The only thing worse than no information is misinformation.

Alfred Sirleaf writes the day’s major headlines on a blackboard for Liberians who cannot afford newspapers.

For too long Africa’s media has been dominated by “pay for play” business models. Journalists are paid little or nothing by their employers but instead take “gifts” (essentially bribes) from those they write about. Media is simply a megaphone for interested parties to spread misinformation that serves their interests, leading to corrupt institutions and the misallocation of resources. New Narratives believes that no media capacity building project can be successful without changing the business model.

New Narratives’ radically different approach to media development targets standards setters in each media market. Strong, independent media houses are rewarded with larger audiences and more advertising revenue. Their reporters win awards, higher pay and societal acclaim. These create incentives for honest, independent reporting. Rival media is forced to lift their standards to compete.

NN “fellows” come from leading independent media houses that are striving to build independent business models. Fellows are paid good wages in return for taking no bribes. Our veteran editors work with our fellows on every step of the reporting process. Fellows stay in the program for a year or more to ensure skills are built over time. Funding is provided for investigative reporting. Fellows are given training in state of the art equipment and technology so they can be the vanguards of interactive media in their own countries. NN helps partner media houses strengthen revenue streams from websites, cell phone distribution and other independent sources.

More women journalists = bigger audience = more independent revenue

Fewer than one in 12 Liberian journalists are women, a ratio echoed across Africa. For this reason NN works with more women than men. This ensures issues of importance to real people are reported and the voices of women and children are heard. Our fellows are high profile role models in society. They, in turn, interview women leaders and visionaries giving another group of women a public platform to increase their credibility. Boosting the number of women in our media houses also serves our primary goal of building their financial independence. Half the audience is women. Women know what women want to read and hear. Hiring women makes good business sense.