August 30, 2010

Venezuelans conclude online Knight Center course about covering elections

Forty Venezuelan journalists enrolled in the course “Electoral Coverage and Democracy,” conducted from June 28–Aug. 11, 2010, by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. The free six-week course was offered in partnership with the Carter Center and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was taught by Colombian journalist María Teresa Ronderos.

The course was conducted in Spanish and was timed to help journalists prepare to cover Venezuela’s parliamentary elections on Sept. 26. It was designed to help journalists better understand how to cover elections for citizens (rather than for politicians), contribute to freedom and legitimacy of the electoral process, help voters understand candidates’ agendas, and use opinion polls properly.

Ronderos said she “believes this course on electoral coverage will give the participants a variety of tools for making their work more original, investigative, bold, and useful during the campaigns.”

blue-finger.jpg
Photo: Luis Carlos Diaz

“The course helped me to broaden my knowledge on the subject of election coverage,” said Levy Benshimol, one of the journalists who concluded the course. “Its main value was the way it was planned, organized, and managed, the constant and timely motivation and leadership of Maria Teresa, the logistical support of Paul, and the great professional involvement of the issues presented.”

In addition to the online activities and discussion forums, the course also included sessions on the ground in Caracas. Before the class began, Ronderos delivered a main lecture in Caracas June 25, followed by a panel of Venezuelan experts, at an event organized by the Carter Center. Those journalists who concluded the course were able to attend a face-to-face workshop Sept. 2–3 in Caracas, which will serve as a conclusion to the program organized by the Knight Center, the Carter Center and UNDP.

The instructor, Ronderos, is editor of Semana.com and president of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) of Colombia. The teaching assistant for the course was Paul Alonso, a Peruvian journalist who is a member of the Knight Center staff and a doctoral student in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Electoral Coverage and Democracy” was one of the many courses offered in Spanish by the Knight Center as part of its distance education program, which also includes training courses in Portuguese and English.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was launched in 2002 by professor Rosental Calmon Alves. Thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has assisted thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, contact the Knight Center’s program manager, Jennifer Potter-Miller at jpottermiller at mail.utexas.edu or +1 512 471-1391.