Authors: Deuh’b Zyzou with contributions from Mirjam de Bruijn and Laurens Nijzink
The Bloggers Association Chad and Voice4Thought have initiated a project called “Tchadoblog: Raconter le Tchad autrement – Créer le “bon buzz” (Tchadoblog: Telling the story of Chad differently – Creating the right buzz) aimed at promoting blogging and depolarizing the narrative in Chad.
In the context of people shaken by a political and social crisis in the Chadian capital, the workshop on blogging began on Monday afternoon, October 24 2022, in the premises of the innovative incubator Wenaklabs located in the El-Nimery district. Voice4Thought was represented by director Mirjam de Bruijn and journalist Laurens Nijzink. Exchanges between the two organizations started in the form of an open conversation. Participants were able to reflect on their role as bloggers in a socially, politically and culturally seriously polarised environment with its particular history. Questions about the motivation of young people to become bloggers were asked. Those who have already started blogging also shared their experiences. It was evident that the bloggers are ‘hungry’ to contribute to change the narrative around Chad and the way Social Networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp, are used. It is time to depolarise the discussions!
The core of Voice4Thought’s trainings is their research methodology. The first day of the blogging workshop was built around learning how to do research. Learning how to do research, in particular qualitative research, allows students to grasp the basic notion of the work of a local journalist.
Through discussions a definition of the media ecology in Chad was defined: The media space consists of national newspapers, TV and radio which are dominated by government news and actions. The private media provide other information, but almost always lack discussion and debate. Social Networks (SN) have taken on this function, apart from their role of providing information. For Chadians, SN’s have become their information space, and they take all information as viable.
The discussion on the media ecology of Chad let to the definition of the problem of fake news, The bloggers see their roles amongst others to transform these SN’s into real viable information channels, hence the subtitle of the project: ‘Telling Chad differently’.
During the workshop participants were also introduced to new methods for structuring research and producing non-polarising stories. Learning by doing was the pedagogical principle during the five days. The participants discussed a lot with each other and went out on the street twice to do reporting and research. In order to tell depolarising stories, you have to listen first. Understanding the other person is the basis for going beyond one’s own references and even prejudices. The participants practices this with the interview technique called ‘looping’: listen carefully and check whether you have understood the answer to your question. By looping you are also able to dig a little deeper during an interview.
Another aspect in making stories that do not polarize, is looking for complexity. If you zoom in, many things appear more complex than at first sight. You will see that people and events do not fit into simple dichotomies such as good – bad, north – south, Arabic – French, Christian – Muslim, to name a few. Depolarising stories amplify these exceptions.
During the last three days, participants worked on a story using the new learned techniques, and presented their outcomes on the last day. The presentations nicely showed how each person integrated the new way of working into their article in their own way.
Overall, the workshop was a promising start for the newly created bloggers’ association and for a long-term cooperation between Chadian bloggers and Voice4Thought.
In the coming months, the bloggers will receive remote, online support to produce compelling stories that depolarise. Because there is a great need for that in these difficult times.