Web-based news net offers behind-the-camera training

NAIROBI, KENYA — Not many good news stories make it out of Kibera, a sprawling slum in the heart of the Kenyan capital, and the ones that do usually reflect the rougher side of life in this impoverished area.

It was an awareness of that hard reality that prompted some young residents to shine a different light on Nairobi’s largest slum, and give its people a voice.

The result is Kibera TV, a Web-based news entity that was created by the Hot Sun Foundation, an American NGO, to help locals tell their own stories about the positive side of life there, says assistant producer Clarence Ilavonga.

The station is run by 22-year-old Ilavonga with Roy Okello, Grishon Onyango and Vincent Oduor, plus volunteers Berry Muga, Stephen Okoth and Michelle Mulemi.

Like his partners, Ilavonga is a graduate of the Kibera Film School, also founded by Hot Sun, which teaches the fundamentals of shooting and editing.

The real-life experience of running the station has been a crash course in journalism.

Each reporter films and edits his stories using Flip cams and state-of-the-art editing equipment donated by Hot Sun. The news segments are then uploaded onto a dedicated YouTube channel, which has attracted a following in Kenya and beyond.

While some of their fellow film school grads chose to pursue careers at Kenya’s established media houses, Ilavonga took up the challenge at Kibera TV because it offered him a chance to “talk to the community about how they want this place to change.”

“It’s like we are the light of this community,” he says.

Two years after its founding, the station remains a work in progress. The Hot Sun Foundation still underwrites Kibera TV’s costs of around $10,000 a year, and the station is looking for ways to forge partnerships with traditional media houses.

The group inked a deal with Roma Media, which broadcasts its reports on TV screens in buses and the ubiquitous minibus-taxis that ply the capital’s streets. Talks are also under way with Kenyan web Kiss TV to broadcast short news segments during nightly programming.

Ilavonga hopes the station will soon be able to expand beyond Kibera. He also hopes his experiences will be a springboard for bigger opportunities in Kenyan media.

“But before that, I need to secure the future of Kibera TV,” he says. “I need to lift it. When it stands on its own, then I’ll do more.”

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