Friday, December 24, 2010

Senior Journalist Preaches Journalism to Aspiring Writers Club

Presentation By Mamadou Edrisa Njie Second Vice President Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG), Senior Staff Writer  of  The Gambia News and Report Magazine Weekly at a day-long Training on Journalism for St Joseph Senior Secondary School in Banjul  18 December 2010.
The importance of information cannot be over emphasized. The capabilities of a well informed people cannot be compared to those who have been kept in ignorance. All of us need information to make important decision whether we are educationists, economists, business persons, or ordinary people. To talk when information is lacking is like talking for the sake of saying nothing. Information is indeed power.
Introduction to Journalism
Journalism is the production of news reports and editorials or putting together publication by different persons through media such as newspapers, magazines, ( Be it weekly, monthly, or quartly), radio, television, and the internet (online newspapers, and blogs).
In fact Journalism remains a noble profession like any other profession you can thing of e.g. Medicine, Law etc- rendering public service, and therefore, to be a journalist , one must be committed, be faithful to the facts, have integrity.
The primary role of journalism is often said to be the informing, educating, and entertaining of a general audience of either a newspapers, magazine, radio, television channel, or online news medium that is the internet.  Journalism as you already know serves the community as the ears and eyes of the public and helps in shaping and influencing opinions positively.  
Journalists work in many areas of life, finding and presenting information. However, for the purpose of this training, we define journalists principally as men and women who present that information as news to the audience.
Now what do journalists do?
Within these different media that is newspaper, magazine, radio, television and the internet, there are specialist tasks for journalists.  In media houses, each journalist may have to do many different tasks.
Here are some of the jobs journalists do;
Reporters gather information and present it in a written or spoken form in news stories, feature articles etc.  In media organizations, we also have staff reporters and freelance. Staff reporters are reporters on full time employed by the media house, and the work of freelance is writing stories for whoever pays them. General reporters cover all sorts of news stories, but some journalists specialize in certain areas such as reporting sports, politics or agriculture.
Sub- editors take the stories written by reporters and put them into a form which suits the special needs of their particular newspaper, magazine, bulletin or web page. Sub-editors concentrate on how the story can best be presented to their audience.
The news editor is the person in charge of the news journalists.  He /She make all the decisions about what stories reporters can cover.
The editor is usually the person who makes the final decision about what is included in the newspapers, magazine, news bulletins. He/She is responsible for all the content and all the journalists. Editors may have deputies and assistants to help them.
Photojournalists  cover events with a reporter, tasking photographs to illustrate the written story, again, photographs to tell the news.
Feature writers works for newspapers and magazines, writing longer stories which usually give background to the news.
Some Journalists also interpret the news or offer opinions and analysis to readers, viewers, or listeners. In this role, they are called commentators or columnists.
Fields in journalism are many namely:  Some are Sport, Political, Business, Environment, Investigative, Fashion, etc.
Why Be a Journalist?
People enter journalism for a variety of reasons but, money apart, here are some main motives
The desire to write; Journalists are the major group of people in most developing countries who make their living from writing.
The desire to be known; Most people want their work to be recognized by other. This helps to give it value. Some people also want to be recognized themselves, so that they have status in the eyes of society. It is not a bad motive to wish to be famous, but this must never become your main reason for being a journalist. You will not be a good journalist if you care more for impressing your audience than for serving their needs.
The desire to influence; There is a strong belief that journalists control the mass media but the best journalists recognize their role as servants of the people. They are the channels through which information flows and they are the interpreters of events. This recognition, paired with the desire to influence, can produce good campaigning journalists who see themselves as watchdogs for the ordinary man or woman.  There is a difference between the desire to influence events for your own sake, and the desire to do it for other people. You should never use journalism for self ends, but you can use it to improve the life of other people-remembering that they may not always agree with you on what those improvements should be.
The desire for knowledge; Lots of young men and women enter the profession with the desire to know more about the world, their country, community etc. Journalist with the desire for knowledge should read widely, read all kind of books, novels, newspapers, magazines you name them. Knowledge has many uses. It can simply help to make you a fuller and more interesting person. It can also give power over people, especially people who do not possess that particular knowledge.  
Most young men and women accepted into the profession possess at least one of the above desires from the start. But desire alone will not make a successful journalist. You need to cultivate certain special qualities and skills, that is have an interest in the world around you, love language, have an alert and ordered mind, be able to approach and question people, be polite but persistent and be friendly and reliable.
The interview – functions and techniques
The journalistic interview is a conversation between a journalist and a source- from small talk, via research interview to confrontation interview. People love to talk– especially about themselves or when they think , they set the agenda. But we (journalists) interview for the sake of the audience not to be polite to interviewee. No matter what the media ( newspaper, radio or television) , and no matter who the interviewee, the key principle is that you must always in control of the interview situation. You get the answer, you ask. The interview could be an article on a certain case, on a point of view, on an event-anything.
Pre-Interview Preparation
Learn all about the subject or topic of interview and the interviewee. Dress neatly, put on tie.  Prepare your basic questions. Do not write clown a lot of questions. Make sure your tape recorder has batteries which are new or quite good or when using your mobile, make sure that your battery is fully charge, if it is possible use a new sim card.  Test the recorder before you leave the newsroom.
Shortly before the interview, sit and make sure you test the tape recorder once more to see if it is still working. Secondly go with your notepad, and take notes from time especially for certain important information. The recorder may fail in the middle of the interview and your notepad now serves as your back up.
The Interview
Always make sure the first thing to do is to introduce yourself, and the area the interview will cover. Secondly welcome and thank the interviewee for accepting your request. Make him or her feel relaxed and comfortable. A cordial environment leads to making the interviewee very generous in his answers and even divulging unexpected and critical information. Make sure you ask direct and searching questions. Avoid asking polar questions which just end in yes or no. This may however be necessary if you intend to get certain very specific facts.
You need to ask short questions and one question at a time. Too long sentences carry many answers and the interviewee can choose to answer only one. This type or questioning can also get the interviewee confused and repetitive leading to a bored and monotonous interview.
When you use a minute recorder or a microphone, make sure it is always in your hands. Do not give the mike to the interviewee when he answer  questions. Some interviewee  do refuse to hand over the mike back to the journalist until they say what they wanted to say and this may take ages. Your mike is yours. As s journalist you should always be able to know how to detect new information, tips and clauses and explore more. Each answer should open up a question.
 When the interviewee answers questions do not show any form of approval or disapproval whether in body language or verbally. Do not nod your head, or hum, etc. you are not to acknowledge what he says. Do not attempt to complete the interviewee’s question for  him/ her. Let he or she say what he or she wants to say no matter how difficult or time consuming it will take the person. Always make the subject feel he is very important and what he is saying is equally important. You do this by fully concentrating on him such as by making eye contact. By doing, that you maintain the interest and enthusiasm of the interviewee, thereby making him very generous with information. Be a good listener. When you listen good that is the time you will be able to detect clues and tips in his answers which gives the advantage to explore more.
Post- Interview
At the end of the interview, show appreciation and gratitude. If possible let him know how you intend to use the interview. Do not specially tell him when the interview will be published because that decision lies with the editor.  After the interview be very attentive because sometimes very critical things can come out during the conversation, which he did not mention during the interview. However you should be aware that this is not part of the interview (off the records) and so you cannot automatically use that information. In case you wish to do so seek his consent. If not then keep that as vital information that may be pursued later.
Ethic  during the interview, be polite, seek tile interviewee’s consent to record him or her, accept the interviewee’s decision not to record or quote him or her an show appreciation for the interview.
Types of interviews; Vox Pop, Personality and Current
Vox Pop; This is an interview which is carried out by asking a lot of people about  any issue, mostly a current affairs. It is normally done around public places, streets, Markets, stadiums etc. the interview is random, again seek the person’s consent and let him know the purpose of the interview.
 Personality; This interview method is used to feature a very important personality such as celebrities. The interview aims to expose the life and work of the celebrity, or about current issues about them such as new appointments, plans or vision etc.
Current Affairs; The aim of this interview is to bring out the news. Anyone can be subject of this interview. The focus actually is the news value of it. It could be about a teacher and strike in his school, National Assembly Member and his constituency or about the president and the coountry’s position on a particular world issue.

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