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Reporting on children in a fast-changing media environment

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/06
BBC trainer Nicholas Nugent leads a discussion with journalists

by Harasha Gunewardene

A workshop for top Sri Lankan journalists supported by UNICEF

With today’s phenomenal advances and convergences in technology, are we are seeing the demise of the professional writer/ photographer, thanks to ‘citizen’s journalism’ and blogs? Does it mean the death or dearth of professionalism? Or do we look for new ways to keep ahead and view such changes more as an opportunity rather than threat?

Such were the stimulating themes that engaged the attention of twelve Sri Lankan Senior Editors representing print, radio, TV and web at a three day training workshop held in Kandy, from 4-6 September.

Enhancement of understanding of how technology is changing the media, increasing awareness of editorial codes of conduct, key issues affecting media coverage of children with particular emphasis on media ethics were the main aims of the workshop, organized by the BBC and sponsored by UNICEF.

The participants were from leading Sri Lankan media institutions such as ETV, Sathdina, Daily Mirror, Sunday Times, Dinamina, Lankadeepa, SLRCS, YATV, Sirasa, Rupavahini, Lakhanda, and Navamani. The course was conducted by Nicholas Nugent, former BBC staffer (for 25 years). Most of the participants had earlier followed the BBC Training programme ‘News trends in journalism’ in 2005.

Day 1 – Following a recap of some of the themes and lessons learnt from the previous training – fundamental journalistic values (accuracy, balance, impartiality), the participants immersed themselves in new trends in journalism- the battle between the tabloid and broadsheet, battle with free newspapers, issues of good journalism, values of credibility, importance of balanced reporting.

Day 2 – focused on Children’s issues – Andy Brooks, Child Protection Section Head, explained UNICEF’s child protection role and its sensitivities followed by Q & A session. Communication Officer Junko Mitani gave a brief overview of UNICEF activities in Sri Lanka and emphasized the need for a fruitful dialogue with the Sri Lankan media to promote child rights in the island. In the group sessions, the editors dwelt on working on scenarios on dealing with reporting on children.

Day 3 – Focused on new trends –technology and its impact on contemporary journalism and the constant need to look ahead.

The participants suggested a code of ethics to be utilized when reporting on children; Champika Liyanaarachchi, Associate Editor, Daily Mirror(EnglishDaily), and Indrani Pieris, Deputy Editor of Lankadipa(Sinhala Daily) both stressed that sessions such as new trends in journalism, how technology will challenge the future of print of media and how we should adapt to that situation were immensely useful to generate improvement in their respective establishments.

“This workshop has been especially beneficial to me especially on learning about new technology which can impact on the radio and TV. I also gained much insight into how careful one must be when reporting on children and their issues’ noted Nalin Aluthge, News Editor, Sirasa (radio). Thaha M.Muzamil, Deputy-Editor Navamani (Tamil weekly), too said he found the session on Reporting on Children very important as well as the news trends in technology.

“It was indeed a top rung batch of senior editors representing all types of media in the country and I am convinced they will take back with them much useful insight to their respective establishments. The high-level of interaction, enthusiasm and commitment reflected during these sessions is indicative of how vibrant journalism is in Sri lanka ” concluded Nicholas Nugent.



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