West African journalists at economic and financial reporting school

French-speaking journalists from the West African sub-region took part in a training course in economic and financial reporting in Dakar, Senegal, from 10 to 14 October. The aim for the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation was to reinforce their knowledge about economic news and their approach to covering it.

This 2011 edition of the Thomson Reuters economic and financial reporting course brought together 15 broadcast, print and online media journalists from Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Togo and Senegal. They received tools for dealing with various key topics, notably stock markets, exploitation of natural resources, economic governance and capital flight from developing countries. The training was facilitated by two expert instructors – David White, a former Financial Times correspondent, and Diadié Ba from the Thomson Reuters regional bureau in Dakar.

For them, it was important for reporting in Africa to move beyond political clichés and focus equally on economic issues, and for journalists to do this by taking a more human and wide-ranging perspective in their reports.

According to David White, economic journalism should reflect fundamental principles such as background research, story structure and context. It should carry fresh, interesting and relevant quotes, and the journalist should widen the scope of his report at the same time as helping the audience to understand the subject. With regard to information sources, Diadié Ba argued that “referencing articles and citing sources is necessary not only for the audience to form its own opinion but also for the journalist’s credibility and protection in case the information is challenged.”

A special aspect of the course was putting participants in the real-life conditions of a news agency through practical exercises and economic and financial news reports. “I was particularly impressed by the simulation exercise in which journalists formed newsdesks, with all the hierarchy that imposes,” said Maxime Domegni, a participating journalist from Togo. “I was fortunate enough to be in the team called Agence Fast News, whose work went down well, although at the start, because of some organisational concerns, I feared it would be a disaster. But once we got our act together everything went very fast, and the organisation followed. I found the exercise tough but very exciting.”

The journalists also had to analyse and assess what the Senegalese press had to say about some of the most pressing subjects for the sub-region and Africa in general – agriculture, political stability, issues surrounding extractive industries, the power supply crisis hitting the region, the high cost of living and the challenges of regional integration.

In addition, the journalists had the opportunity of meeting and voicing their concerns about economic issues with Philip English, the World Bank’s lead economist in Dakar, in a convivial exchange of views.

The course ended on a note of satisfaction, as Marie-Louise Bidias from Benin noted: “I don’t regret having taking part in this training. The two facilitators helped me with their briefings, discussions and exercises to understand financial questions better, and above all to know how to tackle these questions in my work. When I am back home in Benin, I will put all that into practice.”

Lola Akomatsri is a reporter at Crocodile News, Togo.

Link: http://www.trust.org/trustmedia/blogs/trustmedia-alumni-blog/west-african-journalists-at-economic-and-financial-reporting-school/

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