AUGUST 2, 2007

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OSU, UCO journalists and professors help develop free press
in new African democracy

Photo of a dozen men and women having discussions at a table.
OSU faculty conducted workshops the first week of July for all the participants in the "Nurturing the Fourth Estate" program.

Media specialists from Mali, one of Africa’s newest democracies, are learning how to sustain a free press in their country with training from OSU, UCO and on-the-job experience with state media and communications organizations.

Fourteen Malians spent a month in Oklahoma this summer as part of “Nurturing the Fourth Estate: Professional Development for Media Specialists in the Republic of Mali, West Africa.” Their travel and accommodations were funded by a U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Citizens Exchange Program grant awarded to Oklahoma State University department of agricultural education, communications and leadership faculty, who coordinated the project.

The Malians’ visit to the United States was the second stage of the project. In March, a group of Oklahoma broadcast and communications specialists traveled to Mali to experience the country and interview prospective participants. The March delegation included University of Central Oklahoma professor, Dr. Terry Clark.

Clark, chairman of UCO’s department of mass communication, said the need for more professional journalism training was a significant issue emphasized by Malian journalists, and that they refer to the media as their weapon and as the “voice of the voiceless.”

“Ask them their purpose and they will say it is to help the people of the country and maintain their freedom,” Clark said. “Their media have a passion and purpose for what journalism is supposed to be.”

“I came back with renewed inspiration, actually proud to be a journalist in the real sense of the word- keeping a daily journal and discovering as much about journalism and freedom and a special people, telling the stories to others with purpose. I learned far more about journalism than I ever tried to teach.”

Stateside, the Malian delegation spent one intensive week on the OSU campus receiving professional training and learning about media ethics, the history of the freedom of the press and the role of media in a free-press society. The media specialists – who include reporters, broadcasters, editors, media managers and journalism teachers – then completed two-week internships in media and communications sectors particular to their professional interests.

KOSU, the Tulsa World, the Stillwater NewsPress, Radio Oklahoma Network, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma HORIZON and several arms of OSU’s communications and public information operations served as intern sites.

“We looked to our colleagues around the state to establish the intern sites and help provide opportunities for the participants to gain practical, hands-on experience,” said OSU assistant professor Dwayne Cartmell, the project’s director. “Getting to see the day-to-day activities of journalistic enterprise within the U.S. is critical to them understanding our free press system.”

Although it is one of the world’s poorest countries, Mali has been a stable and well-functioning democracy for about 10 years. The Nurturing the Fourth Estate project coordinators, in line with U.S. State Department objectives, recognize that a well-trained free press is especially vital in a nation where people only recently have begun to enjoy democratic freedom. A central goal of the project is to assist the Malian media specialists in understanding, acquiring and practicing professional standards in their work, especially as it relates to the reporting of economic and business development.

For more information contact Clark at (405) 974-5122, OSU at (405) 744-6260, or for more information about Mali, visit www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2828.htm.