise at the end that one can use these technologies in Sinhala and Tamil, within their institution to strengthen their output as well as outside it, to give voice to stories and concerns they felt, but could not articulate in their institutional capacity. Women in particular feel empowered, and one came up to me today – from a leading English state media publication – and said that she was sufficiently animated to champion the use of new media in the paper’s newsroom. The government information department official came up and said that what he had hitherto learnt from his son, he now more fully understood and said that he could now even surprise his son with new found knowledge. In these and many other cases, you can see how animated non-English speaking journalists get when they are shown, by example and live demonstrations in class, how easy it is to engage with the tools and platforms I flag in my presentation with little or no technical and English knowledge.
It’s why I find teaching new media so fulfilling, and why last week I conducted a staff training for the senior Faculty and administration of the College of Journalism to develop their capacity to impart this knowledge to students who are, even in Sri Lanka, digital natives sans, in most cases, the ability to fully leverage these tools for professional journalism and also judge the veracity of information online in general, and in social networks in particular.