These reporters are trained to understand conflict partners from the inside and to recognise in all parties their joint creativity in finding ways to transcend the incompatibilities. Internews provides interpretation at all stages of cross-production to maximise both formal and informal exchanges. Cross-production participants also hold meetings with fellow journalists and community representatives across the east of Sri Lanka. These background briefings and discussions are designed to give a detailed picture of communities affected by military conflict and ethnic strife.
To facilitate this process, Internews established media houses in Matara and Ampara to provide a creative place for journalists of different ethnicities to come together for training, production, and resource support. Reporters are trained to understand conflict partners from the inside, and recognise in all parties their joint creativity in finding ways to transcend the incompatibilities and to address common challenges. The Matara media house also holds regular professional development seminars for journalists on issues such as globalisation and the media, and freedom of information. After the training, journalists receive hands-on guidance to help them cover issues important in their community. This support is designed to help ensure that the voices and concerns of local communities are included in the media – not just perspectives from the capital, Colombo, where most media are concentrated. According to Internews Country Director Matt Abud, "Local communities throughout Sri Lanka lack media that provide information and news about their own neighborhoods, making it harder for them to explore and understand local issues. Because of this, local perspectives on peace, development, democracy, and other issues are also rarely heard at the national level."
Both media houses support the production of Real Voices, a weekly radio programme covering community issues that airs on local radio stations in the East and South. Real Voices is now distributed in 9 outlets, including Sinhala-language radio stations, Tamil-language radio stations, podcasts, and a satellite network that broadcasts directly to 16 villages, with plans to expand to 1,000. Recent stories covered on Real Voices include: an update on reconstruction after the 2004 tsunami, including disputes over distribution of resources; domestic violence and mental health challenges faced by women in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps; the challenges of sharing water resources for both drinking and irrigation between different communities in Ampara; and the impact of the decline in tourism due to the worsening security situation in Sri Lanka.
Internews also runs a small grants programme called Radio Plus, which offers financial and technical support to organisations or individuals who lack the means to get their stories to the public. Some grantees tackle issues such as small arms proliferation, discrimination faced by disabled youth in rural areas, corruption in local communities, and the conditions of Free Trade Zone workers. Others are exploring the use of new media, including an SMS (text messaging) news service, and internet radio programmes.