Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quiet Please. Nepalese Journalists Experimenting with New Media

Pratibha Tuladhar

Kathmandu (dpa) – Radio journalist Binu Subedi spends each day talking and listening, but for three days she will be working in total silence.

She is one of five Nepalese journalists sequestered in a hotel for a social media experiment to develop stories with the help of the internet alone.

Organizer Media Foundation chose the “tech-savvy” journalists to join the campaign called the Media Gufa 2012.

The organizers said they were trying to study the viability of sourcing stories entirely online, to develop more coverage of rural Nepal.

“The objective of this camp is to assess the extent of internet reach in a developing country like Nepal in sourcing and reporting stories,” said Dharma Adhikari, general secretary of the Media Foundation.

The reporters would use the internet to interact with sources but must maintain silence. They will have access to handheld devices and laptop computers but will not be allowed to speak on the phone or talk to each other.

“The word gufa means cave in Nepali,” explained Gunaraj Luitel, one of the participants. “And wise men in our history have always sought to spend their time in caves to seek knowledge, so this is our turn to explore new media knowledge.”

They are expected to develop stories on rural issues such as health, literacy, climate change, gender and children.

“Nepal only has 19-per-cent internet penetration and less than 1 million people use new media in Nepal, which is what makes this a challenging task for journalists,” Adhikari said.

He said he borrowed the idea from a similar experiment in France, which he had read about on the internet.

“A friend approached me about this project and we wanted to be involved to see what the experiment brings about,” said Dipak Bhatta, whose Hotel Mandap is sponsoring the retreat.

For Rajneesh Bhandari, a television news reporter and student of multimedia journalism, it is an opportunity to learn how far he can go using social media to tell a story.

“I think it will help me learn to communicate better using social media as a tool,” he says.

“Finding a story with the help of the internet and doing all the interviews online will be a difficult task since our country is so low on the use of internet, but this will be a great experiment for me as a working journalist.

“I hope to bring back what I learn here, with me to the newsroom.”

Joining the journalists is a team of three researchers who will study their behaviour and record it.

“We’re not here to monitor them like in the Big Brother show, but we will take note of the mental stress they face or mark any habitual changes, which we will use as case studies,” researcher Hem Raj Kafle said.

Binu Subedi was eager to participate, with some reservation.

“I work for a radio station, so not talking for three days might be a little difficult,” she said.

“But this might be like meditation, during which we are learning.”

dpa pt tlo

DPA (German News Wire), 8 September 2012. 
Also published in Gulf Times, 8 September, 2012