Thanks goes out to Tony Roberts from Computer Aid for asking me in to impart whatever tidbits I might have gleaned over the last ten years on dealing with journalists.
Computer Aid had seven of their Africa team over from Nairobi for a week of training – and they asked me into play the good cop with some media training and bad cop with some tough mock interviews.
We went over issues such as how to talk to journalists (answer – very slowly), different types of media, tricks and tactics that journalists use and how to defend against them, as well as how to put together an effective press release, and quite a lot on interview technique including how to talk in quotes.
As is usual with this type of thing, I am sure that I learnt a lot more from them than they did from me, especially when it comes to how some African journalists operate. I could only really give them my take on journalist/spokesperson relations in the UK. But I wasn’t really prepared for some of the horror stories they had to impart about how things operate in Africa including one story of a journalist asking for an contributed article which he not only printed verbatim – but put his own name on.
The other issue the spokespeople run into is journalists asking for money for stories. That isn’t magazines asking for money to print stories – although that does happen too – but rather individual journalists basically asking for cash bribes to cover a story. It sounds shocking to hear, but then given that journalist salaries are next to nothing in many parts of Africa, it’s not actually that surprising.
It was a pretty intensive session but it must have gone alright as I am going back to Computer Aid later this month to do something similar with the executive team including chief executive Louise Richards.
Thanks goes out to:
Gladys Muhunyo – African programme manager and the lady who makes it all happen
Dr. Hillar Addo – Southern Africa programme officer
Benjamin Makai – East African programme officer
Anne Musyoki – West African campaigns officer
Tito Mbua – Tito Wambua Francophone Africa