Researching media education in Bolivia, running face first into wallsFebruary 4, 2010
Well, my researching prowess is being tested. I’m doing an assessment to get a sense for where the needs and challenges are in journalism education in Bolivia, and seeing how Evo Morales fits into all of this. Or, maybe I should say, I’m what Sartre would describe me as if Sartre were to explain my being a researcher researching media in Bolivia–a being in the act of being a researcher of Bolivian media education. It’s not that I am not a researcher of Bolivian media education, it is that I am not necessarily one. Make sense?
Yeah, that’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling. I have been beating my head against the wall trying to answer the questions I am researching. Main problem? I don’t speak Spanish. Other problem? Almost everything in Bolivia is in Spanish.
Not that I am letting this stop me. But, it is adding elements of challenge.
Other issues are adding challenge. For starters, I’ve noticed that a lot of Web sites in Bolivia use graphics in place of text, especially for navigation, which makes translating sites with Google Translate difficult (not to mention it can hamper SEO, if the sites aren’t designed properly). Second, a lot of sites provide only a contact form, and no email address, so it’s tough to contact anyone directly. Add to that that a LOT of university emails have been bouncing (it’s been near pandemic for me). Third, a lot of sites are designed either in a very busy way so that they become disorienting to try to process mentally, or they look like they might have been programmed in 1999.
This is not meant to be critical of Bolivian Web sites. There are a slew of reasons for this that only defend the argument that there is opportunity for development assistance. I am here to say that if you are looking for ways to help with media in Bolivia, here are some things to consider that are clearly in need.
It hasn’t been all disaster. I’ve managed to find experts who are pointing me down the right road. I’m starting to get a sense for media education needs and challenges in Bolivia. I have to admit, it’s exciting. I’ve spent so much time on Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s nice to gain the perspective of another continent.
Things I’m finding:
- Evo Morales is clearly not the friend of independent media. Not a surprise to the world, I’m sure. But he’s even gone so far as to declare independent media an enemy of the government. Nice.
- It’s been interesting to find out that apparently Morales spent a bunch of government money to set up community radio stations. Funny, since so many pro-democracy organizations want to set up community radio stations, too. Obviously there are differences in how these are designed and what rules they operate under. But, fascinating that community radio doesn’t fundamentally equal independence.
- Journalism programs in universities are sorely lacking. Mainly because on the whole journalism isn’t really it’s own degree, but part of something generally called social communications. Very little specialized curriculum for journalists.
- Extractive commodities like natural gas and lithium play significant roles in the Bolivian economy, and yet early indications suggest that there is little or no education in education or training in reporting on extractives. No big surprise, given that journalism doesn’t really have its own degree, and that it’s so often the case the developing economies with a strong presence of extractives lack any real training or education on extractives reporting.
Not bad for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish, right?
Photo: Bolivian private media’s best friend, Evo Morales.