GPA hosts successful two-day Sport Journalism Training

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By Avenash Ramzan

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) on Sunday concluded what was unanimously deemed by participants as a successful two-day Sport Journalism Training at the National Resource Centre, Woolford Avenue, Georgetown.

With specific focus on Investigative Journalism and Feature Writing, the sessions were conducted by Trinidad and Tobago Senior Journalists Lasana Liburd and Wesley Gibbings, University of Guyana lecturer Andrew Kendall, Senior Journalist Rawle Welch and Broadcaster Edwin Seeraj.

The training attracted 15 sport journalists, with some coming from as far as Berbice and Linden.

Liburd, who uncovered the Jack Warner fiasco in Trinidad and Tobago, focused his presentation on Investigation Journalism by expanding on how to cultivate sources and reap the rewards; trustworthiness and the media; hunting the bad guys and gals; how to guide readers without punishing them; and using social media effectively.

He also delved into how to create an effective style of writing, the news/features balance act and how to tell a better story.

News Room’s Akeem Greene making a point during the interactive segment

Liburd asserted that sport journalists’ competitors are no longer their colleagues, but smart phone users who utilise social media daily, and almost instantaneously upload events as they occur. He however, noted that “it is okay not to be first, but to be accurate.”

“Only publish when you’re sure of the facts,” Liburd, who has been a practicing journalist for the past two decades, told the participants.

The Managing Director of Wired868, a sport news and satire website, noted that verification of information is extremely important, hence the need to have multiple sources, who, typically, should be unknown to each other.

He advised the group of reporters to guard against informants who may have an agenda, nothing that the “best marketing tool as a journalist is reputation.”

Liburd also encouraged the journalists to always strive to improve on their delivery, and be honest to themselves about their strengths and weaknesses.

He shared that the traits of an effective journalist are specialist knowledge of the field, the ability to gather news and a compelling writing style.

Joe Chapman of Linden and Mia Ritchie of NCN paying rapt attention

Gibbings, with over three-decade experience as a media practitioner, opened the two-day training by focusing on integrating sport reporting into the news agenda.

He posited that there is no real distinction between ‘hard news’ and sport reporting, as they both encapsulate human activities, events and achievements.

Gibbings noted that in the age of social media where information is immediately available, it is imperative sport journalists switch their focus from merely reporting on scores, and dig deeper and bring issues to the fore.

On the topic of Language and Media, Kendall touched on headline construction, frequently misused words/phrases, captilisation and the general use of language to effectively tell a story.

Edwin Seeraj during his presentation

Seeraj, who spoke on Journalistic Ethics in Sport Reporting, urged the journalists to be steadfast in pursuing nothing else but the facts. Honesty and fairness, he said, are elements media practitioners, by the very nature of their job, are expected to follow.

He also warned against being in certain positions that can be deemed as a conflict of interest. Seeraj also told the journalists that they should not become “too friendly” with administrators and athletes, but rather “have a working relationship” with them.

He also divulged that the exchange of gifts, rewards, tickets and cash for favourable publicity should never be condoned.

Rawle Welch reflecting on his years in the media

Welch, who joined the media 15 years ago, said sport journalism is a profession you have to embrace and love, as it is not a financially rewarding career in Guyana.

Labelling it a tough job, Welch said it is important journalists build a good relationship with their editors, as “it is critical to your existence.”

“The editor is your last line of defence,” he said. Welch called on the participants to be principled in their work and to always pursue the truth.

Research, he mentioned, is key to success of any media practitioner, especially when dealing with investigative pieces.

Enlightening

In an invited comment at the conclusion of the training, President of the GPA, Nazima Raghubir, said, “The media training over the past two days is among the first steps to removing sport journalism from the title of ‘step child of the media.’ It has been an enlightening two days and a chance to hear and understand many of the challenges facing our sport journalists while trying to address those challenges through the expert advice of their senior colleagues and other professionals.”

She added, “The GPA hopes to build on this effort to ensure that our colleagues and members in all mediums are equipped to do their jobs in a professional manner. It is my hope that training for all categories of media workers become an annual fixture of the media body and the current executive remains committed to working on making this possible.”

The sessions were attended by journalists Stephan Sookram, Colin Bynoe Jr, Akeem Greene, Rawle Welch, Javon Vickerie, Stanford Howard, Avenash Ramzan, Romario Samaroo, Eric Collymore, Emmerson Campbell, Jemima Holmes, Mia Ritchie, Joe Chapman, Colwyn Abrams and Ryan Horne.

Media houses represented were Guyana Chronicle, News Room, NCN, HGPTV, Stabroek News and Guyana Times/TVG.

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