Recently some questions were submitted to us by budding journalists in training; questions on how the media really works and what it takes to succeed in this business.
We've decided to post some of the questions and answers because they were pretty interesting and perhaps are what some seasoned journalists would like answered as well.
Feel free to write in with comments, suggestions, and anecdotes about the TT media which can benefit budding journalists.
Comment/question from AH:
"I do not think that media workers should purchase tickets to cover fetes. The onus should be on fete promoters to facilitate the media's request if they want their event publicized. In the event that tickets are not sent, do you believe that their 'demanding' behaviour was justified? If not, how should editors/management deal with these reporters?"
MW: If fete promoters or anyone else wants an event publicized they rightly should send invitations and the necessary tickets, but since when does it take a crew of 12 (scantily dressed) people to cover a fete when the story on that fete will not last more than 2 minutes?
Assignments editors are the ones to make arrangements for these events and not reporters, so they can often be unreasonable in their requests, depending on the hype surrounding the event. Do you believe that same assignments editor would 'demand' 12 tickets to a luncheon for a home for the aged?
These fete tickets are not cheap, so any fete-loving editor would promise to cover the event once several tickets are sent so the three cameramen, the broadcast assistant, the six reporters and the cleaner can get in for free. Oh, add their grandmother (who is freelancing as an editor) to the list for tickets.
DB: "Do you think there should be more transparency regarding how errant reporters are penalized?"
MW: Yes there should be more transparency, but unfortunately it seems that the local media is an employees market, so if these errant reporters feel they have been slighted by their bosses, they can easily move on to the next media house where they feel their worth (or ego-tripping) is more appreciated. Media managers are often held to ransom by these over-inflated egos, so the easiest thing to do is nothing at all.
JG: "I love writing, but I don't like being poor. Have I chosen the wrong field?"
MW: Yes and no. Yes you've chosen the wrong field if your writing/reporting does not distinguish you from every other writer/reporter out there, so you'll have to be contented with making minimum wage and running after mundane stories.
On the other hand, you are in the right field if you can write with flair, passion, understanding, and come up with brilliant story ideas that no one else is looking at and get people to read and talk about your writing. Your editor will eventually notice and will eventually pay you top dollar because he'll get the heads up that some smart editor out there is also noticing your brilliant writing. If not, you can always quit and go become a lawyer.
AD: "How do editors and administrators typically respond to significant on-air flubs?"
MW: Significant meaning telling the nation that the PM was shot when he wasn't? Most times a grudging apology is offered almost immediately, while other times the policy is do or say nothing and maybe everyone will forget it even happened.
RG: "How credible is the media in Trinidad and Tobago given the proliferation of journalism errors in reporting?"
MW: The media is generally credible, though some media houses more than others.
Their strengths lie in the genuine qualifications and training of those who run the newsrooms. In days gone by, most local journalists had to learn their trade on the job, with no formal training and they became good at what they did by trial and error, rising through the ranks of their organizations.
But today, there are so many institutions offering training that there is no excuse for any journalist (young or old) not to be the best that they can be (mind you, there are many "training" agencies that are not qualified to teach journalism).
JR: "How do we find our true identity as journalists?"
MW: Your true identity as a journalist comes in reporting on what drives you the most...whether it's sport, the arts, business, politics. Try different beats (if possible) then try to stick with the one which makes your writing most passionate.
KF: "Do you think there is a need for more journalists in Trinidad and Tobago?"
MW: Yes there is a need for more journalists in TT because the crop that's out there has not exhausted all the stories that are waiting to be told. Some of them are already stuck in their various ruts and will not do anything different on pain of being fired, so you new ones have to challenge the status quo...go dig up the hundreds of stories waiting to be told that are right under everyone's noses, but that no one is telling. You may have a neighbour who is in an abusive relationship, or know that a drug dealer lives on your block, or a retaining wall in your neighbourhood that could come crashing down and cause serious damage or even death...there's always a story waiting to be told right under your nose.
AH: "Do you think that a reporter should be blamed for reporting incorrect information which was given to them by the police?"
MW: One of the fundamentals of reporting is that information should go through at least three sources before being published/broadcast. So if a police source gives information, there must be some way to corroborate that information before going to air with it. Otherwise, use the other fundamental principle...if in doubt, leave it out. But we live in a culture of reporters/editors/media houses which prefer to have incorrect scoops rather than stale facts.