Monday, October 31, 2011

For non-technical journalists, a free platform

Recently I met the people of Sourcefabric, who produce two free publishing platforms for print and radio organizations that want to have a web presence.

This non-profit group, based in Prague, has been helping independent media outlets extend their reach on the Web for more than a decade. (Disclosure, I was a guest speaker at their recent conference in Prague.)

Their web platform for print media (known as a content management system or CMS) is called Newscoop; their system for radio is called Airtime.

I was unaware that these free web platforms were being used by some of the media outlets that I have written about in my blogs: Malaysiakini in Malaysia, El Faro in El Salvador and El Periodico in Guatemala. These media and their managers have been subject to threats, attempted censorship or even violence because of their commitment to provide independent news voices in their countries. 

Held for journalists

Sourcefabric's motto says it all: "We believe in quality, independent journalism and provide open-source software and support to produce it."

The advantage for journalists who may lack technical skills is that they can concentrate on producing high-quality journalism without having to create a web management system from the ground up. 

Sourcefabric has free downloadable software and a team of programmers who maintain and update it. The organization charges for support, but its objective is not to make money.

Success story from Africa

During Sourcefabric's recent conference, Peter Kahler, director of West Africa Democracy Radio, talked about how Airtime helped this network of local radio stations to expand its audience and impact. 

The network is based in Dakar, Senegal. It started by programming four hours a day with news about Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Kahler's home country. Today it broadcasts 24/7 via satellite in English and French and has 33 partner stations in eight countries. The Airtime system allows all of the partners to smoothly interchange program contents. Sixty percent of the news is by and about West Africa, 30 percent about the rest of Africa and 10 percent about the rest of the world. 

Five months after launching their website, the found that they have large audiences in Europe, the Americas and other parts of the world. The network has 24,000 followers in Soundcloud, a kind of YouTube for radio. 

Many of the partners are community radio stations that translate the news from English and French into local languages. Now even remote villages can get news about their community, neighboring countries and the world. 

Independent journalism organizations can use these tools to get up and running quickly.

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