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Concept Note

International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Cameroon Union of Journalists and CREDDA

Media Training Workshop to enhance the Reporting of

Development Research in Cameroon


January 2010

Strengthening the Capacity of Cameroonian Journalists to report on Development Research.

I. Background and Justification

One of the central issues of today's world is the creation, sharing, acquisition and use of knowledge. Knowledge-sharing is of special relevance to development research, which is aimed at improving health, food production/security and living standards as a whole. Hence, development research would be of little value if its results are effectively used to effect the change necessary to improve health, food production and living standards.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada’s lead agency for development assistance, seeks “to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world”, through development research. For this agency, overcoming the challenge of building knowledge societies entails bridging the gaps as well as eradicating exclusion and inequity. The IDRC has long understood that media and science journalists have a special role to play in developing and expanding science literacy in all cultures and all sectors of society, especially in Africa. That is why it has constantly sought to expand the role of communications in sharing the results of development research.

The rationale is that understanding how diseases are transmitted can help prevent infections. Agricultural technologies can improve crop resilience, increase yields and incomes for farmers. The benefits of scientific research are many, but for people to make use of scientific breakthroughs in various areas, including development research, they need to be informed of such advances.

Although there has been a marked improvement in the interest the African media show in reporting development research, the communication gap between research results and public knowledge is still conspicuous. For example, research efforts in areas such as biotechnology and climate change, do not receive the media coverage they deserve – either because journalists lack the specialized training they need to report on them or their editors simply do not see the need to commission stories on development research or programmes on the subject.

The increasing demand for articles covering HIV/AIDS, public health and environment crises pull journalists away from adequately reporting on development research. Moreover, a new generation of health and environment journalists has yet to realize the full import of development research and comprehend how this sector impacts other areas such as HIV/AIDS, food security, water resources, economic development, etc.


In order to empower and equip journalists with the know-how required for effective development research reporting, it is necessary to engage in capacity-building, through collaborative partnerships. It is also important to support the development of professional training centers at national or regional levels, as well as develop and promote high professional standards for journalists and other media professionals.

Such an initiative is invaluable because journalists and the news media in most developing countries are not yet very interested in covering development research; and consequently the training of journalists specialized in the reporting of development research has never been done on a sustainable manner. The first reason, as we have noted, is that research results and development research news stories face unfair competition with political and sports stories. The increasing demand for articles covering HIV/AIDS and other public health crises also pulls journalists away from adequately reporting on climate change adaptation experiences, for example.

The IDRC has long understood the urgent need to reverse this tendency by training journalists to take up reporting on development research. Current levels of undernourishment and the alarming impact of climate change in most of Africa provide justification for prioritizing the coverage of research, especially in areas of health, environment, agricultural/food security and water conservation. The IDRC currently runs a number of projects in Cameroon, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, within the framework of its commitment to addressing development challenges. In this regard, this agency would like to see the results of its efforts in the region shared and hopefully, become ingredients of policy formulation.

To raise the profile of development research issues in the media, the IDRC, the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) project, in collaboration with the Cameroon Union of Journalists proposes to organize a three-day capacity building workshop for 15 journalists from the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon. The workshop will build on the experiences of the workshop organized by the IRD in Cameroon last year by capitalizing on lessons learned to forge partnerships and cooperation initiatives in the English-speaking Regions of Cameroon.

The participants will include a “new generation of health, environment and science journalists in general who show interest in development communication, and who want to get involved in advocating for greater awareness and support of development research. Two more experienced journalists will also be invited to attend the workshop so that their challenges and opportunities could be shared.

The workshop will be a unique opportunity to build news and feature writing skills, and provide a better understanding of how the IDRC can, and is playing a vital role in enhancing development research. In addition to daily tasks such as writing and researching science and development news stories, participants will learn how to research for news stories, the editorial process and how to negotiate for the publication of a news story.

Other aspects of the present workshop that could add value to previous initiatives include the building of networks for journalists to share their articles within the region, and so sustain productivity; the participation of two editors at the workshop that could make the exercise as practical as possible, because they could share their news selection criteria with participants; and finally, the fact that trained young journalists could have a longer lifespan in newsrooms.

A journalist, with several years of experience in the organization of similar training sessions at regional level will facilitate the workshop. In conjunction with this practical experience, participants will meet with relevant officials of IDRC in Cameroon, learn about new initiatives and may also have the opportunity to strengthen networks for lasting development news sources.


Empowered journalists from the South-and North-West regions, realizing their potential and effectively reporting on development research; analyzing research results; and raising awareness on these issues within the government and at the level of the general public.


By the end of the skills building workshop it is anticipated that journalists will:

  • Take stock of past “success stories” gained from previous workshops;
  • Gain more knowledge about key concepts in development research (what is development research, the status of development research in the country, current support for research from governments, donors, NGOs etc, major initiatives in research past and present, and priority intervention areas);
  • Understand the challenges/constraints in covering development research issues and how to overcome these challenges;
  • Be able to write and broadcast effectively on development research by framing the issue in a way which stimulates dialogue and mobilizes support for development research; and hopefully,
  • Initiate a regional platform for information exchange on development research.


As part of the workshop’s objective to improve coverage of development research in the national media, we must ensure that it enables participants to produce articles that immediately acceptable for publication. It is important indeed to have at least two editors in the workshop to get their views on the criteria they use to select articles for publication.

In order to do this:

1) There will be a session on how journalists can best negotiate with their editors to persuade them to accept their articles for publication.

2) The editors will have to be brought on board the initiative in one way or another in the training; this could be in the form of a meeting with the facilitator or ‘an information note” addressed to them.



1 Produce (and possibly publish, if there are funds) a series of news stories that will serve as best practices for participants when they return to work in their respective newsrooms.

2 Develop radio scripts for community radio programmes.

3 Produce and share basic documentation that will serve as a tool kit for participants. The documents will serve as reference material for participants, long after the workshop.

4 Produce and distribute basic information needed for a better understanding of the development research in Cameroon

5 Provide journalists with basic methodology needed to research and quickly identify viable news sources concerning development research.

6Compile a series of journalistic productions by former participants to serve as Best Practices. These media products (articles and radio/TV programmes) shall be graded and prizes awarded three (3) months after the training workshop.


Participants will be selected from a pool of emerging journalists with interests in development research issues from South West (7); and North West Cameroon (7); a member of a research project in Cameroon (1); and the facilitator (1). This brings the number of participants to 16.

Criteria for selection:

1) Journalists should work for a major media organization, either a major daily newspaper with a large circulation, which runs a health and an environment page or be in a decision-making position where they can ensure that articles on development research will appear in the media. The choice of journalist will be important—the participant should be a journalist with verifiable interest in health, environment, and science; so s/he will be expected to be writing on these issues non-stop. The training will eventually be integrated into his work

2) Participants could also be members of a media network on population, health, HIV/AIDS or education, environment etc., and produce regular articles on health. If the participant is a young colleague, he/she should be working on the health desk of their organization, and should be able to bring along some published material for discussion, eventually.

The 3-day seminar will be composed of three (not necessarily successive) components: awareness-raising of development research; facts and figures on development research; media productions (see agenda). Before the seminar, journalists shall be requested to compile information on development research in their respective countries or provinces.

During the seminar, journalists will be trained on how to report on development research and research processes. Possible research topics to cover are: the place of research in the development of Cameroon; the status of research and research institutions; IDRC and its programs in Cameroon; best practices in development research; media and development research; how to report on research results; analyzing research results; getting the editors to publish your articles or broadcast your program; and post-workshop activities. Additional information will be presented regarding the commitment of the international community to research assistance.

An additional advantage to have an expert from IDRC present throughout the seminar is that it would give he/she an opportunity to see how difficult it is for journalists to understand scientific issues. S/he could better appreciate why journalists need information fast. The seminar itself will focus on raising awareness of challenges in reporting development research in Cameroon, providing up-to-date information on the topic and, finally, sessions that will include a site visit; the production of articles; and comments on the articles by facilitators and research experts.

The site visit will give the journalists an opportunity to interview researchers in Buea, probably at IRA and surrounding areas, about their experiences in development research. The articles will be analyzed by the other participants, facilitators and resource people for their strengths and weaknesses; and the final version will be annex to the workshop’s final report.

VI Post-seminar activities

During training, a variety of methods will be used to stimulate journalists’ interest in covering development research. This may be a prize for excellence in reporting on development research issues. The IDRC and other partners could award prizes to the journalist and the organization. The IDRC should award prize for reasons of visibility though other organization may have offered the prize. For sustainability purposes, we need to identify a national institution to award prizes and to get a senior government official preside over the opening ceremony. All this will be discussed during the training workshop. This type of encouragement could lead editors to create “development research pages or columns” or programs within their media houses.

After the workshop, a mentoring programme will be established to encourage participants to develop their skills in reporting on development research issues. The mentor will be the workshop facilitator. A listserv will be established to encourage regular discussion among members. Research story-ideas will be discussed and topics or investigation in their respective provinces suggested to members.

The mentoring programme will be one of the major innovations in journalism training in Cameroon in that it will help produce a concrete outcome of the training - a series of published news stories compiled into an electronic newsletter that could serve as a best practice for other colleagues. This product will be available three months after the workshop.

Material from the training workshop will be edited as a first edition of the newsletter. Well researched and written in-depth articles could be published nationally in specialized publications, if possible. Participants shall be told that prizes would be awarded for best stories and radio programme done after the workshop. Clippings of published stories and recordings of radio programmes will be sent to the IDRC by editors and station managers.

Awarding prizes would incite them to do more reporting on development research. The seminar will also show participants the need to work in groups and networks for the amelioration of research. The main facilitators will be a journalist considered a leader in reporting on development issues, and someone who has actually carried out similar assignments.

Annex I: List of Participants


A tentative list of 14 participants from Cameroon is available.


Mise à jour le Lundi, 17 Mai 2010 15:53  

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