Journalistic Voices Diversified: supporting journalists in exile with their career in Europe

In April 2022, Evens Foundation Are We Europe and Stichting Verhalende Journalistiek started the first pilot edition of Journalistic Voices Diversified, a programme dedicated to journalists in exile based in Belgium. On Wednesday the 20th of April, the first day of workshops was organised at KANO Brussels.

Journalists in exile frequently enter Europe with a remarkable range of skills but they experience exclusion from employment circuits, cultural barriers and an overall impossibility to advance in their professional path. This programme, initiated by the Evens Foundation, in collaboration with Stichting Verhalende Journalistiek and Are We Europe, aspires to create an environment that could offer participants the opportunity to pursue their career in Europe through a temporary traineeship placement and mentoring. A specific focus is put on narrative practices and immersive storytelling.

Between April and July 2022, the four selected journalists will work at the Are We Europe offices for 2,5 days a week. During this period, the group works on researching and creating their own stories. They also get involved with the editorial process at Are We Europe. Besides this, Stichting Verhalende Journalistiek has developed a series of workshops for the journalists with a focus on narrative techniques.

The first workshop was held last month at the Are We Europe office in Brussels with Stephanie Bakker, narrative journalist and multimedia storyteller. Both the participants of the programme and a part of the Are We Europe editorial team participated. Bakker’s workshop focused on questions such as: what makes a good story for a narrative approach, learning to think about which form works (audio, writing, visual), and collaborating on multimedia storytelling.

Experienced participants

‘We started the day with the ingredients for a narrative story, which turned out to be a good refresher course for me,’ Opoka p’Arop says, an experienced journalist who came to the Netherlands from South Sudan in 2016. ‘You think you know it, but it was good to hear it from a new perspective. For example, we talked about telling a story from a solutions side, even if there is no solution for the problem you describe. Discussing different story angles brought up different opinions and resulted in a healthy discussion about what journalism is. When discussing the stories we are planning to work on, Stephanie also shared lots of tricks and feedback.’

‘The word trainee actually doesn’t describe the participants of the programme very well,’ Toon Vos, editor at Are We Europe says. ‘I learn a lot from working together with them, because of the professional and life experiences they bring with them, that is very special to me. I think the power of the programme lies in the fact that the participants already are very skilful; we hope to provide a space where they can further develop their skills, work on their projects and re-enter the journalistic world.’

Podcast series

With Stephanie’s presentations and the feedback the participants exchanged, p’Arop’s story ideas further evolved over the course of the first workshop. ‘I am planning to work on a podcast series revolving around human rights activists such as lawyers, journalists and doctors who come to Europe and the United States because their security is at stake, and their lives and questions they face after arriving in a new country. Many human rights defenders are often faced with the question of whether they decide to stay in a safe country like in Europe or the Americas, or if they must return and continue their human rights work in all those very difficult circumstances.’ P’Arop is also planning to work on a data project about the integration of migrants.

‘A very important aspect of this training is to help me find a way to become a journalist again,’ p’Arop says. ‘To be able to maybe develop a portfolio, produce a multimedia project, and find a job in the media industry. I am also looking forward to the networking opportunities and diving into the topic of funds and collaboration, which we will discuss more in the next workshops.’

The Journalistic Voices Diversified Programme runs until July 2022, with two more workshops focusing on how to write for audio, interview techniques and presenting, negotiating and organizing your work, among other things. In addition to their traineeship at Are We Europe, the journalists will visit several conferences, such as Dataharvest and True Stories. The Journalistic Voices Diversified programme is a pilot programme, which will be evaluated after its first round.