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Robert Hernandez, InquireFirst board member and USC Annenberg professor reminded journalists of the "rules of the road: journalism first, technology second. We always follow our ethics. Social media does not replace good journalism." Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

Digital Storytelling: Latin American journalists learn to take the lead in an ever-changing reporting environment

SAN DIEGO -- The future of journalism lies in being able to tell stories visually.

“If your intention is to be a leader you have to think of new ways to tell your stories,” Raghu Vadarevu, Editor of Digital Storytelling/Global Enterprise for The Associated Press, told journalists from Latin America and the Caribbean who attended an Aug. 21-25, 2017, workshop organized and directed by InquireFirst on Digital Storytelling.  “We can’t lose site of this: we’re still trying to tell stories.  We just have to use all the new tools at our disposal to do that.”

During an intensive session with Vadarevu, journalist participants learned about cutting edge approaches to telling their stories online. Vadarevu talked about using new techniques such as cartoons to tell a complex news story.  He described how The Associated Press used illustrations to tell the story of a girl who ran away from ISIS, detailing her treacherous journey with beautiful and moving drawings.

Raghu Vadarevu, Associated Press editor of digital storytelling/global enterprise, told journalists, "If your intention is to be a leader you have to think of new ways to tell your stories.” Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

“You need to learn to communicate with people who can produce the visuals,” he said.

Vadarevu walked journalists through the steps for telling a digital story.

Discuss opportunities for digital elements before field reporting, he said.   And remember that “we don’t need an elaborate website to tell a story.  We’re gearing a lot of our content to the mobile experience. We can tell it in pieces on social media,” Vadarevu said. 

He reminded journalists that “telling a story doesn’t end with publication.  It continues on social media. With social media, there’s a lot more opportunity to engage with readers and users.”

The workshop, organized by InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker and held on the University of San Diego campus, provided journalist participants with tools and techniques for reporting on multiple platforms as well as financing methods and organizational advice for their online media organizations. Journalists attended the program from México, Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba.

Robert Hernández, InquireFirst board member and USC Annenberg professor of professional practice, demonstrated low-cost and no-cost apps that journalists can use to tell their stories more effectively and deliver them to audiences real-time. But Hernández reminded the journalists of the “rules of the road: journalism first, technology second.  We always follow our ethics. Social media does not replace good journalism.”

Walter Baranger, a journalism professor at California State University, Fullerton, and former senior editor of news operations at The New York Times, spoke with journalists about cyber security and measures that reporters and photojournalists can take to protect their work and their equipment from private and state-sponsored hackers.

Walter Baranger, a journalism professor at California State University, Fullerton, and vice president of InquireFirst, spoke with journalists about cyber security and measures reporters and photojournalists can take to protect their work from private and state-sponsored hackers. Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

Janine Warner, co-founder of SembraMedia, reviewed effective strategies for economic sustainability of online news organizations. She cited her recently completed study, Inflection Point, that showed that Latin America’s online organizations are strong and expanding. 

There are more than 600 online news organizations now operating in Latin America and Spain, Warner said, and 49 percent of those news organizations have been operating for more than four years, a clear sign of sustainability.  About 66 percent of those organizations had four or more sources of funding, demonstrating a diversity of funding sources which is key to economic stability.

The Digital Storytelling workshop organized by InquireFirst served to strengthen the resolve of journalists to launch or expand online news organizations, which are an effective means of reaching the population – especially young people – and delivering credible, precise, thorough reporting on the important events taking place in their countries.

At the conclusion of the workshop one journalist wrote, “I am leaving with a new idea to start my own online news site.”  Another said, “You can be sure that everything I learned will be shared with others to improve the information we provide to our audiences.”


19 Latin American journalists attend inaugural InquireFirst symposium

Eileen Truax, InquireFirst journalist and author of "Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation's Fight for Their American Dream," spoke with reporters and editors at the November 2016 international investigative journalism symposium. Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

SAN DIEGO -- Journalists from Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Panama, attended InquireFirst’s inaugural international investigative journalism symposium Nov. 14-18, 2016, in San Diego. The program, organized and directed by InquireFirst Executive Director S. Lynne Walker and conducted entirely in Spanish, focused on investigative journalism in the digital age.

Nineteen Latin American journalists met with prestigious U.S. journalists and professors who offered in-depth instruction on digital reporting, data reporting and visualization of data, video reporting and economic models for conducting investigative reporting on a limited budget.

A panel discussion with Susan White, executive director of InquireFirst who has edited three Pulitzer Prize-winning projects at three U.S. media organizations, focused on techniques for reporting and writing a prize-winning investigative project. White was joined on the panel by Dave Hasemyer, an investigative reporter for InsideClimateNews who is a winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize and a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.

Erik Olsen, West Coast video correspondent for Quartz and former senior video journalist for The New York Times, taught a half-day session on new techniques for reporting and editing news documentaries for websites and mobile devices. Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

Robert Hernandez, associate professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California and InquireFirst board member, instructed a three-hour workshop on digital journalism and low-cost and no-cost digital tools available to journalists to enhance their reporting and website presentation. Erik Olsen, West Coast video correspondent for Quartz and former senior video journalist for The New York Times, talked about techniques and equipment for producing visual news reports.

Danielle Cervantes, InquireFirst journalist and professor of investigative data journalism at Point Loma University in San Diego, taught a workshop on data research.

Eileen Truax, InquireFirst journalist and author of Dreamers, An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream, spoke with journalists about ways to conduct investigative journalism with limited resources.

Walker taught a half-day session that provided journalists with practical techniques to gain access to credible and confirmed information when official channels to information are blocked. This interactive session encouraged journalists to stretch beyond the typical search for news sources and to think analytically about ways to conduct investigations without putting their lives at risk.

Danielle Cervantes, InquireFirst journalist and professor of investigative and data journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University, showed reporters and editors how to mine data to conduct in-depth reporting. Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

During the workshop, journalists met in Tijuana with Adela Navarro, co-publisher of the weekly newspaper Zeta, and her investigative team to discuss freedom of expression and the risks and responsibilities of reporting in dangerous conditions. They discussed border issues with San Diego State University Professor Victor Clark Alfaro, director of an independent center in Tijuana, the Bi-National Center for Human Rights. And they spoke about public security issues with Vicente Calderon, founder of the online news site TijuanaPress.com and editorial coordinator of Newsweek Baja California.

The journalists also engaged in a discussion with four regional experts on post-electoral implications for issues such as immigration, the bi-national relationship and the U.S.-Mexico border.

As a result of the InquireFirst symposium, journalists proposed several projects for reporters and editors in their own cities as well as for university journalism students, creating a multiplier effect for the training provided during the program. Their intent is to ensure that the experience and knowledge they gained extends beyond the confines of the San Diego classroom and into newsrooms and journalism organizations throughout Latin America.

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