What makes a great Community Correspondent? Our criteria for selecting CC’s

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By Radhika Gupta and Siddharth Pillai

This is what we look for when recruiting Community Correspondents. You can read HERE about how we actually locate and select them.

  1. The candidate should be associated with social movements, human rights campaigns and/or NGOs.

Candidates with a history of social movements not only have deep insight but also a strong perspective on the issues and concerns facing their communities. They have first hand on-the-ground knowledge and an understanding of the people they will be working for. They already have the experience of working at the grassroots and mediating with the state. For most of them, the camera becomes a necessary tool in their day-to-day activism.

Video Volunteers is not looking for journalists. We actually prefer if they do not have previous experience in journalism when they join our community. Our priority is activism.

  1. Candidates from Economically Weaker Sections living Below Poverty Line are given priority

The financial situation is important because we are looking for candidates who can be empowered by the amount that VV pays them for their videos. At the same time, we want the amount to act as an incentive for them to keep producing videos and generating impact. We think there are numerous ways for those who are more middle class to be trained in citizen journalism and so VV doesn’t need to take on this task.

  1. Candidates should be able to dedicate at least 12-15 days a month to do this work, and be ready to commit for several years.

We are seeking to build a network of professionals. Students studying full time in college, or people who have regular jobs will not be selected. We often find that while such candidates might perform well in trainings once they return to their village they find that they just do not have enough time to invest into making videos.

This is not a one-off video training course. CC’s are getting a job that starts with a training workshop.

Candidates also need to be above age of 18, as we want them to have the maturity to deal with sensitive issues.

  1. Candidates should be Tribal, Dalit, religious minorities or sexual minorities ONLY – other candidates will not be selected.

One of the questions we are most frequently asked is – ‘Why don’t you take people from the ‘general’ category? Don’t they have issues of their own that are unheard?’

Our response is, ‘Yes, they certainly do have important problems that go unaired especially when they are living in poverty. But in most cases minorities experience these problems in a more intense way. Video Volunteers and its IndiaUnheard program are supporting the most marginalized communities to voice and express themselves. The need for our program is much greater among the communities that we have chosen to work with.

  1. Women candidates will be given priority.

Even within marginalized communities, women are further sidelined. VV is adamant that 50% and more of our platform must be occupied by the voices of women. For most of our six years we had a 50-50 gender balance, but currently only around 33% of our correspondents are female which means that we will be giving even more priority to the gender criteria until the balance is tipped in favor of women once again.

That there are not enough women applying for our program is one of the biggest quandaries facing the IndiaUnheard recruitment drives. One deterrent for women seems to be that selected candidates have to attend an intensive two-week residential training camp.

We have tried to send out a clear message that women candidates will be given priority. We are making more efforts to target NGOs specifically focused on women.

  1. Candidate should have strong community connection and strong ties to the community

We’re interested in hyper local journalism. We want to work with people who will stay engaged in that community. We’re also interested in having the videos reflect the diversity of the country. As compared to mainstream journalists we believe that a community correspondent’s connection to their community is their greatest, most unique selling point. They must know how to express this powerfully, and speak about personal issues.

  1. Candidates should not be a part of any political party

This is not to say that our work is not political. It is. But we want to be clear that we do not want our work to be mouthpieces for a party’s agenda.

  1. Basic reading and writing skills in Hindi preferred (not necessary)

We have worked with people who are completely illiterate in other programs and we know they can produce good content. But for IndiaUnheard, because the CC’s work on their own most of their time, it is preferable they are literate.