Cross Cultural Training Program for Ewaste Shockumentary Makers 1

This week I spent another several hours in a pre-interview for a German documentary crew from ZDF. They had seen Blame Game or seen the blog, and said that they were reaching out to see if we can get them interviews with Africans in the Tech Sector --- "At Agbogbloshie".

spend more time at the beach guys
They are attending something called the Digital Conference Republica [technovagh blog by
Joseph-Albert Kuuire], a German conference established 2013 on the subject using online information to solve global problems, to be held in Accra for the first time.

Obviously these dudes mean well. But finding a repair tech "At Agbogbloshie" is a bit like finding a mechanic at your local scrap metal yard. They are associating the original stubborn idea that imports arrive directly at Agbogbloshie (thanks to Jim Puckett and Mike Anane) with the message that Africans import what they can repair.

So in my next blog, I'm going to share some of the training and background information which we tried to impart to Alexander Glodsinksi of SDF, in a crash course via Whatsapp, with Emmanuel Nyalete, Evans Quaye, Wahab Odoi, and Olu Orga.  After the "text training", Evans suggested we put it up on a website devoted to Africa's Tech Sector. Let's start here.

Training Schockumentary Photojournalists (not that Alexander is that, but it's what we do damage control for) really harkens me back to my job, after my Peace Corp volunteer service, doing Cross Culture training for bushy-tailed Americans (mostly college grads, but a few retirees and mid-career folks too).  My job was to design 6 weeks of training to make sure that Americans were "culturally literate" before their 2 or 3 year assignment at a post in Cameroon.  But the number one job, I was told privately by the training program staff, was to get people to quit before they were even assigned. Peace Corps funds the training in large part based on the high expense of "ET" ("phone home") "Early Termination". Every year a certain number of Peace Corps volunteers suffer "culture shock" and have to be flown back to the USA. My job was to shake those people out before they created a costly embarrassment.  And after a half dozen photojournalist "debriefings" THIS YEAR (2018), I think the analogy is apt.

As Adam Minter reminds me, it's not really useful to "shame" journalists who get it wrong, even if they do a lot of harm by spreading an "ewaste hoax" that results in Joe "Hurricane" Benson being locked up in a prison cell. I've ordered Jon Ronson's book "So you've been publicly shamed" for holiday reading. Attempts to Shame a Twitterhead President, for example, just doesn't reach that guy.

So I'm trying to be polite, at least when the journalist will talk to me (unlike Sasha Rainbow).  And I owe ZDF - the German public cable channel gave Fair Trade Recycling one of its first public boosts in 2012.

So ... it would be nice if we could get all the journalists to sit together for one 6 week session.  Instead, we feel like Marine Sergeants shouting parachute instructions at the exit door of a fighter plane, to each individual social justice warrior preparing his/her leap into an (urban) jungle.

Like the USA Peace Corps volunteers who arrived in Cameroon with hiking boots and backpacks, the journalists who approach Agbogbloshie are quizzical. They came prepared for a hike in a jungle (after all, BAN and Anane say it was a lovely remote fishing village a decade ago). Instead, WR3A is giving them instructions for hazing rituals in a very large black fraternity. There is nothing farther from the solitude of a hike in the wilderness than to be the sole westerner in a gossipy village or slum in Africa.

US Peace Corps Volunteer class of 1986 (I think). Me in jeans jacket first row of standing, 5th from left, with na
So this is the introduction to Cross Cultural Training for Ewaste Shockumentary journalists. We are going to offer you some context and history, cut into bite sized pieces that you can chew on before you put on your parachute.  Alexander G. and Stephan of ZDF contacted me just days before they leave for the conference.  The advice we gave them may be just in time... or it may be wasted.

The greater contribution is to provide it to journalists who have yet to invest in a plane ticket.  Those like Jacopo Ottaviana (Ewaste Republic) and Juan Solera (Blame Game) who already have a budget have to be coaxed to do more data journalism and provide some nuance - if they don't show SOME emergency, their producers are like Peace Corps, consternated by early termination.

What we did with #freejoebenson was raised the stakes of false reporting with another emergency.  The strategy is to get reporters not to run a bad story (a BAN press release), to pass on it if they don't have time to do a good job.  Collateral damage is created by reporters like BBC Panorama's @areporter Raphael Rowe, who spent time in a UK jail, for a crime he didn't commit, before returning the favor to Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics.
Mike is still fishing (charges journalists to tour the former lush village in... the center of Accra?)

Shaming Raphael Rowe didn't work. So you put his name at the very end of a long and tedious blog, as a warning to the next journalist not to trust Mike "Fishing As a Boy" Anane and Jim "80% Export" Puckett when they say 500 sea containers a month are arriving at a city junkyard, and all you see is 50 wheelbarrows of locally collected junk from a thriving city.  You've flown all the way there, and had to spend 40 minutes in a traffic jam, to get to an automobile junkyard, you don't see a single sea container of junk for 7 days.  Your producer wants has drunk the whitesaviorcomplex koolaid, and if you say "its just like a dump in East Europe, he won't be happy.

It's not a matter of shame, it's a matter of a journalist's integrity. I come from a journalism family, and one thing I love about reporters is that they try to keep their integrity at all costs. Next to doctors, they really do care about primum non nocere, first do no harm.

In the next blog, I'll give journalists and producers a quick history so they don't wind up in an investment to impugn the reputations of African importers, the "Tech Sector".

ET, Phone Home.

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