Voices tell Stories — the impossible journalist

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I was 8 years-old when I wandered alone into my local library on my way from school. The cavernous corridors seemed to go on for ever. That book, and that one, and…tilting my head each and every way trying to decipher a title, I chose something splayed my self on the floor in my crisply ironed grey shorts and begun to draw as well as pronounce: Tyr- noo soar-us… Tyran- no- saurus… Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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‘They’re extinct?’, I seem to remember getting hung up on that. My sister tells me today, she thought I was either going to become a scientist, writing or Artist.

My father, a stern, lawyerish-looking man had his path in mind for me. White coat, pristine lab, a pipette in one hand sampling some source material for traces of pollutants.

CSS Miami makes scientists look sexy. I imagine some, perhaps many are, but from my lab yearning for something else to excite me, I would turn my mind to journalism.

The UK’s leading body for teaching students to become journalists, the Broadcast Training Journalism Council (BJTC) has called a meeting to share good practices with its members. Fifty-three universities across the UK are members and a sample of them travel down to London. Mobile journalism is a dominant theme this time and trauma teaching.

The effects of war and conflict are more apparent now, without having to be on the front line. Journalism students wading through images and videos to build their narrative are encountering disturbing images, exhibiting reactions that trained trauma specialists say we need to be able to spot. Even silence can be a giveaway.

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to home now, even when you’ve not moved from your and how to deal with it

We’re tabula rasas first when it comes to journalism. You’re born, then panel beaten by your environment, upbringing, parents, friends and acquired ideologies to believe a certain way. Then you aspire to become a journalist, a construct like many professions, but here, piquantly what you believe and say could have a profound influence on many others.

s it look chic. Ghana needed scientists, preferably more doctors. I would pursue his ambitions gaining a degree in Applied Chemistry.

ou got to have a reason. Prejudice hung in the air, opportunities were scarce anywhere, and even when you couldn’t prove it empirically, your body kinesthetically knew it was wrong. Your gut feeling was, this is s**t. When you felt like this you wanted to express your feelings through writing or various prototypes of journalism — verse, poetry, film or the spoken word.

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By today’s algorithmic recommendations, these books hold no discernible pattern. In our pre-packaged destined future are we worse off? Serendipity, the surprise of the unknown, is replaced by near certainty. Doesn’t social media merely confirm our own biases calculated in byte size mnemonics?

You got to have a reason. How did you get into it? I saw science journalism as key from a degree in Maths and Chemistry, then started videojournalism in the 90s, won some awards, and now teach the ‘rabbit hole’ online, cinema journalism and some.

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Author’s gear

I’m a geek in journalism’s clothing with international news experience, but sometimes believe we can lose sight of journalism’s craft skill, the power of its art form, and fail to address its dearth of diversity in subject matter and personnel in the c21st ‘mainstream’.

No one is born a journalist, though some fervently see it as an entitlement. The history of journalism e.g. Addison and Steele’s Tatler (1709), the BBC (1920s) inviolably shows its privilege and how those framed by their presumed worldly understanding were seen fit to interpret the world on our behalf. They wrote beautifully and profoundly, but what about those with no leg up?

You got to have a reason. Some are nobler than others; because I like writing. ‘Why don’t you become an author?’, said one lecturer to his charge. Other reasons include, because no one is writing about our plight. Where’s our voice? The Marshall Island near Hawaii is slowly being consumed by the sea; Chinese émigrés in Ghana are reportedly illegally panning for gold; food banks in the UK show no sign of abating — these need to be told by those living it.

Meanwhile, journalism appears overwhelmingly consumed with a navel-gazing debate. What is its future? Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, said H.L. Mencken. That’s good plenty then and should be now. This renders anyone with ambition, purpose and opportunity the path to address with their code or camera.

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Instead the debate is dominated by a future which is girded by technology, new citadels, business enterprises and the power privilege. Are we seeing the backs of one hierarchy only to replace it with another? And where is the art of journalism; its muscular or finesse approach to the ‘engineering of consent’ — PR?

Do you remember how difficult it was to get into the palace of analogue journalism i.e. anyone of a limited number of organisations pre-2000. Magazines, trades, leaflets, newspapers, radio, broadcasters — these were the forms. You could have talent, a nose for a story, a turn of phrase to excite others, yet your voice could not be heard.

And then cable arrived, habits were changing, Lyotard’s thudding post modernism prognosis of the world occurred before the Net’s disruptive power. But then the web did arrive and further atomised journalism’s hegemony into tiny shards. Now you too have a voice and if it’s an ethical one, hopefully you’ve found an audience.

Truth, you abs. don’t need a Masters degree per se. These are finishing schools that jump start your career, landing you in a whirlpool where employers are wont to fish. But whoever you are I can teach you to write in a style, respect attribution within the text to illustrate a sense of objectivity, code, create that immersive film, and many other things, but the one thing I’d like us to look at is you — all those years plus of environmental programming.

We talk of the future of journalism. Yet we don’t know what’s likely to happen tomorrow, let alone in years to come. McLuhan said he’d like to worry about the present, rather than future. Professor Robert Stam from New York University writing in Film Theory sees parallels with the heady inventive period of the 1920s. I agree. What happened thereon?

Some things laid in front of us sound obvious if not readily executable: less ignorance, more knowledge of systems and each other, a greater sense of justice, honesty, an attempt to examine our differing philosophies and ourselves.

Walking through the many populists art galleries, I once wondered, where is the art across the divide? Where is the other to the Pre-Raphaelites, Renaissance and Baroques? Where was their future during their time? They would of course translate into the Impressionists, Realists and Cubists. But what about the Salgados or Sembènes of art during that period? The other voices, just as talented and beguiling as those in the liberal West?

I wonder how we might improve journalism. Perhaps, go out and meet new people across the divide, eat their food, drink their wines, go native, try to understand their stories, with respect and humility inform others of uncomfortable truths. A BBC journalist is more emphatic in her view.

Seek those whose voices are muted, and the afflicted, those whose voices could also be used to good effect to advance knowledge. Sometimes, we forget that this thing called journalism is about us, first and foremost. It is a record of our fundamental philosophy, Descartesian almost — you think this way therefore you are. Why?

We don’t need a future to explore that, we can do that now. The technology is the enabler. Our voices tell stories.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster. ff @Viewmagazine

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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