Trainers Can Remain Foreign to Local Journalists: Due to Cultural and Language Differences, Trainers Can Be 'Regarded as a Sort of Extraterrestrial as They Deliver Their Advice and Lessons.'

By Duran, Ragip | Nieman Reports, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview
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Trainers Can Remain Foreign to Local Journalists: Due to Cultural and Language Differences, Trainers Can Be 'Regarded as a Sort of Extraterrestrial as They Deliver Their Advice and Lessons.'


Duran, Ragip, Nieman Reports


The road to becoming a journalist often travels through some kind of organized training and education in journalism in which a person learns about journalistic values and methods that are universally agreed upon. But the practice of journalism can be a peculiar, subjective, local and original activity. So when it comes to training that takes place outside of one's own country, the use of language to convey thoughts, as well as the particular aspects of cultural and social concepts, tend to narrow the limits of what can be accomplished through journalistic training abroad. Here are some thoughts I've heard expressed in various places I've gone to work with journalists:

* Here we have been steeped in the traditions of Anglo-Saxon journalism, and therefore we adhere to the principle of nonintervention in private life. (Nicosia, Cyprus)

* We are broadcasting from Brussels, but our target audience are Kurds, so we cannot exactly decide on what approach to adopt. (Brussels, Belgium)

* There are some Turkish words that we use in Greek also but they have different meanings than in the Turkish you use. (Alexandroupolis, Greece)

I have been giving lectures in media ethics, civic journalism, and radio journalism for nearly 10 years, initially and most of all through Galatasaray University and other various institutions of higher education in Istanbul, as well as at training seminars attended by local radio and television journalists in Turkey. My own training in journalism happened between 1983-84 at Centre de Formation et de Perfectionnement des Journalistes in Paris within the "Journalist in Europe" program, which has sadly been closed, and as a 2000 Nieman Fellow.

As a media trainer, I've worked abroad twice at the training seminars organized in Cyprus by the European Journalism Centre, attended by Turkish and Greek Cypriot journalists, two other times with the Turkish-Greek border correspondents' group (at A1exandroupolis and Xomotini) and five times at training meetings organized in Brussels and Cologne for Kurdish and Turkish television journalists.

What Qualifies a Trainer?

Without doubt, training seminars abroad are different in a number of aspects from lectures and seminars held at home. Before dissecting these differences, let me share a related experience, conveyed by National Public Radio Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin at the Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO) meeting held in Istanbul in September 2003. Here is the story he shared with us:

"I received an invitation from the State Department. Its wording was something to the effect of 'We would like to invite you to participate in a series of training seminars we will organize in Iraq for training local journalists and would like you to share your expertise and journalistic approach with your Iraqi colleagues if you deem it appropriate.' Upon a first reading of the invitation, I had thought it might be all right. When I went home in the evening I discussed it with my wife, and I think she became a bit tense at first because of the war situation in Iraq. However, she then said to me, 'Journalistic training in Iraq, eh? Is that journalistic imperialism?' When I thought about what she said I tended to agree with her First of all, I could not speak any Arabic. I didn't know anything about Iraqi journalism, either Moreover, considering the fact that the armed forces of the nation of which I was a member had a presence in Iraq, I tried to figure out how I would be perceived by my Iraqi colleagues as a journalist trainer of that nation. I decided to decline the State Department's invitation.

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