In an effort to bring technology to a growing community of Liberian journalists, iLab recently offered a course exploring online collaborative platforms. This course, Social Media for Social Change, is one of iLab’s ongoing and most popular courses that, in this case, was customized for 14 members of the Journalists for Human Rights Liberia Student Chapter. This training introduces platforms for easily publishing articles, document storage and virtual collaboration among Liberia’s aspiring journalists.
In our interactions with iLab users, we’ve found that most people spend their online time using Facebook and emailing; very few are taking advantage of other information sharing tools. For this reason, we highlighted the following tools for our classroom of journalists:
- Tumblr – For journalists we’ve met at iLab, the most important function of a website is to share their stories, images and create a body of work for others to see. Blogging tools like WordPress, while useful, focus more on the site’s design whereas our users are seeking to upload content quickly and easily. Tumblr’s features make it clear and simple how to upload a variety of content with a unique, preset theme.
Google Plus – This social platform is an alternative to Facebook that, in the Liberian context, is more often used for professional collaboration via Hangouts or simultaneous editing of a shared document. iLab users find it engaging and also a productive tool for group work and info sharing outside of the lab.
Twitter – As I always say, “a journalist without a Twitter account is half-informed.” Even in a setting like Liberia where slow connection speeds make it difficult to use Twitter, it is undoubtedly the fastest way to share one’s own work and to stay abreast with events both within Liberia and around the world. Even if Liberian journalists only get to use Twitter periodically depending on their internet connection, it is critical for them to have a voice in the Twittersphere where Liberians are under-represented. With the ACE fiber-optic cable recently landed in-country and soon to be distributed, Liberia will soon have access to high-speed internet and these journalists will be ready to take advantage of tools like Twitter right away.
We’re excited to Hangout, Tweet and Tumble with these talented storytellers; here are a couple of all-stars to follow: @flozeezee, @AlVarneyRogers. In our efforts to support aspiring and professional journalists, we welcome suggestions about online and offline platforms/tools that you have found useful. Please share with us so we can continue growing Liberia’s online community of storytellers.