father is always saying how all ghost stories originated
in Wales. If this is actually true, when I stepped off the
bus in Cardiff -- the capital city of Wales -- for the first
time, I knew why. The city was dead. It was only 8 in the
evening, but the shops were closed, there were no people
on the street. I wasn't looking forward to the month ahead.
But the days that actually followed, and the reason I was
there, made the trip not only a great opportunity for me
as a journalist, but a very memorable one.
young journalists from around the world were chosen (nominated
from their respective organisations and selected, in the
case of Bangladesh, by the British Council, Dhaka) to attend
an international reporting workshop at the Thomson Foundation
in Cardiff last month. I was lucky to be one of the representatives
from Bangladesh, the other being my colleague from New Age,
Mashida, who was, moreover, an old friend.
Thomson Foundation (TF), founded by Lord Thomson of Fleet
in 1962, trains and provides consultancies for journalists,
managers, technicians and production staff working in the
media around the world. It organises workshops at its UK
headquarters in Wales and also sends its staff and specialist
freelance consultants abroad to train working journalists
in different countries. Even while we were there, two TF
consultants had come to Rajshahi to conduct a workshop on
month-long course was intensive and covered diverse areas
from basic reporting to interview stories, political and
business reporting. Our day began with a seemingly absurd
problem like, "Sara and Jane were born in the same
hour of the same day of the same year but they weren't twins.
Why not?" The answer being, because they were triplets
-- there was another baby. The problems were a favourite
of Mike's, our extremely dedicated course director -- who
wouldn't tire of taking our classes from 9:30 in the morning
to 5 in the evening though we sometimes did -- and got us
thinking early in the morning. We went over the daily papers,
giving our own opinions about the coverage of different
issues in the British press, shaking our heads over some
of the ridiculous tabloids -- the women rolling their eyes
and the men trying to get a glimpse of the "Page 3
the day, we went over different reporting rules and techniques,
particularly those related to our assignment for that week.
We would have a whole day to go out and talk to people and
our sources for different stories before writing up and
handing in our reports. The next day, we would go over all
of them on the projector and rework them.
my own stories, I had to talk to police and bartenders,
the editor of a newspaper, local MPs, and had to search
the internet for information on the economy of my own country.
There was a two-day section on this and we learned a lot
about finding information on the net, which was more than
any of us knew existed.
was also a class on defence and security. Besides being
taught techniques of war reporting and how to stay safe
during it, we were also faced with the question of how much
the reader or audience actually needed to be shown. This
section was an eye-opener for most of us. We were shown
video clips that weren't shown on television, of people
being killed, cities being bombed, children dying from starvation,
dead bodies burned, charred and rotting. It was enough to
make anyone rethink doing journalism in a world so terrible.
And though I myself had never been in a war or even seen
a dead body, I wondered at how desensitised I had become
in that I could sit through that whole section without crying
or throwing up.
many members of the group, however, it wasn't just a video;
it was real life. Many of our colleagues, from Sierra Leone,
Liberia and Kenya, for example, had actually been in a war.
Sylvester had lost two of his fingers in the war in Sierra
Leone. Ken, from the same country, still had a shrapnel
wound on his wrist.
sad as it all was, it was also an honour to meet these people
who had been through so much and who were there today to
learn more in order to succeed in their profession. Komla,
a radio broadcaster -- Ghana's journalist of the year. Andrew
and Patrick, sub-editor and reporter at The Standard
in Kenya. Ansu, the Liberian to whom war was a daily reality.
Martin, the flirtatious Guatemalan, who partied every night
but was serious in his work and who started every other
sentence with "In Guatamala . . .". Violet, an
ex-police officer, now working for a government news agency
who, being a woman, had had to struggle to be at the TF
classes, we would be at the hotel most of the time (since
most of the city was closed), hanging out amongst ourselves.
We were taken on a tour of Cardiff -- a beautiful, mountainous
and very traditional city -- on our first day of class,
and to Bath on another weekend, which was a beautiful trip
in itself. I had my birthday in Cardiff and my new friends
wished me with a cake, chocolates, cards and hugs. A farewell
dinner at the end of the course was a good chance to get
more familiar with the very friendly and helpful TF staff
who had committed their lives to journalism the world over,
as well as our colleagues (some rather drunk at that point!)
at the training.
and I missed our first bus from London to Cardiff and had
to wait around at the station for two hours. There were
no hotel bookings for us our first night there and we were
told the next morning that breakfast was not included in
our package, though it actually was. Something or the other
in my room, whether the phone, the radio or the hair dryer,
always didn't work. The fridge was locked; sometimes the
bathtub leaked and the room flooded. I had to watch how
much I spent, had to try and eat healthy, wash my clothes
in the hotel bath tub, walk to lunch in the grey weather
and irritating drizzle. There would be games on most weekends
and the roads would be closed, not to mention the fear of
being caught in the drunken brawls after games. On a weekend
trip to London, Mashida and I almost missed the bus again,
trying to get on the train with our bus tickets. At times,
there seemed to be no end to things going wrong.
when the end actually came, it was less happy than expected.
There was the thirst to learn even more and the emotion
of parting with some great people I'd just met who I might
never see again. Along with the sense of professional competence
and confidence that I felt I had achieved, these were also
feelings I carried with me all the way back home.