Cambodia Media

Improved Capacity and Investment Key to Develop Cambodian Media

Thai Sothea, co-founder of Cambonomist.com and Kiripost.com, shares the lessons learned about how to improve Cambodia’s media landscape at the annual Impact Media Fellowship program.
A radio studio in Phnom Penh. Photo: Sam
A radio studio in Phnom Penh. Photo: Sam

It’s a privilege for me to be given a seat at the Impact Media Fellowship 2022, the second annual program organized virtually by Singapore International Foundation (SIF).

The five-day program, which started on May 9, covered a number of trendy and evolving topics relevant to current global issues and the work the media contributes to finding solutions to these issues.

On the first day, we were exposed to the topic: solutions journalism. This is important when we regard ourselves as media professionals and journalists as catalysts for change. In my opinion, in Cambodia there’s not been enough media attention on issues such as environmental destruction, pollution and climate change.

While there’s critical reporting on these issues, there’s a lack of solutions being highlighted. Reporting critically on the issues affecting people’s lives is a great example of the media contributing to society, but adopting a solutions journalism approach would be an added value – and this is lacking in Cambodia.

On the second day, the topic of visual journalism and social media was covered. This is vital given how disruptive social media has been to the media landscape both in Cambodia and across the globe.

In Cambodia, like in many other parts of the world, the rise of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and more – has sent traditional media forms such as print towards the afterlife. The rise of social media has also radicalized how the public consume news and information.

Video features enabled by these social media companies have taken the Internet by storm. At Cambonomist.com, the business news media I co-founded, we are proud to announce that the video content we produce helps us build followers and viewers very fast.

However, visual journalism practices and the media’s understanding of social media tools must be constantly improved if we don’t want to lose the battle for improved user traffic.

Big data and media, which was covered during the third day, is a relatively new idea in the Cambodian media circle. Several trainings have so far been initiated by NGOs and donor-funded projects bringing in international media professionals and data journalism experts to share their knowledge and experience with Cambodian journalists.

I attended a training session on data journalism organized by the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS). I think many Cambodian journalists have been exposed to the concept and undergone training already, but, apparently, not much work has been done.

Very few, if any, data-driven stories have featured in the local media. From our experience at Cambonomist.com, it looks like it would involve a relatively significant cost to set up a proper team to produce data-driven or infographic stories, and this makes some media, including ourselves, hesitant to invest.

To this regard, the media’s management should be convinced about the benefits of covering stories with data for their media.

Data, or big data, is a great asset for journalists to produce stories with. As advanced media in other countries have shown, stories with data – when well produced – produce a great deal of impact that can spark social change or actions.

However, more needs to be done here in Cambodia to enable journalists and the media organizations they work for to become appreciative of and committed to data journalism. In short, big data is important to take our media to the next level, but proper expertise and investment is needed.

The fourth day of the program broached the interesting topic: Climate Action – One Story at a Time.

While climate change has increasingly become an issue of great concern globally, media coverage in Cambodia is limited. Some stories dealing with climate change have been driven by NGO-funded grants and so on. In addition, allegedly, many newsrooms in Cambodia do not show strong interest or pay enough attention to climate change issues. As a result, coverage of climate change has been limited.

The Impact Media Fellowship 2022 program also discussed the need for newsrooms to set up a dedicated desk for climate change topics. And I couldn’t agree more.

In my opinion, there should be improved awareness of climate change among those making decisions in media organizations so that more attention is paid to the issue. I think as a journalist, one wants to positively influence some kind of change for the better of society. And this topic of climate change is among the most pressing issues that journalists should work on.

One story at a time, combined with visual journalism and social media, as well as a dedicated desk within each newsroom, the media has the potential to have huge impacts when it comes to tackling climate change.

The last topic of the program, technopreneurs for social change, sounds quite advanced to me as a journalist. In today’s world, technology as a generic term, as well as digital technology in more specific terms, has played a vital role in all kinds of businesses and people’s lives.

Just like technologists use their technology for social good, media organizations can leverage digital technologies to become more impactful and effective in our mission to inform societies as a catalyst for change.

To sum up, the five-day Impact Media Fellowship 2022 has given me many key takeaways that inspire me to improve our media by adopting visual journalism practices, pushing for more investment in data journalism, lobbying for a dedicated desk for climate change, and embracing digital technologies to innovate the media landscape.

In short, there’s a need for improved capacity and investment for the Cambodian media to keep up with the increasingly pressing issues they cover in today’s world.