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Training Young Journalists in Rwanda

October 4, 2015

Bob Butler
Kigali, Rwanda

(Adding link to student’s work at the end)

Shortly after leaving office as the 20th President of the National Association of Black Journalists, I agreed to conduct a training project for young journalists in Rwanda.

Many of you know that I am committed to helping the next generation of journalists. It’s why I became a mentor with my good friend Doug Mitchell on the NABJ Radio Project and why I focused much of my efforts during my board service to making sure our students had the tools they need to be successful.

As President I launched the Young African Journalists Fellowship that brought six young African journalists to Boston and Minneapolis to participate in student projects.

In February I was invited to represent NABJ and speak at a conference sponsored by the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA) in Windhoek, Namibia. I talked about whether social media and journalism ethics can co-exist.

Ellen Nanuses addressing the SABA general meeting in Kigali

Ellen Nanuses addressing the SABA general meeting in Kigali

During my discussions with SABA Secretary General Ellen Nanuses, it came out that African media organizations have challenges finding young journalists to fill openings when they exist. Most students learn the theory of journalism but don’t get the practical experience while in school. That is especially true with writing on deadline.
We decided to do a mini-project at the SABA annual general meeting in Kigali (#sabaagm2015) to begin to build the capacity of young journalists. The students all attend the University of Rwanda. They covered the opening keynote speech by Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Anastase Murekezi, who called on African media companies to refrain from following their international colleagues and only report negative stories about the continent.

Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi gives keynote address at SABA Annual General Meeting in Kigali.

Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi gives keynote address at SABA Annual General Meeting in Kigali.

“Today, I am asking you not to remain silent,” he said. “There are so many interesting stories on our continent that do not get the coverage they deserve. Africa is not only about diseases, despair and disasters.”

Many of the students had never produced a broadcast package or edited audio and video. They were able to cover his speech, get reaction and produce a television package, a radio package and a print story.


Students from the University of Rwanda with 2016 Olympic bicyclist Nathan Byukusenge (kneeling, 4th from left).

The next day they got a chance to do exactly what Mr. Murekezi asked: tell a good news story by interviewing Nathan Byukusenge, one of only two Rwandans invited to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Byukusenge is a bicyclist. He says he rides to better his life and the life of his family and to improve the image of Rwanda which still suffers the scars of the 1994 genocide.

The lack of sufficient computers, software and equipment made for some rough moments but the students persevered and produced three television packages, three radio wraps and two print stories.

The quickly learned how to report a story and see it through all phases until it was finished. They worked with each other and collaborated on the research, writing and advocated for their stories during the editing process.

Many thanks to Dr. Margaret Jjuuko and Edward K. Mwesigye of the University of Rwanda who gave substantial time and knowledge to make sure this project was a success.

You can see and here the broadcast pieces here.

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