Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Broadcast TV reporting in Africa quirkier than in U.S.

By Taylor Pool

Covering a story in Africa is largely the same as broadcast reporting in the United States, except, of course, that it’s in Africa making the experience a bizarre one every time.

During my first day with reporters, we managed to land ourselves in a near-death situation while covering the first of our two assignments on my first day as an intern. I say “our” because in Niamey, a reporter never does the job alone. The term “multi-media journalist” translates into the language of Niger, but normally, the journalists work as a team. In fact, there are generally five of us crammed inside a tiny car covering multiple stories each day: two reporters, the camera man, the chauffeur and me, the intern.
Before I explain my near-death experience, it is important to understand that roads in Niger are not like roads in the U.S. In Niamey, lanes are non-existent and traffic rules are merely suggestions. Getting through intersections is game of survival of the fittest and if you are not careful, you might run into a donkey or camel who uses the road as if it, too, were a car. 
Of course, the team happened to choose one of the busiest round-a-bouts in the city to conduct “man on the street” interviews. Naturally, the chauffeur decided to park the car on the opposite side of the round-a-bout that we were standing on. What did we do to get back? We walked and then ran when traffic didn’t wait for us back to our car, where I was welcomed by the second reporter. He told me, laughing, upon my arrival that he hoped I liked sports. 
Our second story assignment for the day involved finding a Malian citizen living in Niamey. We would try to find out his or her perspective of the conflict in Niger’s neighboring country. After exhausting all of our attempts to find a source, which included visiting the Mali embassy in Niger, paying a home visit to a woman who knew someone who knew a Malian and stopping at several merchant stands on the road, we found ourselves in the office of the chief press secretary for the city. He found out I was American and promptly handed me a sandwich.
My initial shock drastically diminished my ability to understand French in that moment, so I was incredibly unsure of what to do with the sandwich at first. I finally decided that I would rather risk food poisoning than risk being rude to a national authority figure, so I ate the sandwich, while four Nigeriens watched me with wide, anticipating eyes waiting to find out whether I would like the spicy Nigerien specialty. To my luck, it was a good sandwich. Finally, after a few more futile stops to find a Malian, we put the story on hold and made it back to the TV station. 
I learned my first day that it is legal in Niger to shoot video and ask for interviews in public locations, just like it usually is in the U.S. I discovered in the editing room that in Africa, reporters make VOSOTs and packages complete with anchor intros and tags just like it is done in Western countries. I also learned that my first day that Africans have just as much difficulty as Americans at finding sources to interview. What differs, I learned, is that in Niamey, the reporters are still writing story scripts by hand, there is no such thing as “live” newscasts and weather segments do not exist six months out of the year because, well, in the dry season it is always hot, dry and dusty.
Since my first African reporting adventure, I have run across the unpredictable Niamey roads on more than one other occassion in order to snag the all-important “man on the street” interviews. I have sat in on a practice session of an African dance and drumming team as they prepared for their performance during the national wrestling championship and I have consumed more free food given to me before interviews, which I had to accept against my Western better judgment that told me to avoid accepting gifts from sources. Most importantly, though, I’ve had the chance to see that journalism is journalism, no matter where it’s happening, even if the method of getting the job done in Niger is a bit quirkier than what I'm used to.

Monday, February 25, 2013

SUSI 2012 Update

Morgan Sigrist
IIJ Assistant

Aysha Abughazzi, Jordan University of Science & Technology, Jordan
Doctor Abughazzi returned to her position as assistant professor at Jordan University of Science & Technology in Jordan, where she enjoys using the skills she acquired at SUSI with her work. Dr. Abughazzi has enhanced her curriculum by incorporating social media and field trips as a way to “involve students more closely with the material they learn and have them interact with the various outlets of the media.”

Karlyga Myssayeva, Al- Farabi Kazakh National University, Kazakhstan 
Professor Myssayeva returned to her position as Deputy Dean for Research-Innovation and International Affairs, Department of Journalism at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Kazakhstan. Professor Myssayeva has enhanced her teaching and research by promoting interaction between herself and her students.

The SUSI program has helped Professor Myssayeva to “realize (her) potential,” through the training, cultural interactions and support of SUSI professors. Not only has the information gained from the other members expanded her cultural experience, but it has also allowed her to share these experiences with her students.

Social media has played a major role in helping to connect with other professionals in her field to share with the students and colleagues. This has helped to increase the critical thinking and interactions with people from around the world.

Alexander Kazakov, Saratov State University, Russia
            Doctor Alexander Kazakov returned to his position as Associate Professor in Political Science Department at Saratov State University. Since leaving SUSI, Dr. Kazakov has brought more interactive material into his teaching and seminars. He has been working on projects such as Dr. Yusuf Kalyango’s Handbook of Global Journalism and New Media Education, and co writing with Bill Benoit.

Bogdana Nosova, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine
Professor Bogdana Nosova returned to her position as Assistant Professor of the Chair of Social Communications in Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Her second position remains as Anchorwoman and Special Correspondent for State Broadcasting Company “Ukrainian Television and Radio World Service."
            The opportunities at Ohio University helped Professor Nosova to strengthen her knowledge of journalism and how media works in the US. The online content offered through the SUSI program has also helped Professor Nosovo to further her research.

 Hugo Zarate Saucedo, University of the Bahamas, Bahamas
            Professor Hugo Saucedo has begun a new project to develop a journalism institute in the Bahamas and Caribbean. Professor Saucedo is also working in conjunction with other SUSI scholars to conduct training in their countries. He is also currently working on community journalism.

Rachael van der Kooye, Freelance Journalist, Suriname
            Professor Rachael van der Kooye has made some changes including doing online lecturing, writing a chapter for Dr. Kalyango’s book, media policy research and giving lectures. Professor Van der Kooye has also shared her SUSI experiences via the radio, television and newspaper since returning to Suriname.
            Professor Van der Kooye has used her experiences at SUSI to analyze her surveys, and materials obtained at Ohio University to enhance her teaching techniques. Professor van der Kooye enjoys sharing her SUSI experiences with everyone she works with.

Taimoor Shah, New York Times reporter Kandahar, Afghanistan
           Taimoor Shah is a reporter for New York Times in southern Afghanistan, where he works on he investigative reporting skills. Shah covers news from the front lines of the war and works as an interpreter for the New York Times. He is currently at the center of Taliban activity.

            Shah has also been able to bring the tools he learned at SUSI back to his colleagues. He has been teaching his colleagues the reporting techniques he learned here at Ohio University, where he has seen much improvement in their work. Shah has also worked to create a journalism faculty at Kandahar University. The books and information he obtained from Ohio University will used as material for the students and faculty.

Murad Abdullah, Sana’a University, Yemen

            Doctor Murad Abdullah has been appointed to position head of the youth activities in the college, which deals with the academic and nonacademic activities of the students.

           Dr. Abdullah has been nominated to represent independent youth in a political debate to discuss the political status of Yemen, but is awaiting word for the final decision of if he is chosen.  If Dr. Abdullah is chosen, he will be one of 550 people to represent different political and civil movements, along with the youth and organizations. This would be a great advancement in Dr. Abdullah’s career.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Life in Niger 'normal' despite West African conflict

By Taylor Pool

“Today is a different normal,” expatriate Jonathan* said in light of the conflict in Mali that has altered the lives of many people living in several West African countries.

According to news reports, Niger has pledged to send troops to help with France’s efforts to fight corruption in neighboring Mali. Plus, many Refugees from Mali have fled to Niger to avoid unrest at home. Soon, Niger may also be home to several United States surveillance drones.

Petit Marché, Niamey, Niger
In the face of those changes, daily life in Niger is safe, perhaps safer than it has ever been. It’s just different.

Security efforts in Niger have increased for the safety of both Nigeriens and those who reside in the country, but have citizenship elsewhere.

It is true that expatriates living in Niamey, Niger are finding they can no longer leave the capital, even if they have been commuting to other cities in the country each week for years. Plus, some French schools have temporarily closed and many French expatriates are returning home.

Military trucks do patrol the streets to keep people safe and some schools are guarded by police officers for the same reason, but life on the ground is still the same as it has always been. You can still buy fruits, vegetables, brochettes, brooms, buckets and African mats on the streets and at the market. Taxis still run, the air is still hot and people still spend plenty of time each day greeting each other. People living in the villages in the countryside may never even see the effects of the conflict, especially if they don’t have access to the Internet.

If you asked me if I feel safe living in Niger, even despite the new reality of life here, the answer would be an absolute yes. I have never felt afraid of the police officers or military personnel because I know they are in the city for my safety. I have never doubted that I would return home or felt like my well-being was in question. Honestly, I have more to fear riding in the crazy Niamey traffic than I do living in a French-speaking country that has made it in the English-speaking news because of an international conflict.

The real reality is that conflict and danger is everywhere. It’s unavoidable, even in the small town of Athens, Ohio, home to Ohio University. While security measures increased in Niamey, Athens residents and students were in a panic 5,000 miles away because an armed robbery suspect was spotted in the small college town. In any part of the world, one’s safety is not a guarantee, nor should it ever be taken for granted, but to live life in fear is to not live at all.

*last name not provided to guard source’s anonymity