2016 Human Rights Production Lab: Exploring ‘What Works’ Together


In March we welcomed nine former Human Rights Fellows to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism for an intensive, 10-day hands-on production lab at their mid-way point in a collective project called What Works. From Iran, Ukraine, Slovenia, Syria, India, Ecuador, China, and the Philippines, this group is working together to develop a framework for exploring the global issue of intolerance through local examples of bridge-building among groups that might otherwise be in conflict. 

The Fellows attended a range of workshops, lectures, and in-depth editing sessions. From editing audio, grant-writing, and research methodology to coping with trauma in the field, the lab sessions filled skill gaps and stimulated deep and thoughtful discussion. 

Throughout the lab, the Fellows were mentored by Ed Kashi, a photojournalist, filmmaker, and educator dedicated to documenting social and political issues, and Bob Sacha, a director, cinematographer, editor, teacher, photographer, and key collaborator on a range of visual journalism projects. Drawing from their raw material and experiences from the field, the Fellows were able to directly apply new learnings, ethical considerations, and challenging questions to the formation of their projects, and more significantly, to their developing practices.


The highlights of the week included a session with Fred Ritchin and Jim Estrin breaking down the critical differences between human rights photography and photojournalism. They talked through examples of the ethical issues that can arise when doing human rights-focused photography for a news outlet and vice versa Acknowledging that what is best for the world does not always agree with rigid journalistic standards.

From Tina Rosenberg, journalist and co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, the Fellows learned what distinguishes positive or ‘solutions’ journalism, emphasizing not just what may be working, but how and why it appears to be working, or alternatively, why it may be stumbling. Tina also imparted the basics of how to find, vet, conduct, pitch, craft, promote, and structure a ‘solutions’ story.

Lisa Jamhoury, a media-maker and content strategist, led a session on how to reach your audience, identifying the major misconceptions about distributing stories online and showcasing real-life examples of media reaching its intended audience through targeted and tactical distribution channels.

The Fellows are all now back in the field wrapping up their stories. The production lab set the tone for this next phase of work, and brought up important questions about the distribution of these projects, both individually and as a collection. The Fellows are exploring a range of strategies for disseminating their work, such as through local screenings, exhibitions, and social media campaigns.

Simone Salvo