Michael Karhausen reflects on training online journalism…offline.
The Internet is everywhere - except in Room FL 301 in the new building belonging to the National Laos University in Vientiane. There's no flow of information here - just a flow of water, or to be more precise, a constant drip from the newly installed air conditioner. Someone's thoughtfully put down a plastic bucket to stop the drops from dripping onto the carpet.
No problem. We'll just turn the online workshop into an online workshop without Internet access.
So during the day we work with the participants offline and in the evenings we upload the Laotian pieces in a tiny apartment on the edge of the campus, and the English ones in the city's Hotel Khamvongsa. The next morning we go back to working offline, discussing and writing new pieces, and in the evening we're back putting them online. And so it goes.
My colleague Marcus Bösch has got everything under control and has quickly figured out who among the 13 participants has a knack for online journalism. It's 23 year-old Sone. He's just finished his studies in print journalism and now teaches photojournalism.
Sone is getting ready to become a nerd - at least when it comes to wordpress.com and wordpress.org. He's already an expert photographer. He wrote his graduating essay on the challenges facing press photography and to do that he had to sift through piles of Laotian dailies. He found jumbled pages with photos showing men in dark suits shaking hands and holding oversized cheques or standing side-by-side, clearly hoping that someone would finally click the shutter. Some of the photos were blurry, others were lopsided or a bit green, and some were all three. There were other photos where the person at the edge of the photo was partly sliced off because there simply hadn't been enough room for him.
Sone analyzed it all and then wrote an instruction guide explaining how to choose a subject, how to select details and how a camera functions. He's planning to release the guide on Wikiversity's first journalism site written in Laotian and being developed by the university together with DW Akademie. It will be available online.
Because there's no Internet access in Room FL 301. At least, not so far.
Radio and TV journalist Michael Karhausen has been a trainer with DW Akademie since 2003 and works primarily with DW journalism trainees. In 2010 he also began working with the National Laos University in Vientiane where DW Akademie is assisting with the development of a journalism faculty.