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Journalism students from 17 universities around the world have been working together to broadcast a six-hour newscast focused on solutions journalism.
The programme, the Global News Relay, was broadcast on CMACTV on 29 March, hosted by students from California State University, Fresno. The newscast can also be viewed on YouTube, and there are plans to turn each separate segment into an individual video to be shared on social media.
“I assigned each of my students to a university,” explained Faith Sidlow, assistant professor, broadcast journalism, at California State University, Fresno. “They’ve been communicating either by Skype or Google Hangout or email or WeChat, talking about the different methods of covering stories, what the stories are, and trying to keep everything in line and try to meet the deadline.”
The participating universities come from 10 different countries. “I am amazed that it’s actually going as smoothly as it is, because there are so many people involved,” said Sidlow, speaking to Journalism.co.uk for a recent podcast.
“In some of the universities, the students don’t speak English, so we’ve actually produced some of the stories with subtitles. Some of the universities don’t do broadcast, so they have invented a way of doing it, whether it’s a radio class that is learning how to shoot video on their phones or a newspaper class that is doing the same type of thing with still pictures or just with interviews.
“Each of the universities has as much autonomy as they want. The only request is that they focus their stories on solutions journalism.”
Aside from learning new skills in the production process that might otherwise not be taught on their course, taking part in the project is also an opportunity for the students to establish connections with journalists in other countries.
A number of universities taking part in the Global News Relay have also participated in the GENII project, a collaborative programme where students from universities in different countries are paired up and each work on stories based in the other’s location.
Fresno State students do not study solutions journalism as part of their course, but some of the professors taking part in the Global News Relay are also part of the Solutions Journalism Network, said Sidlow, so they were able to share their expertise.
The subjects the students have tackled as part of the project include a look at a town that does not produce any waste, interviews with the families of young people missing in Mexico, insights into the Women’s Marches organised around the world, and other stories looking at environmental issues, food poverty, gender equality and feminism, among others.
The idea to adopt solutions journalism as the theme of the Relay evolved from an initial plan to include activism into the project, which had to be carefully considered to suit the different universities taking part.
“We thought it might be more palatable for some of the universities if we address it as solutions journalism rather than having any indication that some of the students are going to be performing as activists.
“There is quite a difference between the two, because we wanted our students to cover the stories and cover the people who are actually making change, rather than being the mechanism to make change.”