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  • Writer's picturemichellebetz

What I Do

I am often asked to explain what exactly I do. The thing is that what I do encompasses many different activities so it’s not always easy to explain. I started out training journalists (I’m a former journalist and journalism educator) and still do a lot of training but over the years my work in the media development sector has expanded far beyond training.

Because journalists are targeted in many of the places I work, I do a lot of safety work – advising on safety protocols, talking about psycho-social issues and how these might be most effectively addressed in places where mental health issues are often taboo. I’ve even published some articles about providing psycho-social support to local journalists when there are often no mental health professionals around. You can check out some of my research here, here and a chapter in this book.

One of the most fun projects I’ve had in the past year is to create a journalist training toolkit for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). I developed a number of components (an online course (thanks to João Pedro Martins for bringing it to life), videos, a journalist’s handbook and a facilitator’s guide. But it was the online “Choose your own adventure” game that was the standout!

IOM asked me to create a game – and that was the only parameter. A game. After a few conversations with my husband (who’s a gamer), we decided to create a game based on the journeys of migrants. I did the research and wrote the story based on real life accounts of West African migrants and my husband put it together online while Brazilian artist, Thaís Mesquita, did the gorgeous illustrations. Producing the game made me realize what an effective learning tool this is and I hope to have more opportunities to do this type of work. You can check out the game here and let me know what you think. We produced all of these components in French too!

I also evaluate media support projects and just evaluated a project in Burkina Faso. I did all of my work remotely but was fortunate to work with a colleague who was able to travel to Burkina Faso and collect the data. One of the most interesting components of that project was a digital archiving activity that took old content (on things like cassette tapes!!) from community radio stations and digitized it to preserve the content. This was the first activity of this type that I have come across in my work and I found it fascinating. Finally, a way to preserve history and cultural heritage (music and interviews with local leaders, for example) that would have otherwise likely been lost forever. You can check out some of these archives from Radio Vénégré in Ziniaré, Burkina Faso here (in French).

Interestingly, two of my current projects involve radio – something I became passionate about when I began to teach at the University of Central Florida and set up a college station. Right around the same time I met Doug Mitchell who was doing interesting work training the next generation of radio journalists while he was at NPR. Twenty years later, Doug and I are still collaborating and I am thrilled that he and I have launched NextGen Radio’s first ever international project at the University of the South Pacific and its radio station, Radio Pasifik, in Fiji. We are working together with the East-West Center in Honolulu to implement this grant.

Another project I’ve got going is with another university radio station – only this one is on the other side of the world – in Rwanda. I set up in Radio Salus back in 2005 and I am honored to have the opportunity to explore new directions for the station 16 years later.

So, there’s always something different but always with lots of collaboration, plenty of creativity and always learning something new.

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