Colombo, June 28 (newsin.asia): Irene Gaviria Correa, Director of El Mundo (The World) a Spanish language weekly published from Medellin in Colombia, has been successfully using the newspaper as an educational and citizen-building tool for the past eight years.
In Sri Lanka on a short visit, Correa spoke to select journalists on Thursday about her mission to turn journalism into a socially meaningful vocation, which turns out sensitive, well informed and responsible citizens, and not one which merely churns out news and keeps people entertained.
Citizenship is a way of life, she said at the interaction facilitated by the Center for Investigative Reporting and the British High Commission. Citizenship includes not only knowledge of one’s rights and duties but also the empowerment of all, irrespective social class or ethnicity.
If citizenship is to be a way of life, it is best inculcated when people are young, Correa felt. And that is the reason why El Mundo has been targeting schools, she said, explaining her foray into the school system in her region. Media is an educational tool and has to be part of the pedagogy, she asserted.
El Mundo has linked up with the government Department of Education to make its brand of responsible and meaningful journalism a part of the regular school curriculum.
“Through the Education Department we are linked to 150 large schools, each with about 3000 students,” Correa said.
The courses are designed with the help of the teachers and the Department of Education so that they answer to the educational system’s needs and the project becomes sustainable, she added.
Like all newsweeklies, El Mundo covers news, but not superficially. The coverage is in-depth. For example, if there is a bridge collapse, the reader will be told about the engineering flaws and other issues which could have caused the collapse. And what could be done to prevent such calamities is also given.
“Every news story can be dissected for education,” Correa pointed out.
The students themselves bring out editions so that they get hands-on experience of writing stories and bringing out an edition. Workshops are also held to discuss issues and find answers.
“So far, El Mundo has trained 5600 student-journalists, who are what they should be – informed citizens,” Correa said proudly.
The stress is both on news and comment as the basic aim of El Mundo. Fortunately for El Mundo Colombian teachers tend to be leftist and therefore they respond to her call for activism enthusiastically.
Is Correa’s brand of journalism viable financially? The forty year old paper was a daily paper for long, but has had to become a weekly and become a Foundation to make it financially manageable.
Being a left wing and socially conscious paper, El Mundo does step on the toes of powerful personalities and has paid for it. Correa’s family is itself highly political and has fought and won elections.
Colombia, as such, has been a violence-prone country known for assassinations and kidnappings. Post-conflict Colombia has been a dangerous place for journalists. But Correa and El Mundo are undeterred.
(The featured picture at the top is that of Irene Gaviria Correa, the Director of El Mundo weekly of Colombia)