Colombia: Championing local journalism | Latin America | DW | 13.07.2012
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Latin America

Colombia: Championing local journalism

Lina Fuenmayor, winner of this year's "Investiga" media award, recently visited DW in Germany. In an interview the Colombian journalist calls for media in her country to give more attention to topics of local interest.

What inspired you to enter the competition organized by DW Akademie and the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla?

Some colleagues told me about the competition, so I submitted a report called "The Legend of Guajira". It's about a musician named Francisco el Hombre, who couldn't read or write. His father taught him to play the accordion. But he didn't use it to compose songs about his girlfriend, nature or friends. Instead he was interested in what was happening around him. He played songs about what went on in the villages. There was no radio or television then. So he served as a channel of communication by spreading community news, for example who was expecting a baby, who had died, who had been attacked in their home, whether it had rained or not, whether there had been a good harvest. Traveling by foot or donkey from one community to the next, he conveyed news that was of interest to the villagers through his songs. The people waited for him at the public squares and on street corners to hear the latest.

My report illustrates the importance of communication media, especially in terms of day-to-day affairs. But the media in Colombia always make crime a priority. In fact, I think that the coverage causes even greater emphasis on crime in the country. By contrast, Francisco el Hombre told the kinds of stories that modern-day journalists consider inconsequential. But such stories are very important for people. They want to know about traditions and customs. They want to learn about things that often fall into obscurity because the media only prioritize topics that don't do the country any good in the long-run.

After your visit to Germany, will you take home fresh ideas for your work in journalism?

Of course. Journalism should always stay focused on socially relevant topics. At the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum I attended several panel discussions about human rights, peace and development cooperation. Those topics showed me how I can contribute as a journalist and what my responsibility is as a journalist. This work isn't just about producing information but also about going deeper. For me the most important aspect is that the things I write about serve to help and find solutions to problems.

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