Experiences of a First Time Journalist

Welcome from Zambia! I can honestly say that, so far, this has been the experience of a lifetime. I have learnt so much about UNICEF and Barclays and the great work they are doing out here and have met some really fantastic, interesting and colourful people.

It took a bit of deliberation over a plate of pasta to decide what my first blog post should be about, but this topic seemed particularly fitting as I knew very little about journalism before entering this competition.   

Firstly, I have learnt to be thankful for dictaphones! It is so difficult to listen to somebody talk and write their answers at the same time, so I really applaud anyone who can manage this effortlessly!

I have also discovered that the best bit about interviewing a person is the moment you witness them ‘transform’ during the session. I have witnessed this with quite a few of the interviewees. The start can be rather quiet, and even a little awkward, as I struggle to think of appropriate starting questions and they struggle to think of interesting answers. But, then, there is a ‘lightbulb moment’ when they begin to really open up, the answers start flowing and I can almost see an article about this person forming in my head.

I have noticed that the interviewees tend to relax the most when they are in a familiar and comfortable setting, particularly their homes. This is great for me, as I am able to gain a real insight into what their lives are like as they walk around their rooms and show me their everyday (and prized) possessions.

I find the most difficult thing about being a journalist asking the interviewee personal and emotional questions. It’s challenging to know when it’s appropriate to push the person for an answer and when it’s better to leave them be. Of course, it’s usually the personal details that make for the most interesting stories, but there is a very fine line between what you can and cannot ask somebody.
I’m sure there are many cut-throat journalists out there who will get the information they need at any cost, but I don’t think I am one of them! I’ve started to think about how I would feel being asked that particular question and using that as my guide. Luckily I’ve had a lot of support from Kate, my UNICEF mentor, and I’m sure that knowing the balance is something that will become easier with time. 

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One more sleep.

Sometimes life is about the ability to believe in where you’re going even when you’re not sure what lies ahead – Anon.

And so, tomorrow, I leave for Zambia.

I can already predict that today will pass in a blur of manic packing (I know – I always leave it to the last minute), malaria tablets, printing vital documents, probably misplacing my passport somewhere and then generally stressing out … but all with a very excited flutter in my tummy.

Maybe once I actually land on Zambian soil and conduct my first interview it will hit me that I actually am a finalist in this competition, but maybe not. I still find it hard to believe. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I explain all in the about me section of this blog.

I am so excited to learn more about Building Young Futures, the programme developed in partnership between Barclays and UNICEF, which will be the main focus of my article, offering hope of improved employment prospects to some of the world’s most disadvantaged youths (aged 15-25).

This website explains more about the programme, and also features a lovely video – featuring some of the people that I will most likely be interviewing next week!

I hope to update this blog in the coming days with case studies, pictures and stories of the people I meet, so watch this space!

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August 16, 2013 · 9:23 am

What it’s all about, really.

I can’t believe I’d never heard this speech before until tonight. As soon as I did I knew it had to go on the blog.

It’s beautiful, and so important. Listen.

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August 14, 2013 · 9:12 pm

“So, what do you study then?”

The question that every international development student dreads. Or, at least, I do. I can be almost certain that I will receive one of 4 reactions, and 3 of them are rather unpleasant:

  1. The stare(r). This is the main reaction. A long, hard stare. An awkward silence. The person has no idea what I’m talking about. Then I have to explain myself, which usually goes a little something like this: “Its, erm, about poverty. It’s kinda like international relations but focused mainly on poverty. You know, like hunger and health and stuff. And other things like climate change. It’s helping other countries to develop. It’s like a mixture of history and geography and politics …” and I usually ramble on so much that they’re even more confused.
  2. The interrogator. This is my least favourite reaction, and luckily one that doesn’t occur too often. It is usually someone who is very cynical and doesn’t see the point of studying development. I’ve actually been asked why I would bother and if I’m doing it for my own ‘altruistic satisfaction’ or so I can ‘feel good about myself’. I then usually get asked what I plan to do with my degree and am expected to have an exact plan. Honestly! Nobody knows what life has in store for them! I don’t interrogate you about your career choices, so please don’t interrogate me about mine.
  3. The tabloid reader/problem solver. This is someone who, apparently, knows my degree better than I do. They have a very simple solution to all of the world’s problems and usually find it reading tabloid newspapers. It’s normally something like: ‘Ah yes, I know. We have poverty because when we send all that foreign aid abroad, they swindle all the money away! Too much corruption! That’s the problem!”
  4. The acknowledger. Finally, my favourite type of reaction. Someone who smiles and says “oh, that’s interesting” and may (but not always) have a little knowledge about the subject or know someone who is involved in some way. Someone who is easy to talk to and understanding of my choices. That’s always the nicest conversation to have.

And so, first blog entry complete! I’d be really interested to see if anyone has any other reactions that they come across when telling people they study/work in development. Please feel free to comment!

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