Changing tracks: why a DJ became a reporter

Director of Communications and Fundraising, BBC Media Action

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Welcome to the new BBC Media Action website and to our new blog. In the coming weeks I’ll be blogging on the stories behind the 'My Media Action' films you can see on our website. They are all made by members of the BBC Media Action team and illustrate the positive impact of our work.

Today it's Josephat Mwanzi and his film about journalism training in Tanzania.

For all but the most closed of states a robust and diverse media plays a critical role in both providing useful information and mediating between leaders and the people. In many places where we work journalists are undervalued, underpaid and undertrained. A partisan or under-powered fourth estate may suit some leaders but ill-serves the people. We work with local partners to foster objective, independent reporting and to strengthen the media.

I met Josephat last December when we worked together on ideas for how he would tell his story – he has a passion for his work and there were so many tales he wanted to share. To help build a full picture of what the work means to him and why it matters, freelance cameraman Chris Morgan and I travelled with Josephat to meet some of the people he had trained at local radio stations.

Journalism training in the abstract can sound a little dry: 'raising editorial standards' and 'teaching production techniques', but when you meet the people involved and see and hear the impact it all comes very much to life.

One of the journalists we met was Saouda, who works for Hits FM on Zanzibar. Saouda used to be a radio music DJ, but through the training she has received from Josephat she has started to shift her ambitions.

She told me that while out on assignment she had met a young girl in serious trouble, a victim of sexual abuse. Saouda not only helped tell her story, but gave the girl the support and courage she needed to get help and to tell the authorities what had happened. You’ll be able to see Saouda’s story soon, as we’ll be adding more stories of 'media action' - in film, audio, photos and blogs - across the coming months.

What impressed me most about Josephat and his journalism training was the warm mentoring support he provides, and the serious dedication and professionalism he brings to his work.

Our mentoring approach to journalism training is because we have learnt that short-term training, endless workshops and seminars don’t provide the kind of hands-on practical support that journalists need. With the mentoring model Josephat works intensively with a station like Hits FM for weeks and months at a time supporting staff across the organisation – not just the presenters, but technical and managerial staff too. Josephat is in turn mentored by an experienced BBC producer. And Josephat provides a link with the BBC World Service too. Through his support, Hits FM is now making radio pieces that are broadcast on BBC World Service, giving the BBC a new opportunity to capture the voices and issues of Tanzanians.

After we had recorded the films and I was about to leave Tanzania Josephat told me that he had just heard that Saouda had turned down the offer of a better paid job as a music DJ because she now felt part of something more important, for herself and for her community.

Josephat also added "everyone remembers a good teacher" and he is right, whether it is those who have taught and mentored him, or the knowledge and skills he now passes on to his trainees. And journalism training is so important.

So welcome to our new website. Our work is all about sharing spaces where people can raise their voices, share concerns, access information and shape their lives. Eliette Mendes' blog on Angola, and the role that drama can play too, builds this theme.

We also want to know what you think. What do you call a positive 'media action' in your life and work? We are looking for feedback, ideas and stories about ways that media can and has transformed lives. You can find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or post a comment on this blog.

My next blog will tell you a bit more about Diana and her 'My Media Action' film based on work in Somalia.


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