Monday, November 27, 2006

FIU helps Cuban journalists

Posted on Sun, Nov. 26, 2006

FIU helps Cuban journalists

As a journalist whose specialty is ethics, I was disappointed to read
the references to Florida International University's training of Cuban
independent journalists (Cuba thwarts U.S. efforts to help dissidents,
Nov. 16). It bolstered an impression of failure, namely, that only four
students have completed the ''required'' courses.

I made it clear to reporter Oscar Corral that our program has no set
number of ''required'' courses. Many journalists preferred to
participate in group study of the courses with colleagues in their news
organizations rather than complete lessons individually. One journalist
this year used the courses to give workshops to new, independent
journalists. The story also ignored the fact that FIU's International
Media Center critiques and returns articles to the writers with written
comments and suggestions, which many journalists feel is more practical
than the courses, especially for those long removed from school.

Most egregiously, the article fails to mention that FIU has been quietly
editing and offering some of the Cuban independent journalists' stories
to select Latin American newspapers, securing for them a degree of
recognition in the hemisphere that they didn't have before. More than 40
leading newspapers have published their work, among them El Mercurio of
Santiago, El Comercio of Lima, El Tiempo of Bogotá and El Universal of
Caracas. FIU pays the journalists for the articles with nongovernment
funds from a foundation for that purpose.

We also helped one journalist get her articles published in The San
Antonio Express-News in Texas.

This led to articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and
The International Herald Tribune in Paris.

After being involved in the training of more than 8,000 mid-career
journalists in 15 Latin American countries, I can confidently say that
the success of a journalism-training program can only be effectively
measured years after it has been completed.

Counting completion rates is only a procedural measurement that can blur
the real results. Counting the number of participants who have advanced
in their careers, assumed positions of leadership in the media and come
back to thank you for your help is a more accurate measure.

JOHN VIRTUE, director, International Media Center, FIU, Miami

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