The Impact of Journalism Training on the Trainers:
Reflections of U.S. International Fellows


Lee B. Becker, Patrick J. McConnell and Aswin Punathambekar


Every year, an untold number of journalists from around the world leave their home countries to share their experiences and knowledge abroad with journalists and others interested in the journalism profession. Many of these journalists are part of formal exchange or training programs, sponsored by media organizations, foundations, and governmental and nongovernmental organizations interested in journalism and its role in newly emerging democracies.

What is the impact of these experiences abroad on the trainers? How does this experience fit into their career development? How does the information the trainers gain from their work abroad influence their domestic activities upon their return? Do the trainers feel they are having an impact on journalists and journalism in the host countries?

These are the questions addressed in this paper, which is based on reports of 33 U.S. journalists who served as Knight International Press Fellows in eight European and three Latin American countries from 1994-98. Detailed interviews were conducted with those fellows in late 1998 and early 1999 as part of an evaluation of the impact of the Knight program. The interviews reveal that almost all the fellows felt the experience had a positive influence on their lives. Many cited personal growth gained through participation in the program as they were able to learn the history and culture of other countries and to challenge themselves by learning to deal with new situations. They also gained experience teaching, which helped to reinforce their knowledge of and belief in journalism. The journalists said they felt more connected to a world-wide community of journalism, that they were making an impact by being a model or mentor, and that they were giving back to the profession by passing on their knowledge. The fellowship was viewed as an honor and it helped with their own career development, such as being a better fundraiser. Other perceived benefits for journalists were that they felt more committed to journalism, it helped them to better understand media in other countries, and to be more analytical of their own media practices and those of U.S. media. It also gave them a different view of the U.S. and U.S. media.

The results are interpreted in the context of earlier work on the experiences of journalists who participated in training initiatives, the study of the impact of training for democracy, and the experiences of others who have participated in international exchange and training. In addition, the findings are linked to work on career development of media professionals.

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