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Thousands of Latin American and Caribbean journalists benefit from Knight Center programs in 2011

Online courses and webinars, workshops, conferences, e-books, a news blog and direct assistance to journalists' organizations have been offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas during 2011. Thousands of journalists from all Latin American countries and most of the Caribbean have benefited from this wide variety of programs.

The Knight Center's activities have been possible this year thanks to major grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and the University of Texas at Austin.

As the Center prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2012, a review of its activities in the past 12 months reveals an emphasis on the use of digital technologies to teach journalists how to use those same technologies and new tools to improve their daily work.

Our trilingual (English, Portuguese and Spanish) website attracts around 30,000 unique visitors per month, offering them training opportunities and information about the rapidly changing media environment. The site includes a digital library, a distance learning program and a unique news blog that covers issues related to journalism and journalists in this hemisphere.

This year the Journalism in the Americas blog published about 1,300 posts in each of the three languages, nearly 4,000 total posts, keeping thousands of journalists informed about trends in the industry, threats and attacks against freedom of expression in the region, opportunities for training and many other topics.

The Center has engaged also thousands of journalists who follow its activities on social media networks, especially on Twitter and Facebook. The Knight Center accounts on twitter have more than 8,000 followers and over 4,500 people "like" us on Facebook, besides around 17,000 subscribers of our newsletters and many followers on RSS feeds.

The Knight Center trained 726 journalists in 2011 through its distance learning program, which included online courses and webinars. The majority of journalists trained — 571 — were enrolled in our online courses that usually lasted from four to six weeks and included multimedia and state-of-the-art e-learning techniques.

We offered 15 courses this year to journalists in the Americas covering topics such as infographics and data visualization, writing for the web, journalism ethics in a digital age, digital media project development, hyperlocal journalism, social media and coverage of drug trafficking.

The Knight Center offered six live web seminars with topics covering managing digital newsrooms, creating sustainable entrepreneurial journalism projects, data-driven journalism, and strategies to reduce risk when covering organized crime and violence. This last session was conducted in association with the Mexican journalists' group Periodistas de a Pie and the International Center for Journalists.

Since 2003, we have trained more than 5,800 journalists from every Latin American country and virtually all of the Caribbean. We have also offered assistance to several other media development organizations on how to set up a distance learning program for journalists.

In 2011, our e-learning platform was used by partners such as the Colombian organization Consejo de Redacción and the Peruvian Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, not only for training but also for coordination of transnational investigative journalism projects.

Another way the Knight Center disseminates knowledge among journalists in this hemisphere is the publication of e-books. In 2011, the Center surpassed the mark of 200,000 downloads of its e-books from the Knight Center website alone. The books are published under Creative Commons license, posted on many other websites and copies are printed and distributed in newsrooms, which extended their reach even more.

The Knight Center organized the 12th International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) that attracted more than 230 journalists, media executives and scholars from all over the world to the University of Texas at Austin. Immediately after ISOJ, the Center sponsored the 4th Iberian American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, with journalists and scholars from Latin America, Portugal and Spain.

Another annual conference organized by the Knight Center, the Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, examined the topic of “media coverage of international migrations in the Americas.” More than 50 journalists and experts from 20 countries participated in the roundtable that was complemented by a digital exhibit of photos related to international migration in the Americas.

The Knight Center also contributed to congresses and seminars organized in Latin America by partner organizations, such as the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI), the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA), and the Colombian Consejo de Redacción. Those events included workshops that benefited hundreds of Latin American journalists.

In May, the Center co-sponsored the 3rd Meeting of Guatemalan Journalists from the Provinces, gathered in Antigua, Guatemala, by Gracias a la Vida Producciones, again with support from the International Center for Journalists and the U.S. Embassy. Eighty journalists from most of Guatemala's provinces attended the training sessions.

The Knight Center was created as a four-year program in June of 2002 thanks to a generous $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation. More than five years later, the Center received a $1.6 million, four-year grant from the Knight Foundation to refocus its work, emphasizing the use of digital technology in journalism.

Thanks to a grant from the Open Society Foundations and funds from The University of Texas at Austin, the Knight Center was able to continue its activities this year, and as we approach the celebration of our 10th anniversary we look forward to sustaining our projects into the next decade.

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