Friday, June 10, 2016

Mentoring Future Journalists

IVLP Alumni L-R Lydia Samson and Evelyn Onyilo
One of the founding fathers of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, stated, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” This quote underscores the role of the press in the development of a healthy democratic process. To encourage young people to aspire for a successful career in journalism, the Abuja chapter of International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Alumni Association organized a mentoring program for young Nigerians at the U.S. Embassy. Media personalities, who benefited from the IVLP, including distinguished journalists Evelyn Onyilo and Lydia Samson, led the conversation.

Evelyn Onyilo, a seasoned journalist and former chair of the National Association of Women Journalists, kickstarted an enlightening session, declaring that “it is not about the glamor of appearing on television or being heard on radio, but…huge responsibilities for investigating, collating and presenting information in a clear and unbiased manner.” Recognizing that perceptions may not match reality in the media business, Onyilo encouraged young people to seek a career in journalism.
Onyilo described curiosity as a quality that a good journalist should possess. She explained the basics of what news is, the criteria used to select news stories, where news comes from, and gave tips on reporting. She also listed trust, accuracy, balance, impartiality, fairness, and independence as the values of journalism. She explained that these values give media credibility and earn it respect from its audience.

Lydia Samson, a mentee of Onyilo while at the Nigerian Television Authority, corroborated these views. She added that in broadcast journalism the news anchor’s role is critical because that is the face of the television station. She explained that no matter how much is put into preparing the news, a poorly skilled anchor would make it ineffective.

Star NTA broadcaster Cyril Stober
Well-known broadcaster Cyril Stober acknowledged the glamor of television, but emphasized the degree of gravity it carries. He noted that television is a job that can result in conflict because public officials sometimes seek to hide things that the media wants to expose. It requires good judgment too because of the impact that news reports can have on society. Stober also recognized media freedom requires responsibility. The broadcaster shared the idea of credibility in journalism with his audience emphasizing that a news source must have credibility.

As a result of the panelists’ sentiments, a student attending the event expressed the desire to become an investigative reporter. She explained that because journalists can expose the wrongs in society and force them to be corrected she saw it as a great career choice.

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