Video Volunteers and Bloomberg collaborate on rural reporting

Video Volunteers is pleased to share the first products from the VV-Bloomberg mentoring collaboration.In March 2014, VV and Bloomberg joined forces on a project in which five Bloomberg reporters coached twelve of VV’s Community Correspondents to help them produce videos on a variety of social issues. Bloomberg coaches are sharing their expertise in journalism with trained grassroots journalists currently working to highlight the stories of their mediadark villages.


The goal of the project is to help Correspondents improve the quality of videos by adding a stronger focus on character-based storytelling, and by finding a way to make the hyper-local storytelling VV excels at relevant at a national level. With senior journalists mentoring Community Correspondents, each side is getting a new perspective.


For the initial phase, this was largely a ‘train the trainers’ project.The mentees from VV were mostly senior Community Correspondents who now work as State Coordinators or Field Mentors. For instance, Sarita Biswal is a fearless young woman who in the past has taken on the timber mafia in her village and who now herself mentors 21 Community Correspondents in Orissa. Anand Pagare, another mentee, is a Dalit Community Correspondent who most recently helped stop the forceful eviction of 75 Dalit and Tribal families due to a development project undertaken by Maharashtra Housing And Development Authority (MHADA).


Below are some of the stories that were produced through the project. You can see all the videos here.



Bloomberg Editor, George Smith Alexander, mentored the production of a video on the protests against the rape and murder of a 12 year old girl in Begusarai District, Bihar.  While sexual violence has become a widely reported issue in India over the last two years, there are many parts of the narrative that rarely make headlines. This is especially true of cases from rural India.The coverage also tends to be episodic with few detailed follow-up stories. Video Volunteers thus gives particular training to our Community Correspondents – who are nearly all village-based – on covering issues of sexual violence. With George’s mentoring, Indu, the Community Correspondent covering the story was able to report on yet another aspect—the usually lackadaisical response of police officials in investigating such crimes and the resulting outcry in the girl’s village.


A core focus for many of our Community Correspondents is how corruption and unaccountability mar many of the Indian Government’s well-intentioned schemes aimed at mitigating the worst effects of poverty. George mentored one such video being made by Correspondent Chunnu Hansda from Jharkhand. This video highlights how beneficiaries of a government insurance scheme for people living below the poverty line-- Rashtriya Swasthaya Bima Yojana—were being cheated at the local hospitals. Despite having her required smart card for cashless transactions, Bahamuni had to cough up over INR 10,000 for her delivery.




Bloomberg Editor Karthikeyan Sundaram, who has more than 16 years of experience as a journalist,worked with Sarita Biswal as she mentored a video about the repeated harassment of a Dalit family by the hands of ‘upper-caste’ goons. Hrudanand Tandi had been arrested on false charges and arrested in January 2014; he says this happened because people from the ‘upper caste’ want to take over his cultivable land. Correspondent Abhishek Dash who was reporting the story was given several inputs on how to present a strong case to the viewers. He was asked to get to the bottom of the issue and interview officials involved. While some of the suggestions couldn’t be carried out, the resulting video presents a compelling story detailing the violations of law in the case. This will be a great asset as our Correspondent and Hrudanand Tandi follow up on the case.


The next video, highlights the dilapidated condition of a government run Primary school in Puraina village, of Uttar Pradesh. Bloomberg Editor, Rajhkumar K. Shaw mentored Shankarlal, our Field Mentor from the state on how to document this failure of the Right to Education Act. The education scenario in U.P is nothing less than a mockery of the RTE Act— with low student-teacher ratios; dilapidated condition of school buildings; lack of sanitation—  the current status paints a very bleak picture for the children of Puraina village.  And this is exactly where our Correspondents come in. Under VV’s campaign ‘Pass Ya Fail’, many correspondents have been documenting how schools fare in implementing the provisions under the RTE Act. Videos like Brahmajeet’s not only highlight the problems but also work to bring about change by creating a dialogue between government officials and marginalized groups.



When the elected government doesn’t listen to voices from the ground, what follows is a situation of alienation and further marginalization of communities. And there are several instances of this currently happening across India, especially in areas where land is allocated for so-called development projects. Community Correspondent Saroj Paraste was in the process of covering a story of 100 families in Saroli village, Madhya Pradesh who haven’t been compensated by the government for land acquired from them about three decades ago. Shikhar Balwani, who currently covers bonds and currency markets for Bloomberg, mentored Saroj. Shikhar, who also hails from M.P, realized not much has changed in spite of the large-scale protests in the state against illegal land acquisition. With the impending modifications in India’s land acquisition laws, there seems  to be little hope left for the 100 families . . With Shikhar's guidance she was able to make a video, which makes a case for the proper implementation of rehabilitation and compensation laws while carrying out development projects. The video raises an important question given the current focus on dams and coal based energy— can economic development happen in the absence of democratic practices? Says Saroj, “There is still a long way to go. Fighting for our rights does not end with one video- but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”


The VV Correspondents are thrilled at the support they’ve been getting from the editors at Bloomberg and extend their heartiest thanks to all of them.

VV’s Founding Director Jessica Mayberry says, “at VV we’re really interested in seeing how citizen producers can collaborate with already established professionals, whether they are documentary filmmakers, photographers, journalists or photographers. We did a similar project with the Magnum-photo agency a couple of years ago and that had some great results. As technology democratizes, more and more people from rural India will be able to tell their own stories and disseminate their own news.  It’s been great to collaborate with Bloomberg because projects like these go a long way in laying the foundation for a new era of citizen journalism.”


Blog compiled by: Richa Ramela 

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