Media for a New Nation
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
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.