Working with the Media on SSFFC Malaria Medicines

Step 4: Inform and Train Media Representatives

Training media professionals is a helpful way to generate interest in a story, as well as improve the reach and sustainability of a program's message. To prepare for the media training, health practitioners will want to conduct the following steps:

Design a survey or questionnaire to gauge the journalists’ knowledge of SSFFC malaria medicines

community-dialogue-interviewA simple and effective way to engage with journalists is to invite them to complete a survey or questionnaire to gain insight into their experiences with journalism (especially with public health focused journalism and SSFFC malaria medicines), as well as their knowledge and attitudes about SSFFC malaria medicines. Health practitioners may also want to assess general interest in the topic and thoughts on the value and benefits of reporting on SSFFC malaria medicines.

Depending on the knowledge gaps identified in the situation analysis, it may be helpful to develop a quantitative or qualitative survey. Quantitative surveys will give numerical data that will help program staff understand, for instance, how many journalists write about health-related concerns, whether these kinds of stories feature regularly or how many stories they may have written about health or SSFFC malaria medicines in the past. Qualitative surveys will give contextual insight into the overall trends related to media stories on SSFFC malaria medicines, or malaria in general, as well as whether the journalists see any benefits deriving from being trained to write about this topic. They will want to consider the findings of this survey when designing a training to make sure that it is tailored to the needs of your media partners.

The survey should cover the journalists’ overall knowledge of and engagement with general public health-related stories, and, more specifically, stories focused on malaria. It should also address the journalists’ specific knowledge of and engagement with stories on SSFFC malaria medicines.

When developing the survey, keep in mind that: 

  • The more journalists who participate in the survey, the better, as it will provide a broad overview of general skills and capacities within the news media, as well as their interest in the topic.
  • It is helpful to survey representatives from various types of media (newspapers, radio and television) to make sure it is representative of the different kinds of media that are present in-country. Health practitioners will also want to make sure that the geographical spread of the survey mirrors that of the area where SSFFC malaria medicines are most prevalent and/or where there are information gaps.

Here are some sample questions to potentially include in the survey: 

  • How long has the journalist worked in the media industry?
  • What are her/his skill sets?
  • What is the journalist’s overall capacity in health journalism; has she/he ever written a health story?
  • Has the journalist ever written about malaria?
  • Has the journalist ever written about malaria medicines?
  • What factors influence them in writing about SSFFC malaria medicines, if any?
  • If they have written about SSFFC malaria medicines, where did they go to get their information?
  • Which media outlets are represented by the journalists?
  • Are they freelance journalists?
  • Where are the journalists located geographically? 

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nigeriaiconEXAMPLE: A QUESTIONNAIRE FOR JOURNALISTS FROM THE NIGERIA CASE STUDY

This section of the guide was test-driven during a three-day journalism training led by HC3 and Internews. The training, focused on SSFFC malaria medicines, was held in Abuja, Nigeria, in February 2016. Ten Nigerian journalists attended the training full time.

The African Media Barometer (2011) describes Nigeria’s media as being robust, diverse, independent and sustainable. The media is praised for recent improvements in professional standards and the report states that public authorities’ respect for the media has increased over time. A recent Globescan/BBC poll examining global trends in trust in the media describes Nigerians as among the most satisfied with their media. As elsewhere in Africa, radio has a large following. SBCC campaigns typically leverage radio for wide reach but the United Kingdom’s The Guardian reports on a review of Voice of America's broadcasts in Nigeria that “malaria prevention messages were clear but often very technical and not very personal and relatable.” Analysis of twelve 30-minute episodes of the program Karamin Sani Kukumi Ne (“Little Knowledge is a Danger”) over a 12-month period, showed 11 discussions on polio, but only five on malaria.

To raise public awareness and strengthen the reach of its program, HC3 designed and conducted a training course to guide journalists on various kinds of SSFFC malaria medicines stories. Story angles ranged from simple coverage of an SSFFC medicine campaign activity aimed at changing usage and behavior, to more ambitious stories about SSFFC medicines as a critical public health issue. The training was designed to help journalists identify the focus of their stories, who they should talk to and the kinds of questions they should ask when writing a story about SSFFC malaria medicines. It also helped them think about the different ways to approach malaria SSFFC medicine stories more broadly. Journalists not only learned about SSFFC malaria medicines, they also learned simple facts about malaria, malaria treatment and how to ensure they use good quality malaria medicines, when needed.  

Design a training workshop

Now with the findings of the survey, program staff will want to develop a training to address media representatives’ interests and knowledge gaps. They may want to design a workshop to address two topics: one focused on information and knowledge sharing (story facts), and one on building journalistic skills (impact). In designing the training curriculum, they will devote almost as much time discussing journalistic skills as they will discussing SSFFC malaria medicines. Include modules on finding stories, identifying credible sources, nurturing contacts, improving interviewing techniques, considerations for impactful story structure and exploring story formats. This will remind journalists that new and accurate facts alone do not make a story and will also help them brush up on their professional skills. By the end of the training, journalists will be able to integrate their new knowledge and skills as they gain insight into the value of good quality malaria medicine and the need to tell meaningful stories with impact. This should also convince the journalists why the training is important and why knowing about SSFFC medicines will significantly benefit their audiences. It is important to design a training course with implementation in mind. In other words, journalists will be writing stories about the quality of malaria medicines during and after the workshop.

After identifying key participants, do the following: 

  • Develop a pre- and post-training questionnaire that includes the questions below. This will help tailor this training and future trainings, as well as measure the impact of the training on the journalists.*
  • Develop important “take home” points/resources for journalists to use post-training.
  • Develop an agenda, which could include a field visit.
  • Develop a schedule to stay in touch with journalists after training. This should include clear guidelines for sharing their SSFFC malaria medicines stories with you post-training. 

*By scoring the answers before and after training, program staff will get a measure of the trainees’ increased knowledge about SSFFC malaria medicines. Here are some possible questions to include in a pre- and post-training questionnaire: 

  • What is the proper medicine for malaria?
  • Name two consequences if malaria patients use medicines of poor quality.
  • Name three things that are being done to ensure people get good quality malaria medicines.

Key themes for the training exercises should include information that: 

  • Discusses malaria morbidity and mortality and strategies to improve it
  • Helps familiarize journalists with key SSFFC medicine concerns
  • Helps journalists reference key malaria facts, while translating them into stories
  • Illustrates the SSFFC malaria medicine challenges in their country
  • Highlights the legal and regulatory environment and combined effort to combat SSFFC malaria medicines
  • Illustrates the dangers of SSFFC malaria medicines
  • Helps journalists gain insight into how malaria has become normative to shift the paradigm for trainees and their audiences
  • Gives journalists the tools to pitch (argue for) well-rounded impactful stories
  • Provides a list of experts that journalists can call on for information or to check facts
  • Contains the specific campaign framework and messages to ensure the use of good quality medicines
  • Helps journalists develop new story elements to keep their reporting fresh and current

Here is the outline of the training curriculum developed for the Nigeria Case Study. Ideally, journalists should be trained by journalists. Seriously consider employing a media expert.

In the training curriculum from the Nigeria Case Study, modules are labeled STORY FACT or STORY IMPACT to indicate the facts and tools needed to write journalistically, and how to do this meaningfully.

Train the journalists

Good journalism, whether about malaria and SSFFC medicines or other subjects, relies on the storytelling skills of journalists. Providing journalists with technical knowledge is merely one aspect of the training. If journalists are not able to package that knowledge effectively, and translate it into compelling stories, then their work will not have an impact. The best training approach is to take the group through both STORY FACTS and STORY IMPACT sessions. The new “FACTS” that the trainees will progressively learn are about an area of critical concern in their communities. They need to be guided to integrate FACTS and IMPACT, and to tell accurate stories in a compelling way.

Key considerations for a successful training approach include: 

  • Encourage the active participation of the journalist trainees.
  • Trainees need to understand that there is a need to focus on good quality malaria medicines, and why substandard and falsified ones are such a problem.
  • Trainees are given the opportunity to share their own experiences and challenges related to reporting on malaria and SSFFC medicines.
  • Trainees’ skills in storytelling techniques are bolstered and they are given the opportunity to apply their own experience with lessons learned during their training by writing stories about/reporting on the topic of SSFFC malaria medicines. 
Tip

Tip

When working with journalists, it is important to ask why the story about SSFFC malaria medicines is an important one that should be covered and reported on. Remind journalists to look for specific things in a story: their audiences, timeliness, relevance, accuracy, credible experts, third party validations, proximity, human interest angles/powerful stories and something that makes the story unique. The news media is often a direct connection to communities and the benefits of working with journalists outweighs the downside of not working with them.

Story Fact 1 The challenge of reporting on malaria Trainees understand there is a need to focus on good quality malaria medicines and why substandard and falsified ones are such a problem.
Story Fact 2 Malaria and its treatment Information is shared about the malaria burden in the country, and why this continues to be a problem.
Story Fact 3 Efforts to eliminate SSFFC malaria medicines What are SSFFC malaria medicines? Share information on efforts to eliminate it.
Story Fact 4 Outline of HC3’s SSFFC medicine campaign Presentation about the malaria substandard and falsified medicines campaign – ensuring good quality medicines.
Story Impact 1 Storytelling skills What needs to be in every journalist’s toolkit for impactful storytelling? Interviewing skills, storytelling skills and impactful writing.
Story Impact 2 Harnessing social media Social media and the mainstream media: How do they strengthen one another?
Story Impact 3 The role of SBCC in the context of credible health news

What is SBCC?

What are the key differences between SBCC and independent media? Do they share some commonality?

Tips for incorporating SBCC-type content into news or feature-style writing.

TELLING THE SSFFC MEDICINE STORY – A GUIDE FOR JOURNALISTS

The following are examples of the different kinds of possible SSFFC medicine stories that were shared during a journalist training in Nigeria. They range from simple coverage of an SSFFC malaria medicine campaign to more ambitious stories about SSFFC medicines as a critical public health issue. The list is by no means exhaustive. Its purpose is to point practitioners in the right direction and help them think about various ways to approach malaria SSFFC medicine stories in a wider context.

Acknowledgement: This guide is an adaptation from “16 Story Ideas,” a guide for journalists covering road safety, by Subhendu Ray, Editor, Hindustan Times. It is adapted here for the technical area of SSFFC malaria medicines.

STORY 1: If the focus of the story is law enforcement…
STORY 2: If the focus of my story is a specific case of the effects of SSFFC malaria medicines that you have identified, and a possible solution…
STORY 3: If the focus of my story is a “big picture” story about ensuring good quality malaria medicines…
STORY 4: If the focus of my story is people at risk of improperly treated malaria due to SSFFC malaria medicines…
STORY 5: If the focus of my story is SSFFC malaria medicines as a local public health issue…

Now turn this into a human interest story.

What are the relevant questions to illustrate personal and family impact?

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