Wednesday, 17 October 2012

WFSJ graduates 58 African and Arab Science Journalists

Fifty-eight journalists from 30 African and Arab countries graduated from the SjCOOP Program of the World Federation of Science Journalists, Wednesday 10th October 2012, in Jordan.

Following their last encounter with the experienced science journalist who has been their mentor for the last two years, the ‘mentees’ – one of them now editor-in-chief of his newspaper, another now working for the main TV station in her country, and several having published articles in the most prestigious scientific journals – received their certificate from the World Federation of Science Journalists.

“It has really been two years of great learning and sharing”, said Hope Mafaranga from Uganda.

The class of 2012 is the second group of African and Arab science journalists to successfully complete the SjCOOP training program. In a first phase, from 2006 to 2009, SjCOOP graduated 32 science journalists from Africa and the Arab World.

SjCOOP mentees typically begin by revising the ten lessons of the WFSJ online course in science journalism developed – and recently updated – by an international team of journalists: Mentors then comment the online, print, audio, or video production of their mentees with a goal of improving overall quality. Mentors also advise on how to find sources and story ideas all the way to pitching stories to editors and freelancing internationally.

Beyond improving the skills of individual journalists at better covering complex issues like climate change, health, energy and technological developments, SjCOOP has provided several pan-African publications with networks of correspondents, in some instances giving birth to entirely new publications, rooted in Africa.

The program also invests in the development of networks of journalists, up to the establishment of associations and the linkage of the associations, regionally and internationally. It has played a key role in the establishment of more than 15 active associations or clubs of science journalists with many of them initiating their own training activities.

Monitoring and Evaluation are fully integrated in the program thanks to the work of internal and external evaluators. Throughout the duration of the program, the SjCOOP program managers benefit from early information about areas that need improvement while independent evaluators measure the progress of the mentees’ production according to quality criteria established at the outset of the mentoring.

This intense monitoring work – and the large size of the group – provide an exceptional opportunity to study what conditions are necessary for a journalist to succeed at covering science in Africa and in the Arab World, from his personal qualifications to the newsroom environment. SjCOOP has already led to the publication of several articles in peer-reviewed journals*. Several more papers providing unique insights on how science and technology can be communicated through the African and Arab media will be published in the coming months.

… and SjCOOP Phase II will end only next January.

In the meantime, eighteen of the best SjCOOP graduates from 15 different Arab and African countries will be working in a ‘virtual newsroom’ where they will work in teams on stories under the editorial leadership of editors from ScienceAfrica,, Nature Middle East and the newspapers Sidwaya (Burkina Faso), Mutations (Cameroon), and FraternitĂ©-Matin (CĂ´te d’Ivoire).

The World Federation of Science Journalists and the SjCOOP team have learned tremendously from the mentees, mentors and coordinators. The Federation is now putting together follow-up activities. Keep visiting this web site for more detailed reports on the achievements of the SjCOOPies, from publishing in the most prestigious international publications to making an impact on their Parliaments.

As Ola Al-Ghazawy said: “I wish all the SCJOOP family will keep in touch”.

This is a challenge that the World Federation of Science Journalists is committed to meet in several ways. One way is to make sure that as many science journalists as possible attend the upcoming 8th World Conference of Science Journalists, 24 – 28 June 2013, in Helsinki, Finland:

The SjCOOP Program is funded by UK Aid (lead donor), The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Canada's International Development Research Centre.

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