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Cover of the spring 2003 SFSU magazine. Geography Professor Max Kirkeberg and students tour of San Francisco's Western Addition.

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 3, Number 2.
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Alumni and FriendsSFSU alumna Carolyn Robinson stands next to a group of boys and girls and shows them how to use a video camera in Bacau, East Timor.

 

New Media for a New Nation

In war-torn East Timor, journalist Carolyn Robinson (B.A., BECA, '95) is helping a nation recover from years of civil strife, wielding only a laptop computer and a video camera. For the past three years, Robinson has been training East Timorese in broadcast journalism techniques. Most of the country's communication infrastructure was destroyed in the violence following the 1999 vote
for independence from Indonesia, so she's learned a big lesson in starting from scratch.

Robinson first traveled to East Timor as a country director for Internews, a U.S.-based nonprofit that supports independent media in developing democracies. Later she worked as news director of the country's only television station, TVTL, set up by the United Nations interim administration. When the United Nations withdrew in May 2002, leaving East Timor completely independent, Robinson realized the East Timorese had no means of producing their own broadcasts.

She sought out people interested in learning TV production. Her offer was eagerly accepted by a group of 20 aspiring journalists. Robinson organized workshops, recruiting other broadcast journalists based in the capital city of Dili to help her teach filming, scripting, and editing. A grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an organization committed to furthering standards of journalistic excellence and defending freedom of press worldwide, allowed her to continue her work.

It's helped to have a lesson in Tetum, the country's main language, every evening, and a group of students who are enthusiastic. "They're thrilled to be getting trained," she says, noting the country's 75 percent unemployment rate.

Robinson has reported and produced news stories for CNN, the BBC, Reuters, and NPR. "I wanted to transfer some of the skills I had learned to less experienced journalists and help contribute to the nation-building process in the world's newest country at the same time," she says. Today her students have produced two 20-minute news shows and are looking for funding so they can buy their own production equipment.

In the spring Robinson traveled to Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia to teach investigative reporting to journalists trying to raise awareness of human trafficking in the Balkans.

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