NAIROBI, July 30, 2019 – Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) organized its inaugural Young Sports Reporters Seminar in Mombasa, Kenya from July 26-27, 2019. Sponsored by the Kenya Ports Authority and Lotto Foundation, the two-day forum brought together 21 young reporters from all over the country with the objective of empowering them with knowledge on how to effectively report on athletics and propel their careers to the next level.
ATHLETICS KENYA Participants were taken through different facets of the discipline in interactive sessions that covered nine topics. Athletics Kenya Vice-Treasurer Dimmy Kisalu kicked off proceedings with a motivational talk, guiding the young journalists through the functions and structural composition of the 69-year-old national federation.
Kisalu also enlightened the young reporters on the criteria used in selecting athletes for various championships and encouraged them to develop an interest in the sport. “Please make sure you consult widely and report fairly on athletics events. Develop a keen interest in the various aspects of the discipline and you will discover that it is quite interesting,” said Kisalu, who is also the AK coast branch chairman.
CONDUCTING INTERVIEWS Nation Media Group Sports Managing Editor Elias Makori guided the up and coming reporters through three sessions namely; athletics reporting and media convergence, conducting interviews, and importance of statistics. Makori stressed the significance of conducting thorough research prior to interviews, understanding the subject before interviews and taking time to compile a thorough report.
“Avoid rushing to do stories without gathering facts and all the information you need. Always endeavour to make your copy interesting and you can only do this by reading widely about your interviewee and take the initiative to discover interesting details that are unknown which will make your stories captivating,” said Makori.
He weighed in on the value of statistics and on verifying sources, adding that the global body publishes a statistics handbook annually which is “a valuable resource” for journalists seeking to give their stories the extra edge. The veteran scribe, who boasts 25 years experience in sports journalism, also shared with the young reporters insights about the International Associations of Athletics Federations (IAAF), where he serves in the Media Commission and how he has used the opportunity to not only advance his career but also facilitate young journalists to cover international championships.
RELATIONSHIP WITH ATHLETES SJAK President Chris Mbaisi in his presentation tackled the relationship between the journalists and athletes. Mbaisi urged reporters “to be patient when engaging athletes for a story” and emphasized the need to “draw the line between professional and private issues” when sourcing for information. According to Mbaisi, establishing a wide base of contacts and building trust are key to forging a meaningful connection with athletes.
BUILDING STARS Similar sentiments were shared on the second day of the seminar by SJAK’s organizing secretary Wanjiku Mwenda during her session on ‘Building Stars’ where she highlighted the importance of protecting sources and telling the story behind the success of athletes including and not limited to support from their families, friends and coaches.
ETHICS SJAK’s secretary general Mike Okinyi tackled ‘Ethics’ while covering athletics and sports at large. He called on the upcoming reporters to embrace the journalistic Code of Conduct as prescribed by the Media Council of Kenya and the AIPS. Reporters were cautioned to “avoid conflict of interest and to always strike a balance in their reports”.
Okinyi at the same time warned young reporters to be wary of litigation and desist from sensational journalism and accepting “tokens of appreciation” from their sources.
In an era where the world is a global village, Capital FM Sports Editor Alex Isaboke, who is also the SJAK treasurer tutored the young journalists on how to leverage on new media platforms to take journalism to the next level. Isaboke encouraged them to be active on social media and establish a network with sources and fellow reporters. He pointed out the advantages of social media, which included sourcing information online, building relationships and reaching out to sports personalities. He also spoke at length on the disadvantages especially growing concerns over the power of citizen journalism.
SPORTS COMMENTARY In a bid to encourage diversification in the coverage of athletics, the young reporters were also guided through the dos and don’ts of sports commentary by Vereso Mwanga an executive committee member of SJAK. Once again, they were reminded that “research, facts and observation are key elements in commentary” and that commentators should develop their own “style of delivery”.
AIPS AWARDS The highlight of the weekend was a Skype call with SJAK executive committee member Evelyn Watta, who is also Vice President of the AIPS. Watta urged the reporters to join the national association and reap the benefits of affiliation to AIPS, which facilitates coverage of international events. She also encouraged reporters to submit a print, digital and broadcast entries for the AIPS Sports Media Awards whose winner will get a trophy and US$ 8,000 prize money.