Knocking Down the Language Barrier

(Stijn Aelbers, Humanitarian Advisor at Internews, spoke at ONA London 2016 about how to work with populations where multiple languages are spoken.)

Whether we’re talking about the migrant routes in Europe, countries where multiple languages are spoken or conversations around terrorism and extremism, hot-button topics in the news involve a broad range of people who often aren’t invited in to the conversation. How do newsroom reach these audiences? How can journalists encourage them to participate?

A video archive of this session is available here. The video is free for ONA members. Not a member? Click here to join.


Aelbers talks about how he approaches reporting, starting with the idea that “we don’t know the story.” To tell any story, Aelbers advocates for talking to people in their own languages, in their own environment.

“If I’m really honest, it’s actually still newsrooms, media houses, having the story and handpicking a picture that supports their narrative. For me, that’s not audience engagement.”