Radio Netherlands Worldwide is the first Dutch broadcaster to collaborate with the new internet platform VJ Movement. The platform is home to short documentaries by video journalists from across the globe. One of the people behind the initiative is former correspondent Thomas Loudon.
VJ Movement wants to give a voice to reports which are not hyped or sensation-seeking, but which foster a deeper understanding or spark discussion. In those terms, their first contribution for RNW can definitely be classed as a success: the video on Indian women who bear children for Western couples is provoking powerful reactions.
Thomas Loudon says he’s pleased with the cooperative venture. It means wider coverage for stories that are not picked up by the major news agencies and would otherwise be passed over.
"For example, we produced a story on Colombia, where 70,000 people have disappeared in recent decades. That's far more than in Argentina and Chile, whose stories are far more widely known."
VJ Movement has a number of people in Colombia who are keen to rectify that situation. Mr Loudon believes it is very important for such a story to reach the rest of the world.
Mr Loudon explains that the initiative was partly inspired by his own experiences as a correspondent in Iran, Egypt and Jordan.
"I couldn't escape the impression that video reports in particular were lacking more and more context and analysis, since broadcasters no longer have the room or the budget for them. And if you want to understand what's happening, if you want to see how developments are connected, then you need context and analysis alongside the news. Otherwise all you are left with is bits and pieces."
Honest and respectful reporting
Anyone who works for VJ Movement has to abide by a number of rules. For instance, they have to be scrupulous and honest, treat the audience with respect and immediately own up to any mistakes. On the website, the affiliates all introduce themselves personally. Sometimes they are international correspondents who settled in a country long-term, but Thomas is delighted that they are being joined by more and more local reporters who are able to tell the inside story.
"That's one of our core messages: people look at issues from different sides and different points of view. There's more than one truth. Based on the same facts, you can arrive at completely different stories. Someone local will look at a subject from their own historical awareness and political situation. Maybe even from their own ethnic or religious background. In any case, it will always be different to the view of an outside journalist who has been flown in. I've even experienced situations in which all I saw of a country was the road from the airport to the location where I had to stand in front of a camera to be interviewed by the presenter back in the studio. That was literally all I had seen of the country and yet I was supposed to tell people at home what was going on there."