What a week! It’s a known fact that, over the past decades, the Brits have set the bar high when it comes to journalism quality standards. Indeed, some of the media outlets I most appreciate, as a science journalist, are from the UK: New Scientist, SciDev.Net, Nature, The Guardian, BBC… It was a true honour to have the opportunity to learn techniques of writing and reporting news at Reuters – surely one of the world’s most respected news agencies.
I’ve always felt comfortable in the realm of magazine-like feature science reporting – since that’s pretty much all I have been doing over the past years in my country. However, learning to report what we call “breaking news” was an experience that made me step out of my safety zone.
Last week’s workshop was a rather pleasant, friendly environment for learning, discussing – and, to some extent, practicing – the principles of the world-class journalism which is daily delivered by Reuters.
What secrets should we keep in mind while preparing for an interview? How to develop solid sourcing techniques? What are the legal dangers we are exposed to when working as a reporter? How to properly structure a paragraph and what to avoid when writing a headline? These were some of the practical advices we were taught during the course, with absolutely no space for boring stuff – as the energy and enthusiasm of the instructors were unparalleled!
The masters and the apprentices
Fuelled by loads of hot chocolate, coffee and tea, we had a rare chance to interact with some Reuters’ veterans – whose experience would teach us what no journalism textbook could ever do.
Over that windy week, we were introduced to Reuters’ photojournalism at its best – which made some of us rethink about the relevance and impact photography can potentially exert as a form of communication. If wisely used, images can be outstanding tools of conveying information in a more effective way. The Wider Image initiative is a remarkable example of that.
Multimedia reporting was another highlight of the week. In an era dominated by the omnipresence of digital technologies, what can a reporter do to tell a story in a more creative and compelling manner? The workshop’s attendees had their answers – inspired by the words of a true expert in the field, who, a couple of years back, was responsible for the implementation of multimedia storytelling strategies at Magnum (and what an amazing job that was). She reminded us that, regardless of good equipment or adequate material conditions, multimedia reporting has a lot to do with an old Robert Capa’s adagio: getting closer is the only way to tell a good story.
As one of Reuters’s mains strengths, financial journalism was also part of the week’s agenda. The mysteries of financial reporting were competently unveiled by a veteran, and it was quite surprising to realise that such genre, with which I have no familiarity at all, has a lot to do with science journalism, which is my own field of work. In the end, it’s all about translating a hermetic jargon into a plain, readable language. Just like a science writer, a financial journalist is expected to uncomplicate a bunch of weird terms — which were invented to scary us and are normally used by people merely to justify their big salaries. It reminds me of Albert Einstein. He once wrote that “most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone”.
Of course a reporting workshop wouldn’t be complete without a session on feature writing. And Reuters does have valuable inputs when it comes to in-depth investigation. Nowadays, it is very difficult for any news agency or for any other newspaper or magazine to come up with exclusive news. That’s because the internet has caused a major change in the global flow of information, and also because correspondents of major organisations are everywhere. As a result, pieces of general reporting tend to be too standardised and too similar to each other – regardless of where it is coming from. In such scenario, what can really differentiate a news organisation? The answer: as well as presenting impeccable coverage of breaking news, it has to master in-depth feature reporting.
The world in a classroom
Reuter’s Writing and reporting news workshop was also a remarkable cultural experience. How amazing it was to be in a classroom with 12 journalists from 11 different nationalities. As a young science reporter from a developing country, that was a particularly exciting opportunity.
I’m happy to have met top professionals from whom I learnt so much; and I’m honoured to have met incredible people who, in a beautiful city such as London, kindly shared their time with me.