The Tiziano Project: helping local community journalists showcase their stories


This article by Rezwan was originally published on Rising Voices, a project of Global Voices Online, on 20 February 2012 under a Creative Commons license.

The Tiziano Project is a multimedia website and an outreach effort focusing on training citizen journalists in conflict and underreported regions around the globe. The project has trained community journalists in places like Somalia, Rwanda, DR Congo and Kenya and is developing guides and tools that will help these journalists produce and showcase their work.

Its pilot project Tiziano \| 360º Kurdistan featured personal accounts of Iraqis along with contributions from professional photojournalists. It showed that with sufficient tools and support, people can tell convincing stories about their community and have a great impact on the viewers.

The Tiziano Project provides new media tools and training to community members in conflict, post-conflict and developing regions.

Jon Vidar, the project’s Executive Director, wrote in Mediashift Idealab: “The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with the equipment, training and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives. We knew early on that we wanted to focus as much on the journalism component as the tools and have since developed an online Classroom filled with openly available training curricula and lesson plans to help easily infuse journalism into any project.”

“For each of our in-field training programs, we send professional journalists to instruct on everything from ethics, to interviewing techniques, to how to write an article before we even pick up a camera. By the time our students get their hands on the gear, they already have a solid understanding of exactly what it means to be a journalist.”

Justin Ellis at Nieman Journalism Lab commented: “What the 360s could provide is a new avenue for local journalism, something that is a hybrid between pure amateur cellphone video and packages developed by professionals.”

The Tiziano Project Executive Director, Jon Vidar, gives a three-minute talk at the MIT Civic Media Conference, 22 June 2011

Mara Abrams and Jon Vidar of the Tiziano Project share the latest updates on their activities:

What are you working on now?

Mara Abrams: We are currently creating a collaborative journalism platform to illuminate the stories of citizen journalists worldwide and connect them in a highly innovative and visually sophisticated way. So we are working on both the technology build (made possible by the Knight Foundation’s 2011 News Challenge Grant) as well as the production of content that will help populate it. That content is the result of our new media training programs, which are currently taking place in the Middle East, Kosovo, and an inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The new technology we’re working on is an expansion of our seminal storytelling platform, the Tiziano \| 360º, which we launched a year ago in Iraqi Kurdistan. The 360º is a joint effort between professional journalists and their citizen journalist mentees, with their multimedia content presented side-by-side in an immersive way that places equal value on all content — whether produced by a citizen or professional; whether covering war or culture or any other type of story.

The new technology, which launches this summer, will make a similar type of storytelling project available for implementation by any organisation or citizen reporter who signs up for an account. We will also curate the best of these projects, displaying them onto a world map with a layer of text dialogue around them.

The guides in the classroom are very useful. How other citizen journalism projects can benefit from them (e.g. are they shareable/ cc licensed?)

Mara Abrams: We believe in open sourcing knowledge and make all of our training materials available on our website to anyone who wants to download them. After many iterations, we’ve really mastered our 8-week curriculum and supplemental training materials, and feel that other organisations and individuals should benefit from them. In addition, the new technology platform we describe above will be open source.

The Tiziano Project - This is Iraq

To mobilise local community members a multilingual platform is handy. What are your thoughts on this?

Jon Vidar: We are very dedicated to bringing multilingual support to the work we do. Currently, we are exploring the possibilities for integrating a technology called dotSUB into our current platform development. The technology, which powers the transcriptions for TED Talks, would allow us to crowd-source translations of all the content in our system.”

“One of our main goals as an organisation is to introduce communities around the world to regions in which they would never otherwise have access. Through this, we seek to help local community members affect change on global perceptions of their regions - which are not often represented in the most positive light by mainstream media. In doing this, we recognise the importance of reaching beyond the English language. We believe that connecting someone in Kosovo to someone in Iraq is just as valuable as connecting communities to native English speaking audiences.