KATHMANDU, Sept 8: The Media Gufa 2014 concluded amid a program at Hotel Mandap, Thamel, in the capital on Monday.
Highlights of the event included a talk by journalist Rabindra Mishra, and sharing of experiences by the five participating ‘tech-savvy’ journalists from Dadeldhura, Gulmi, Parsa, Dolakha and Kathmandu. The journalists had been in seclusion for 72 hours in a makeshift cave where they had to write news feature stories using only the internet and social media.
Mishra, the head of BBC Nepali, spoke on the importance of rigor in journalism, of fact-based reporting, supported by verifiable sources. There is a tendency to be first in the news industry, and everyone seems to be running after breaking news, but it’s better to be truthful than to be first, he said.
Social media offer journalists ways to verify information, to search for and find experts on the internet; however, we also find social media vitriolic with attempts to shut out expert and rational arguments, he observed. Social media can be useful to verify information, and journalists should use these media cautiously, he said.
Mishra said that during the past decade, Nepal has seen not only public awakening of reason but also antipathy, and while we hold politicians responsible for this trend, journalists are also to blame for this. Commenting that media outlets were obsessed with negative news, he exhorted journalists to focus on positive news. Citing some examples, he said positive news can often have more readers than negative news.
He emphasized on ethical practices in the media. Unethical or dishonest practices in the media are injustices to the entire society; they have far bigger negative impact on society than such acts committed by other social institutions or individuals, he said.
Mishra stated that there is a lack of in-house training within large institutions and the country’s media education is theoretically driven and practically not satisfactory. Problem starts just where learning stops, and initiatives like Media Gufa are useful in this regards, he observed.
Earlier, Mishra awarded certificates of participation to the five journalists– Bishal Bhattarai (Nagarik/Republica dailies), Sher Bahadur Bhujel (Kalika FM), Lokesh Saud (Avenues TV), Bimmi Sharma (Himal Khabarpatrika) and Pratima Silwal (puleso.com).
Participants described their physical experience while inside the Gufa, the professional process and expected impact of the experience in their future career.
The 5 peer-nominated journalists had remained in seclusion inside a makeshift digital cave where they were challenged to report on stories directly related to a rural district in the country. First, they had to propose story ideas, then participate in a 6-hour long intense news decision-making session where they voted for the 5 best ideas, finally assigned via lot. The following stories were assigned:
Participants had to work collaboratively and report solely through the internet and social media, according to a thorough story guidelines involving at least 50 major ‘obstacles’ relating to story content, format, sourcing, attribution, referencing, deadlines, etc.
The next Gufa program, which complements the urban and new media-based event at Thamel, will be organized in March 2015 in a rural location. The same 5 participants will return to report and write stories in the old-fashioned door-to-door, shoe-string approach, without the use of any technology or new media.
Stories from both events will be analyzed later by a research team.