On the first day we were not disappointed. Seventeen trainees appeared on the first day. They were all engaged and quite interested in the material. Having produced a maximum of four videos per workshop previously, we challenged the trainees to show that Benghazi could do better. Each of the trainees in Benghazi was somehow broadly experienced in the media. It was most interesting to see how the differences and overlap manifested. Nearly everyone was involved in making media during the war, several of whom we met on our previous trips to Libya.
The primary distinction between trainees was the question of whom they were working for now. While a plurality work currently for the new Libyan channels, a fair portion work as freelancers or with regional media. In one case a trainee is working as a freelancer and also running a development NGO in his hometown of Zintan.
Once again we found the trainees universally conflicted about the narrow framework of the PSA campaign. This was perhaps our greatest difficulty across the board. Attempting to manage a national PSA campaign, with completely unrelated producers poses a unique series of difficulties. When those producers tend to represent the more creative end of the spectrum, this is even more difficult. We were, however, able to bring the trainees together, and encouraged them to understand that they are working on something bigger than themselves.
In the future I believe an alternate model might work better. Instead of running completely independent workshops around the country, Doha Centre might consider running an initial workshop with representatives of news agencies and freelance production companies from across the country.
This initial workshop will design and develop the campaign, and afterward trainers could work in an intensive fashion locally with each team to develop their individual PSAs. This framework poses its own unique difficulties, given the large investment on the frontend, and the distinction from a more generalized training regimen that simply produces specific similar material as part of the course.
While we committed to produce one strong, television-ready segment per workshop, in fact we were able to produce six individual PSAs by the end of the Benghazi workshop alone. Combined with the previous workshops, this meant our trainees produced more than five times the expected output.
Although Benghazi rose to the occasion, the training was not without bumps.
On the second day of the workshop a number of trainees were late due to a large fire in another part of the city. Being comprised nearly entirely of fulltime working journalists, a number of them were busy covering the events of the day.
We also faced the usual trainee retention problems that nearly always occurred on our second day. A number of trainees were also students, and the timing of the workshop came at a difficult time for them. Another, from Ajdabiya found the travel too much to manage daily. By the second day we dropped to 13 attendees.
Despite these difficulties, we managed for the first time in the workshop series, to enable all trainees to produce an initial practice video project before their big field production. I believe this practice effort was essential to enabling our trainees to produce six strong videos, as opposed to the previous four of other workshops. It provided insight into what lessons trainees did not understand fully and served to reinforce other lessons.
On our third day, field production, we attempted to work with several groups in the field. I worked with one trainee to develop a very clear shotlist and storyline for his video, when we saw the result, it was clear that this was key to his success.
I worked with another team in the field and encountered another common difficulty with eager and respectful trainees. Sometimes the trainee listens to well, but unfortunately misses a key point, leading him in the wrong direction. In this case, Esam and Abdo, who planned to shoot a story about a car washer, took to heart the direction to shoot only a “real story.” This lead them to believe they had only one take, and could not direct the subject to engage in “re-enactment.”
When shooting a news feature, PSA, or other human-interest, non-breaking news style piece, this can be an essential technique for telling a compelling story. Once we understood the misunderstanding, this served as a teachable moment, and in response, Esam and Abdo went to reshoot on the morning of the fourth, and in the second case each shot a separate car washer, enabling them to choose the strongest interview with which to tell their story.
On our fourth day, post-production, we were able to crank through projects much more quickly than during previous workshops.
While all of the trainees failed to produce complete written shotlists, it was clear they shot with intention, and did not overshoot. In two cases, however, they did not shoot enough, but luckily had the time to reshoot. In total, the Benghazi trainees finished seven segments, of which six were suitable for the election campaign.
In total thirteen trainees of the original seventeen completed the entire workshop, though one trainee, due to work commitments, was not able to complete his segment in the time allotted. We were able to submit the PSAs from previous workshops, and this one to Libya AlHurra in Benghazi, as well as submitting the final videos to our other channel contacts in Tripoli, Al-Assema TV, Libiya, Libya Wataniya, and Libya Al-Ahrar.
Benghazi concluded on a strong and hopeful note. Although the majority of broadcasters and media producers are based in Tripoli, the east is anxious to continue to develop their media capacity. We have been asked to run a further series of workshops with trainees in different cities across the east, in addition to our previous requests to run further workshops.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Doha Centre for Media Freedom and hope that in the post-election period we might work together to greatly increase the capacity of independent political and issue-based reporting around the country.
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