By: EMILY COOK
A proposal to revive an international news service at Carleton University might result in a new permanent journalism course that is already inspiring students to connect with the developing world.
Journalism professor Allan Thompson has asked the School of Journalism and Communications to commit to re-launching Gemini News Service, a news agency that had focused on covering news from the developing world for 30 years, but went out of business in 2002.
Gemini was founded by British journalist Derek Ingram in 1967. According to it’s website, Ingram launched the project hoping to help people better understand issues surrounding developing countries. Gemini featured local journalists reporting on issues affecting their own countries.
One fourth-year Carleton class participated in a pilot project which began in the spring of 2011. They relied on the help of eight African journalists to see how the project might be incorporated into Carleton.
“We all realized that we had a lot more in common with these journalists than we may have thought,” said Sarah Petz, communications editor for the pilot project.
In the prototype class, students collaborated with journalists from across the globe, helping to develop their story ideas, commissioning stories, brainstorming sources, copy-editing and producing the news service itself.
“I think it’s important for the voices to be legitimately from the countries where the stories are coming from,” said Sarah Frizzell, one of the other four editors of the pilot. She says these articles dig past the surface-level stories other journalists may find after staying in the area for only a few days.
“What we’ve been hearing from these journalists is how meaningful it is to have a platform like this to have their work published,” said Petz.
Thompson’s proposal suggests the Gemini News Service be incorporated through the a required fourth-year Journalism class, says Thompson. Students who take the course would have the same responsibilities as those described in the pilot project.
“The buzz word is sort of ‘immersive learning,’ that you’d be learning about journalism in the developing world by interacting directly with journalists from the developing world and with their journalism,” said Thompson.
“There is still a very real question of trying to figure out how this could generate some revenue and recover some of it’s costs, because the correspondents have to be paid.”
The proposal suggests, through co-operation with the School of Journalism and Communications, the Gemini project could use the school’s equipment, teaching facilities, and staff to run the news service, which would save a significant sum of the cost, says Thompson. This year’s pilot project was funded by a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), whose money was used to help pay international reporters.
Looking forward, Thompson says it would be ideal to connect the journalists in the developing world with workshops or other training meetings to facilitate their access to services that could strengthen their skills and networks.
A roundtable discussion was held March 27 with Carleton professors and outside stakeholders to discuss the proposal.