Global Voices - Editorial Policy and Process | Institute for War and Peace Reporting
IWPR's in-depth strategy focuses on training and building a strong network of local journalists. To achieve this, IWPR trainers are selected with local cultural attitudes in mind, and IWPR training materials are all tailored to meet the specific needs in each national or regional media space.
The purpose of IWPR's editorial unit is defined by the our primary objective of strengthening media in conflict zones. As such the unit has a dual role:
- To publish reports from IWPR programmes to an international standard, and;
- To provide collaborative support and feed-back to writers as an integral component of IWPR's practical on-the-job training.
Both components are essential to IWPR's capacity to meet its objectives under grant contracts and to retain long-term donor support.
IWPR enjoys an international reputation as a leading source of reliable reporting by journalists in crisis zones. Its editorial output consistes of news, news analysis, comment and features focusing on issues of war and conflict resolution, human rights, democratic development, civil society, women's rights and minorities.
Our reporting maintains a moderate, balanced and fact-based tone, seeking in particular to break down rather than reinforce grievances across ethnic, national, tribal or other conflict lines. In line with IWPR's broader goal of contributing to peace, editorial projects are designed to build cross-community confidence, support collaborative projects and develop regional and international information sharing. As the practical component of IWPR media development, editorial policy forms a key part of our overall training strategy.
IWPR's training strategy delivers practical collaboration between international and local journalists to transfer skills and experience for the long term.
The heart of this strategy is intensive on-the-job training throughout the journalistic process, from identifying local issues, to reporting and writing, dissemination, debate and evaluation/feedback. IWPR trainers and editors support local participating journalists throughout.
The editorial unit is thus a core component of the overall training approach and must edit accordingly. That means achieving a balance between maintaining international standards and established outputs on deadline on the one hand, and respecting local voices and providing a nurturing, communicative editorial environment on the other.
The overriding imperative is to ensure that participating journalists are brought along in the editing, recognise their work amid the process, and receive regular evaluation and feedback to drive home the lessons. The editing must deliver training.
The IWPR editorial unit is headed by the managing editor, with support from assistant editors and translators. The team works in full collaboration with programme staff, including programme managers, programme coordinators and field directors. All editors serve a training role, and are from time to time be required to travel to the regions to provide feedback and training to project participants.
The Executive Director provides oversight, feedback and overall editorial direction, and responsibility in case of sensitive editorial material, such as potential libel or reports that may threaten correspondents or IWPR's local presence.
With substantial responsibilities and limited resources, the editorial unit requires an efficient and streamlined process to ensure standards of quality and targets of quantity of editorial output.
With the recent refinement of IWPR's overall objectives and training strategy, the editorial process must also be tuned towards delivering measurable training results at every stage. As part of that, a clarified editorial process must actively seek, through improved communication and avoidance of re-editing, to reduce the divide between authors and their texts as published.
The editorial process involves these stages:
Field production and editing: IWPR field staff build local networks of journalists and trainees, offer workshop-based training to strengthen basic skills, and provide intensive editorial support through the first stages of the reporting process. For each story, the author and local editor/trainer complete a written agreement called the commissioning brief.
Central editing: First acceptance by the managing editor is to confirm that a text is publishable, alert the Executive Director to libel or other major risk issues, and issue editing instructions. These will define the article type (news, comment, etc), confirm the lead and story line, and highlight key problems of reporting, structure or tone. The managing editor then assigns the piece for editing. (In the case of rejection, the managing editor sends an explanatory note to the author.)
Risk checks involve the Executive Director in the case of articles which the managing editor feels are potentially libellous or may create risks to personal safety or IWPR's ability to work safely within a country.
The editor assigned to a piece bears major responsibility. Significant changes to the lead, structure, tone and wording need to be agreed with the author and/or field editor.
Most articles are originally written in languages other than English. For training, dialogue and media development purposes, IWPR makes syndication in local-language media a high priority, and this requires extensive translation.
In general, the final English version is sent for re-translation back to local languages for delayed electronic publication and local syndication. Quality control for translations of articles is the responsibility of programme managers. Qualified translators may produce "blended versions", incorporating primary editorial changes of the final English versions into the last stage language versions.
Working in translation, and at great distances, adds a further complication for the author's review. In cases where the primary editor cannot be readily in direct contact with the author, the programme manager or coordinator undertakes this responsibility. This does not obviate the need for clearance of main changes with the author.
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