If you scroll the screen, all the topics from culture to politics come up: Cambodian traditional medical care, a protest in Lebanon, a business school in Benin, etc. You would be fascinated by the world of developing countries.
This time, we interviewed a web media group called “ganas” run by a nonprofit organization, Kaihatsu media. Ganas means vitality in Spanish. The main themes of its articles are developing countries and international cooperation and development. With scrupulous interviews, ganas offers articles which give clear pictures of today’s developing countries from various angles. University students and working adults are the journalists of ganas. Professional journalists join as editorial desk. What makes ganas so special and attractive?
We cannot understand ganas without mentioning a chief editor, Daiji Nagamitsu’s life. Spending his high school days in the United States, he got Americanized attitudes and values. However, racial prejudice in the U.S. in those days made him feel exhausted mentally and he decided to study at a university in Japan. Then he met exchange students from the Philippines in the student club of his university. They were social elites of their country and had Americanized attitudes and ideas. Since Nagamitsu and the Filipinos shared similar values, they became close friends and he traveled to the Philippines several times since then, which developed his growing interest in developing countries.
After graduating from the university, Nagamitsu found a job in Hong Kong to sell Japanese newspapers. After working there for about a month, he visited Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia with his job. He opened branches of the company he was working for in Southeast Asia and started working as an editor. What he went through there was the mixture of surprising and touching experiences. In the Philippines, local messengers were to deliver newspapers which Nagamitsu printed to readers but the messengers threw them away before delivering them, neglecting their duties. Without doubt he was shocked by this. Another experience in Indonesia follows. When he visited a poor family with his Indonesian friends, they did not take any food the family prepared for them. It was the consideration for the family who could never eat enough. Those experiences in developing countries fascinated him and made him realize it was a world full of humanity. Then combining developing countries and media, which he has been long working in, Nagamitsu established his own media group, ganas in 2012.
Ganas offers a program named Global Media Camp, in which participants visit developing countries and do interviews with the assistance of ganas’s members. Nagamitsu shared one episode of Global Media Camp, where a university student majoring in law interviewed the locals in Cambodia. When she visited a rural village, she noticed almost every family had its own papaya trees in their garden. Since a papaya tree produces too many fruits for one family to consume, they are going to get rotten if a family does not take them at a perfect timing. Therefore, they always share the fruits with their neighbors, which prevents them from being wasted. After the interview, she looked back on the food waste problem in her home country, Japan. In Japan, we throw away so much food that we can still eat. In order to improve this situation, Japan decided to devise a new regulation which charges a fee for garbage bags. But what if Japanese share food with neighbors, having no hesitation like Cambodians? It is possible that the amount of food waste will decrease. Instead of the Japanese regulation, the practice of sharing, which is deeply ingrained in Cambodians, can help make the situation better.
Then she compared the two countries. Especially for food waste, Cambodian community has no problem even without regulation, while Japanese community has a problem even with regulation. This made her come up with one question―what is the purpose of regulations? Her answer was that although regulations are measures to decide things, they are not the only way to solve every problem in a society. A society without a legal system is sometimes considered immature, however, she experienced how this stereotype can be reversed by reporting on developing countries. She saw that there was no solid fact or justice. This is how she got many-sided viewpoints. Nagamitsu says it is one of the most treasured lessons one learns by reporting on developing countries.
Whilst developing countries possess beautiful cultures and traditions, there exists despair of people caught in economic crisis or social unease. Though we find articles interviewing the locals in ganas’s web pages, it is not so easy to get them to put their sufferings in words. Following happened in Columbia, which ganas intensively covered this February. A journalist of ganas interviewed a female refugee from Venezuela, where her family suffered from hunger as the domestic situation was worsening. During the interview, her eyes got full of tears as she was recalling in detail what she went through. Then Nagamitsu told the journalist that it was okay to continue interviewing even though she was crying. She managed to voice her painful experience, fighting her emotions back. After that, the journalist asked her whether she wanted the interview to be posted in an article or not. Her answer was obvious, “Please write this.”
Like this interview, in developing countries journalists sometimes encounter situations where they have to make people talk about their bitter memories. In order to bring out and share it, Nagamitsu says, “Never look down on them and ask yourself whether you could overcome the same difficulty they have endured in their lives. Journalists should always keep this attitude in mind.” For journalists, who share both pleasures and pains of ordinary people, nothing will be more important than to put themselves in the others’ shoes.
Focusing on developing countries, ganas questions values journalists have taken for granted and offers chances to obtain the fundamental spirit of journalists. Surprisingly, ganas’s appeal does not stay here. Not only running articles, ganas is also devoted to training future journalists among current readers.
More than half of the readers of ganas are people in their twenties to forties and ganas enjoys about eighty thousand pageviews a month (as of Spring, 2020). However, ganas is not only emphasizing “reading” but also “participating”. Unlike the existing media, ganas encourages readers not only to read articles but also to participate in the exciting events it holds. “It is not enough to just read articles. I would like our readers to join our events to learn more about developing countries”, Nagamitsu says. Ganas regularly holds a wide range of interesting events from casual ones like cooking the dishes of developing countries to full-scale ones such as learning how to write an article. Ganas particularly puts efforts into the latter. This event trains future journalists of ganas. Basically, those who want to write an article in ganas attend “77 days journalist training” to learn the basics of interview and writing, saying Nagamitsu that this leads to a deep understanding of developing countries. After this, participants become a full-fledged journalist in ganas.
Nagamitsu talks about what he emphasizes in this program, “Journalists work just as media between interviewees and readers. They should not advocate their own opinions, ignoring facts. Facts should be the priority.” This perspective is based on his deep concern against the current media landscape. Recently, due to the rapid spread of the internet, more and more people can be a self-proclaimed journalist regardless of whether a story of an article is true or not. This dramatic change in media landscape forced journalism to reform. One means is to faithfully write an article based on facts. Nagamitsu thinks further reform is needed. He says, “Under the changing media landscape, nonprofit media like ganas need an outstanding character in addition to writing an article based on facts from a careful interview.” A nonprofit newsroom that has an outstanding character is ProPublica excelling in investigative journalism. In the case of ganas, a language lesson as well as its journalism education mark ganas special. In the language lesson, participants learn Spanish from a Venezuelan teacher via chat applications and voice messages while supporting Venezuelan teachers who are struggling with poverty by sending course fees. Ganas offers those unique programs utilizing personal relationships Nagamitsu has developed for many years through his media experiences and this is what ganas calls “media of action”.
Building a bridge between media and developing countries, ganas broadens horizons of both writers and readers and seeks a new form of media desired in world today. Ambitious challenge of ganas continues to go on.
Written by Manae Otsuka,Dagyoem Kim,Kento Kasuya
Edited by Mitacam crew