Sunday, June 23, 2024

Holly Edgell hosts Workshop and Second Annual Belize Prize for Investigative Journalism

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On Saturday, May 4th, the Belize Prize for Investigative Journalism (BPIJ) held a pivotal workshop at the University of West Indies (UWI) Open Campus in Belize City. This significant event, organized by BPIJ Coordinator Holly Edgell, with support from the United States Embassy in Belize, was part of a series of activities to promote journalism in Belize. It marked a milestone for Belize, being the first of its kind, culminating in the prestigious second annual Investigative Journalize award night at the Belize City House of Culture.
Edgell, a seasoned journalist with over 12 years of experience as a newsroom leader and over five years in the industry overall, facilitated the workshop. Her extensive knowledge and experience in journalism, coupled with her passion for investigative reporting, inspired confidence in the participants.
The workshop, which was held from 10AM to 3PM, saw the participation of reporters from around the country, including The San Pedro Sun and media houses such as Channel 5 and Channel 7 from Belize. Senior reporter Dion Vansen and junior reporter Alexia Villanueva represented The Sun. The workshop began in the morning with a discussion on “What is Investigative Journalism?”
Throughout the day, the participants delved into the intricacies of Investigative Journalism, which they consider a classic. They discussed the various elements that make up this field and stated that it is more than just a type of journalism – it is a craft comprising different methodologies.
Later, during the 11:00-11:50AM session, the finalists shared their experiences working on award-winning investigative projects. They discussed their challenges, approach, and what they would have done differently. The panel included Marion Ali from News 5, Cherisse Halsall of 7 News, and Jules Vasquez, the News Director for 7 News.
They examined investigative journalism across borders, best practices, and collaboration-related transitional issues during their conversation. These events and problems are an increasing component of investigative news reporting. Christina Lee, the host writer of Unbiased News, presented proven approaches, methods, and techniques on this topic via a Zoom virtual call.
Hector Guerra, a Marine Parade attorney, and Jules Vasquez from 7 News discussed how and when to request public records. They provided junior reporters with more detailed information on the subject. After this presentation, they discussed the new frontiers in reporting, including environmental issues such as erosion, coral bleaching, overfishing, dredging, oil exploration, and pollution, emphasizing that these are just a few examples of the ecological challenges we face when adapting to climate change. While these challenges present difficulties, they also offer opportunities and resources for journalists to report on.
At the end of the workshop, the coordinators expressed gratitude to all media houses for attending. Those in attendance received travel stipends, food, and refreshments and were invited to participate in the annual award night, which began at 5:30PM.
This year’s Belize Prize For Investigative Journalism Award saw 19 submissions and three finalists. The winner of the Investigative Journalism award took home $10,000. For the second time, Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez, along with his team of Codie Norales, Brian Castillo, Rydell Baird, and Denver Fairweather won the coveted prize for his submission “Guns and Graft: Exposing the Licensing Racket”. The other two winning submissions winning $5,000 were “Belize’s Environmental Impact Assessments: End in Sight?” by Andre Habet and Marco Lopez for Plus TV and Earth Journalism Network and “Narco Links Suspected as Cattle Ranching Threatens Belize Rainforests” by Hipolito Novelo, Freeman Rogers, Kenroy Michael and Shayanne Dena for News 5 and the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network.
Close to the end of the award ceremony, Edgell, the event’s sponsor, signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Belize. This agreement will see the University hosting the Belize Prize for “Investigative Journalism” in the future. “I am extremely excited about this as the first (long overdue) step toward providing professional development and academic opportunities for journalists and aspiring journalists in Belize. As you may know, there is no journalism degree program in Belize. Our press corps is largely a learn-by-doing crew. This method has benefits, but ideally, it is accompanied by the rigor of studying a craft and setting a high bar for professional practices. This partnership is a start,” said Egel.
According to Edgel, “the real value of the prize, however, is the quality of the investigation that goes into the diverse stories submitted.”
The event coordinators and organizers would like to thank all media houses that attended and congratulate them on their dedicated hard work.

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