Arwen Kidd has never been one to take the easy path. While a student at King’s, she spent a summer in Romania, researching her honours thesis on post-Communist media. A three-month journalism internship chasing stories in Accra, Ghana, gave her a taste of being a working journalist in a foreign country and she definitely wanted more.
Majoring in Journalism and International Development, Arwen had no idea that the two subject areas could align to create a career that would take her all over the world. She has spent the last 12 years skill-building and gaining experience across international media, journalism and communications.
“It’s really nice to see how basically something I didn’t even know existed that combined so well when I was at King’s now exists and I’m able to be part of it,” Arwen smiles.
Arwen is no stranger to travelling and changing roles with each contract. As an international journalist, “we have to be more and more creative to find those niches and that work that we are passionate about,” she says. “I would definitely encourage students to explore and build their skills in different areas and not panic too much if they don’t fit into the niche right away.”
Having worked in journalism and communications roles with NGOs simultaneously throughout her career, Arwen’s skillset and wealth of experience makes her adaptable and ensures that she maintains a constant cycle of learning and sharing knowledge. “It’s fun for me to go back and forth because it keeps me up to date with all of the newest equipment and techniques, and it keeps me being creative.”
From documenting the Ebola outbreak to working for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, in Greece as a Communicating with Communities (CWC) specialist, to working as a writer and photographer of human-interest stories for UNICEF in Sierra Leone, Arwen has had her fair share of field experience. She then applies this first-hand knowledge from the field when she goes back to working with journalists.
Arwen is part of a pandemic media mentors’ bench, a group of experts assembled by Internews and globally available to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of media and information. “It’s nice to be able to use skills from past humanitarian responses and my own experiences in a way that I feel at least somewhat useful and productive during this time.”
She is also Project Director for Internews’ Sierra Leone activities, working to increase local journalism capacity to report effectively and accurately on elections and governance issues. Arwen first worked with Internews in 2015 as a humanitarian journalism trainer to respond to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and has continued to work contractually with the organization since. “Through all our projects, supporting the provision of timely, accurate information to communities – so that people can make informed decisions – is basically the main goal,” Arwen explains.
Despite calling Sierra Leone home, Arwen has been in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. After returning on leave to see family, Arwen found herself grounded, as Sierra Leone, and many other countries, closed their borders.
Nonetheless, the work to support journalists remotely has been largely successful, as Arwen’s team continues to provide journalists with training and equipment for producing quality, governance-related reporting – with a current focus on data-driven storytelling and mobile journalism. “We have been implementing those activities remotely – it’s been a real shift but it’s actually working much better than I could have predicted,” Arwen says, for example, in diverting the cost of in-person events towards fellowships and direct support for journalists, including one-on-one remote mentoring.
Arwen explains, “I was able to work with some of our teams around the world to develop different methodologies and ensure that we could hit the ground running and respond as best we could with as many tools and skills that we could, to ensure that journalists were able to continue to identify the information needs of their communities and respond to them, through the ongoing pandemic.”
For now, Arwen hopes to return to West Africa soon, to continue supporting Internews’ projects in Sierra Leone and Liberia. “There’s more and more need for good quality information, response to misinformation, disinformation and rumours and especially as online communications continue to grow, there’s more need for development and strengthening in terms of media and journalism,” Arwen says. “I’m really grateful that I am able to continue working and doing all of these different things that I love.”
Updated: December 2020