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Raising the bar for journalism

Raising the bar for journalism

Ross Dunkley
Publisher, The Phnom Penh Post
Editor in chief, Myanmar times

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
The Phnom Penh Post’s 2010 Leadership in Journalism team. In the back row, from left to right: Brooke Lewis, David Boyle, Cameron Wells, Jemma Galvin and Ellie Dyer. In the front frow, from left to right: programme coordinator Lance Woodruff, Tharum Bun, Ith Sothoeuth, Sen David and Tha Piseth.

WE operate in a challenging media environment where censorship, intimidation, jail and even death are factors that influence the everyday lives of the men and women who report the news.

At the same time, as private-sector players involved in the media sector in Southeast Asia, we also must be pragmatic in disposition and politically agile.

All of these factors were in our minds when The Phnom Penh Post envisaged a leadership in journalism programme in Cambodia.

It is, therefore, satisfying to note that the supplement you are reading today has in the main been produced by the 10 scholars who comprise the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Leadership in Journalism programme team, which is a joint collaboration between the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) and The Phnom Penh Post.

Building media capacity
The programme is in its first year of what is hoped to be a three-year effort, and is designed to promote leadership and management skills in the media sector.

The participants, all young journalists, are either completing higher-education qualifications or have recently entered the workforce. They are spending a year working at The Phnom Penh Post under the guidance of a coordinator and the senior editors and managers of the newspaper.

More specifically, we have an underlying aim to build character, capacity and insight while coaching participants in the rigours of publishing so they may survive as journalists and prosper in the rough and tumble world where politics meets the media.

The five foreign and five Khmer journalists participating in the programme have been paired off to strengthen and enhance their skills base – a model that has served well during a decade-long partnership with SPF that began in Myanmar and that has demonstrated our commitment to training talented young people to become reporters and editors.

Program origins
It was through the efforts of Mr Yohei Sasakawa, who I first met in Myanmar in 2001, that the leadership programme took shape at the Myanmar Times. Having previously recognised the need for such a programme, I had not envisioned anyone willing to join in my efforts.

Mr Sasakawa and his team’s encouragement and resolute support allowed us to train more than 50 journalists in what is one of the most difficult countries in the world for anyone involved in media – and some of those 50 are now among the best and most respected journalists in Myanmar.

In 2009, SPF extended its partnership to The Phnom Penh Post, and now 10 young journalists have been fully integrated in all aspects of the newsroom, making valuable contributions while at the same time broadening the scope of their experience.

Our goals
The programme has several components, but all have one unifying aim: to raise the standards of journalism in Cambodia.

The project’s objectives are threefold. First, we strive to raise national standards of reporting in Myanmar and Cambodia, both countries that need more solid professionals willing to ask the hard questions and challenge the government, the private sector and civil society.

Second, we aim to train professional journalists for the rigors of a dual-language daily news environment.

Finally, we promote the emergence of a strong group of editors and journalists equipped to uphold the responsibilities that accompany a free press.

It remains our hope that achieving these goals will raise the standards of journalism across the board by preparing the men and women of future years to uphold the fourth estate with distinction and unimpeachable integrity.

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