Interview conducted by Aileen Doyle, 2010 Greg Crompton is a former jhr trainer who worked in Sierra Leone. Since his return to Canada Mr Crompton has become one of jhr’s major donors. I sat down with Mr Crompton to find out more about his experience overseas, and what motivated him to continue his support for jhrs work.
Q: Upon your return from Sierra Leone, you decided to support jhr financially. Why is that?
Well you know, because I had a personal relationship with jhr and I guess maybe more importantly, I understood how jhr functioned and I understood where the money was going. I think of how much of a good experience it was for me but also how much of an impact it made. I really saw that my money was going to a place that was sending people overseas to work in media houses as opposed to massive administration fees.
Q: Did you have any experiences in particular that motivated you to continue supporting the work that jhr does?
I guess I felt that the work we were doing over there had an impact on a day to day basis. One of my friends, another jhr trainer, worked at a newspaper, and I could physically see it improving over days and highlighting certain issues, and those issues got brought up a bit more. The level of journalism of my good friend, or who would become a good friend, really improved and he ended up going from being a student intern at the television station, to a stringer for VP when I left two years later. The fact that he was a video stringer also helped him make more stories and decide on what stories he wanted to cover, which generally had a human rights angle. That was an effect that I thought I could get behind and hoped that if I gave jhr more money there would be more people like that.
Q: Why do you think there is a need for jhr in Sierra Leone?
Because media is a big part of life in Sierra Leone. Everyone listens to the radio and I think that if you have effective journalism there, it will effect change. Everyone listens to the BBC, but it’s just not local enough. People understand, the audience understands, what good media is, but the journalists there don’t have enough training on how to create that and so there’s a space between: where the listeners are savvy and they understand, but they don’t trust a lot of their own media. There are people there who want better media and I think there is room for jhr to help create that more even and effective coverage, about human rights issues or any issues for that matter.
Q: You have firsthand experience on the ground; you can see what that money can do. Do you have an example of an area of where you’d like that money to go to?
Yeah, I think trainers. I mean, I think training is very effective. It’s one-on-one training. If you get one to one training then things are much more accessible. You don’t have 5 SUV’s you’re driving out to a diamond mine and discussing human rights issues, and then getting a diamond mine light story. You go out there with one Sierra Leonean journalist and you get a lot more access, and because you get more access you get more of the reality, and because of that you can report on what’s actually going on and therefore create a bit more change.
Q: How do you think jhr is different from other organizations?
Like I said, because it’s one-on-one. jhr trains journalists one-on-one. You’re placed in a media house and you’re not creating a massive unsustainable structure that will fall apart when NGO dollars leave. It’s more like, working with a local media house, and giving one trainer [the opportunity] to really effect change on a one-to-one basis with the journalists. And therefore those journalists can stay in Sierra Leone, and can change the way the media reports on issues. jhr