Bringing the Classroom Into the World
Fostering Relationships In Liberia
- MPD students document Liberian journalists
- MPD student produced a fundraising documentary video
- PD student produces USAID grant proposal
- International Internship program
- International visiting scholar opportunity
- FrontPage Africa Print Redesign
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As part of an ongoing, five year relationship with the storytellers of Liberia, Asst. Professor Ken Harper and four Newhouse graduate students documented and worked with the leading media houses in Liberia, West Africa. Over the course of two weeks, students documented the lives of three award-winning journalists and assisted in international fundraising proposals.
The overarching goal for Multimedia, Photography & Design students was to tell the story of three top female journalists and New Narratives, the training program that empowered them to become better storytellers.
In addition, Ken Harper facilitated the beginning of an internship program with the FrontPage Africa newspaper, Liberia Media Democratic Initiatives (LMDI), and the Red Eyez Studio entertainment video production company. These relationships will provide dramatic opportunities to student journalists and entertainment storytellers to work in a culturally and visually rich environment
During the winter break of 2012-13 Newhouse students were introduced to the realities of working with local and international journalists in a post-conflict environment.
Students at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University traveled to Liberia to partner with local media professionals for educational purposes. These students comprised two groups: Multimedia Photography & Design students who worked with New Narratives and FrontPage Africa in developing a documentary film; and a second group of Public diplomacy graduate students who worked with John Kollie of Liberia Media for Democratic Initiatives (LMDI) to create a communication management strategy and grant proposal for USAID.
As part of a continuing relationship with FrontPage Africa, Asst. Prof. Ken Harper established a graduate internship program, visiting scholar opportunity and began a collaboration with Prof. Claudia Strong’s “Designing the News” graduate class to facilitate a print redesign.
MPD students Jessica Suarez, Kristina Subsara and Jim Tuttle were tasked with telling the story of FrontPage Africa journalists and New Narratives’ Fellows in support of a fundraising campaign.
Each student followed one reporter for over two weeks in aims to put a human face on the realities of being a female journalist in Liberia.
The content collected by each student will serve as an in-class project for Associate Professor Bruce Strong’s “Multimedia Rockstar” graduate class during the Spring 2013 semester. In that class 15 MPD graduate students will produce their own version of the story outlining the struggles and accomplishments of the journalists and the success of the New Narratives training model.
The documentary will accompany a fundraising campaign targeted at international development organizations like Open Society and the Ford Foundation as well as a crowd-sourced Kickstarter initiative to further New Narratives training goals.
New Narratives (NN) is a non-profit organization helping media deliver independent, truthful information to its people so they can make smart decisions about their countries’ politics and resources, while keeping leaders accountable.
Partnering with FrontPage Africa, NN offers in-depth, long-term training for selected journalists. NN reporters have raised previously ignored issues sparking debate and action by government, international agencies and Liberians at home and abroad. The reporting has: forced government to come out with its first public stand against female genital cutting; prompted programs to tackle teenage prostitution, child labor, drug trafficking and teen pregnancy; exposed police abuse of rape victims and forced the arrest of perpetrators; brought down corrupt government figures and prompted fines on foreign companies breaching deals with local people.
Not enough journalists reporting to major international media from Africa are African. NN believes Africans are better placed to give in-depth, nuanced analysis of their own countries that will ensure world leaders have the balanced, detailed information they need to make decisions that impact the continent. NN journalists are the major contributors of Liberian news to international media such as Newsweek/Daily Beast, The Guardian, Reuters, Global Post, Newsday, PBS Newshour, Foreign Policy magazine, US public radio and the Christian Science Monitor.
FrontPage Africa (FPA) is Liberia’s leading investigative newspaper. In June 2005 FPA was initially launched as an on-line only publication and later as a print edition and now enjoys almost 20 million visitors per month.
FrontPage Africa, along with other civil society groups, have been at the forefront of efforts to strengthen Liberia’s new democracy which, if it is to be sustainable, must be built on the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. In this respect, FrontPage Africa has been at the forefront of the battle to expose corruption and acts inimical to good governance in Liberia that has earned it the respect and admiration of the Liberian populace.
The stories published by FrontPage Africa have led to specific policy reforms to strengthen Liberia’s new democratic institutions, and to provide greater transparency and public accountancy in government, but these struggles are far from over and must be sustained at all levels.
Continuing its hard-hitting approach, FrontPage Africa launched a print version in December 2009 and in that short time has become the most widely read newspaper in Liberia today.
New Narratives/FrontPage Africa Journalists
Mae Azango, Mae is one of the best-known reporters in Liberia. Her consistent dedication to telling the stories of ordinary Liberians in the FrontPage Africa newspaper has won her a big following since she joined NN in July 2010. Mae’s courageous reporting on the health risks of female genital cutting by Liberia’s traditional societies in Spring 2012 – even after she and her daughter had received death threats and were forced into hiding – won her Press Freedom awards from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Prior to that, Mae’s reporting on police abuse of rape victims had prompted President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to demand the arrest of perpetrators and launch an investigation into police conduct.
Mae won a 2011 Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grant to cover reproductive health in Liberia and wrote the first column on maternal health in Liberia. Mae was chosen to travel to Washington to cover the International Monetary Fund meeting in Spring 2012 and to travel to the Women Deliver Global conference in Malaysia in March 2013.
Mae’s experiences in Liberia’s long civil war heavily influence her reporting. Her father Robert G.W. Azango was an Associate Justice of Liberia’s Supreme Court in 1990 when rebels, led by Charles Taylor, dragged Mr. Azango from his house where he was having breakfast with his family. Still wearing his pajamas, Mr. Azango was jailed and beaten. He later died from his injuries.
Mae was just 17 when she gave birth to her first child. Cut off from hospitals by fighting, she nearly bled to death because of the superstitious beliefs of the traditional midwife who attended to her. These experiences have made her determined to bring truthful information to Liberians so they can make smart decisions about their own lives.
Tecee Boley is a leading Liberian radio and print reporter. She works at FrontPage Africa newspaper and FrontPageAfricaonline.com and is regularly heard on United Nations radio. Prior to that, she was a reporter at Liberia Women Democracy Radio presenting programs on gender education and rural women. Tecee was named Liberia’s 2011 Development Reporter of the year – becoming one of just three women ever to win a national reporting award at that time.
Prior to joining NN in July 2010, Tecee’s only trip outside Liberia had been as a refugee in neighboring Ivory Coast. In 2011 she won a Pulitzer Center grant to travel to World Water Week in Sweden and to report on Liberia’s troubled progress on water and sanitation. In 2012 she was selected to attend Business Reporting training in London with Thomson Reuters and to travel to Washington D.C. and Texas with the U.S. State Department. Her reporting on issues such as unsafe abortions and teenage prostitution has prompted investigations by the UN and the government. Tecee has contributed to the World Policy Journal, Reuters, U.S. public radio and the PBS NewsHour.
Tecee’s drive to be a journalist came during the years she spent growing up in refugee camps during Liberia’s long civil wars. She saw violence against women and children that was never reported.
Wade C.L. Williams is an investigative reporter and chief of the news desk for FrontPage Africa newspaper and website. Some call her the most powerful newswoman in Liberia where few women have been able to make a career in the media, let alone reach the top ranks. Since joining NN in January 2011 she has interviewed warlords and written about discrimination against homosexuals, which brought an avalanche of threats against her. Having experienced the horrors of war in Liberia, she
then was pilloried by political parties during the 2011 elections. When her editor was forced to flee the country, she kept the paper running.
Wade is a recipient of the prestigious Dag Hammarskjold fellowship. She is one of four international journalists chosen to spend three months in New York City covering the United Nations and the 2012 UN General Assembly. In that role she has broken stories with dramatic repercussions in Liberia and has again received death threats for her reporting on female genital cutting by traditional societies in Liberia.
In 2012 she received the national awards for human rights reporting and political affairs reporting joining a handful of women to have won national reporting awards in Liberia. She has been chosen to accompany the president and government ministers on trips to West African neighbors and the World Bank forum in Washington D.C.
“It is our responsibility to tell people what’s going on,” says Wade. “Then they will learn how to move forward. At NN we explore issues that normally media dare not touch, because all they are concerned about is politics, politics, politics. What about the woman in the village who is not getting adequate healthcare? Or is accused of being a witch because she has complications during childbirth?”
Wade holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the United Methodist University. As a student, Wade pioneered the first student newsletter, Inside UMU, and graduated magna cum laude.
Grant Proposal Overview
Public Diplomacy student, Roxanne Bauer, worked with the director and founder of Liberia Media for Democratic Initiatives (LMDI), John Kollie, in writing a USAID grant proposal. The grant is meant to support their work informing rural Liberian villages through storytelling. LMDI’s mission is to “achieve good governance and general peaceful co-existence through media related programs and outreach.”
Liberia Media for Democratic Initiatives (LMDI) was established in October 2011 and registered during the same period with the Liberian Government. Its mission is to achieve good governance and general peaceful co-existence through media related programs and outreach. LMDI regards building the post-conflict fragile peace and the development of the media in Liberia as a key impetus to sustaining Liberia’s emerging democracy.
LMDI aims to achieve peace and justice through media sensitization, media empowerment through training and workshops for media practitioners, outreach on peace-building and national reconciliation, and awareness on key development issues, pillars and governance.
LMDI was founded by journalist John O. Kollie along with other tenured Liberian media practitioners, and currently employs 15 permanent and non-permanent staff.
To further student opportunities, improve storytelling skills and broaden U.S./Liberian cultural understandings, FrontPage Africa and Red Eyez Studio have agreed to begin a student internship program with the Newhouse School and its partner institutions.
This program aims to impart unique knowledge and experiences that can only be shared inside the real-world environment of a daily newspaper and video production house. In a phased introduction to Liberian society, interns would at first be partnered with seasoned Liberian journalists and video production specialists then gradually set out on their own to tell the stories of Liberia.
Target areas include writing, visual and web journalists, editors, advertising specialists and entertainment-minded visual storytellers.
Liberia is a post-conflict environment with a complex set of political and cultural hurdles. Students applying for internships would first have to a have a firm understanding of the realities of living and working in that environment. A pamphlet outlining basic health, social and political issues as well as a reading list would be given to each student as a part of the application process. Ideally the student would already have had experience traveling in a developing country, preferably in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Students would be required to go through a vetting period to establish their ability to be productive in the Liberian environment. This process would include a detailed questionnaire and personal interview process, first by the initiating institution and final approval by the host business and the leading academic institution, the Newhouse School.
Internship durations would range from three weeks to one year, depending on specific needs and circumstances.
Interns would be expected to pay for their own expenses. To reduce costs, interns would be paired with a host Liberian family and encouraged to explore the local culture and way of life. Most internships will be based in the capital, Monrovia with occasional trips to rural Liberia.
Students will be encouraged to research and explore outside fundraising opportunities such as research grants, crowd-sourced campaigns and other independent methods of self-funding. We see this as an opportunity for students to begin their education into the area of self/grant-funded journalism.
Health is a key concern. All interns would be required to have the necessary vaccinations and malaria medications in addition to student emergency health insurance. Travel expenses would include a roundtrip ticket to Monrovia, Liberia and in-country transportation.
Visiting Scholar Pilot Program
To further Newhouse students and Liberian journalists cultural and professional awareness we have established a visiting scholar pilot program.
Chase Walker, visual journalist at FrontPage Africa will be the first Newhouse Post-Conflict Journalism Scholar Fellow. Chase will attend undergraduate and graduate level courses focusing on visual journalism. Chase will also conduct lectures and workshops throughout Newhouse and Syracuse University on the realities of being a young visual storyteller in a developing nation.
Chase Walker is New Narratives’ resident photojournalist. He works at FrontPage Africa newspaper/website where he is head of the graphic department and is responsible for the layout and design of the newspaper. He also regularly contributes political and social cartoons. Chase’s photographs for New Narratives have appeared in publications around the world.
Chase fled fighting in Liberia in 2003 and spent six years in a refugee camp in Ghana. He experienced first-hand the hardships of refugee life—water and sanitation concerns, scarcity of food and lack of money for school. While Chase was in Ghana his father died in Monrovia from a stroke when a rebel attack on the capital shut down the hospitals. This tragedy, and the challenging years in exile, made him the person he is today. While a refugee, Chase never gave up on pursuing an education and took advantage of every opportunity offered.
Chase has a passion for capturing beauty even in the face of adversity and poverty. He especially enjoys photographing children because he sees something inside them that people don’t always notice. Chase believes photography is particularly important in his country where more than 70% of people are illiterate.
Newhouse to Redesign FrontPage Africa FrontPage Africa and Professor Claudia Strong’s “News Design” class have joined forces to redesign West Africa’s leading investigative newspaper. Graduate students are working with FrontPage Africa’s designers to create a comprehensive set of page templates and style guides to bring FrontPage into an international level of information delivery and usability.