World Association of News Publishers

Media Professionals Programme Delivers Both Professional and Personal Results

Media Professionals Programme Delivers Both Professional and Personal Results

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Since its inception in 2012, WAN-IFRA’s Media Professionals Programme (MPP) has given media managers from around the world leadership skills and support through personalized training and mentoring. During a recent meeting of mentors and mentees in Myanmar and Vietnam in March, the impact of the programme was overwhelmingly evident. And for those who have participated in the MPP over time, the result has been personal and professional growth.

By Colette Davidson

In Cambodia, like in the rest of Southeast Asia, the media has been moving towards a more online presence, relying on social media, apps and other digital tools to gain readership. Facebook has become the face of the internet for many users and the primary way people get their news.

The use of digital is so strong, in fact, that many publications are going directly to a digital format and thus working to create a new business model. MPP mentor Hildegunn Amanda Soldal, Head of Digital at Norway’s NRK, says the media in Cambodia is learning from Norway’s mistakes – where many publications are still using decades-old websites – by going straight to mobile phones.

“Over time, we’ve visited Cambodia and they’re really trying to think more about digital storytelling, to build their organization,” says Soldal. “We see that they’re in the process of transforming their organization and we’re lucky to be a part of that.”

For mentees, the ability to work with mentors from halfway around the world – bringing with them a host of different skills and perspectives – has been key in the growth of their news organizations over time.

Garoda Chea is the Managing Director of Koh Santepheap Daily, a leading newspaper based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For the past two years, Chea has participated in the MPP programme, working with mentors Soldal and Helje Solberg from Norway.

While his colleagues within the editorial department focus on media management, he came to the programme looking for help on the commercial side. Over the course of two years, he has benefited greatly from speaking to mentors, particularly on the trend of online media.

“We know where to go to ask for help when we are stuck,” says Chea, who invited mentors to come to his office at the beginning of April for a sharing session with colleagues. “The mentoring programme is even more helpful as we can utilise their personal experience and expertise to fit our specific needs.”

Chea says his newspaper has benefited from the MPP by getting both the commercial and content teams to attend the programme, in an attempt to get both sides in sync.

“Not only are we more aware of our fields, we are gaining respect of the need to collaborate with others in various department so that our readers’ experiences are heightened,” he says.

And while mentees undoubtedly see benefits of the MPP, mentors as well have come away with a better understanding of media organizations around the world, the challenges they face and the importance of the free press. Soldal, who has participated for three years in the MPP, says she has learned as much from mentees as they learn from her.

“It’s been really inspirational to get to know these talented journalists and managers,” says Soldal. “They face so many challenges that we can’t relate to and they have to work very hard to reach readers and get the population more critical about what they read… It brings perspective to what we do.”

Soldal says she has been inspired by the work of Seng Mai, the first female editor-in-chief in Myanmar, who has faced enormous challenges on the job – not only as a woman but in running a newspaper. Mai most recently produced an award-winning photo project about female drug addicts in Myanmar, a little known population. And because Mai expressed a desire to participate more fully in the MPP, mentors have worked to coordinate English lessons for her.

“There are many ways that we can help the media in this region,” says Soldal. “We’re talking about issues that are far more serious [than what we experience in the West], like the importance of a strong free press.

“The independent media needs help and support, plus more technical skills and a way to build their reach on Facebook and mobile phones,” she adds. “We need to find ways to make them strong enough to do brave journalism.” 

As part of its continued outreach in Southeast Asia, the MPP has had a busy year, where six mentors have joined forces with the MPP. In January, mentors Ole Werring and Jens Barland travelled to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to work with media professionals from Thanh Nien News on their digital transformation.

And in March, mentors Rolf Dyrnes Svendsen and Bernt Olufsen from Norway headed to Myanmar and Vietnam to work with a group of motivated media professionals. Participants from Myanmar first met mentors in Yangon on March 6 at Mizzima Media for a day of presentations and discussions. As Mizzima Media looks to broaden its content profile from covering politics and economy towards entertainment and local news, mentors Dyrnes Svendsen and Olufsen met with editors to discuss a publishing and advertising strategies.

Then on March 8, Dyrnes Svendsen and Olufsen flew to Hanoi to mentor staff at VnExpress and VietnamPlus. Sessions there focused on helping the publications deal with journalism’s digital transformation as well as how to generate revenue through advertising.

Since then, the MPP in Southeast Asia has showed no signs of slowing down. From 18-20 April, the group headed to Publish Asia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur for the annual meeting of executives from the Asian newspaper and news publishing industry. And in May, mentors will meet in Oslo, Norway to debrief about the year’s activities and plan for what should be an eventful upcoming year.


The MPP is a project within the Media Freedom and Democracy Programme, with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of a three-year partnership extending through to 2019.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2017-04-27 10:46

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In its media development work, the WAN-IFRA strategy focuses on bringing a new way of thinking to the sector. WAN-IFRA has become a key player in the field of financial independence and management capacity building, conducting groundbreaking research and developing subsequent media development policies. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...