By: Jairus Awo
Ah, the life of an ambitious, wide-eyed journalist ready to take on the world? Sounds like you? Read on.
There is nothing more exhilarating than pitching for international opportunities, right? Well, hold on to your press passes and grab a pen because I’m about to lay out the hurdles that’ll make you question everything you thought you knew about the glamorous wanderlust-filled life of a reporter.
First and foremost, let’s talk about the fantasy of picturesque train journeys. No, forgive my manners. You need to start securing quality pictures right from the flight.
And yea, you are not proud, so don’t post a full picture of yourself on the net; your village people might be watching. Not that they can do anything at this time, you have flown and as a Nigerian, that is beyond the witches’ pay grade. Just a snippet of the cloud with the wing of an airplane is enough. Make sure you book the window seat so you can capture the clouds. Your WhatsApp status craves for that update: “Alhamdulilahi”, “Jesus is taking care of me”.
Hey, you have to keep this ecstasy in mind while pitching. Like, even if your story or project description isn’t focused or fine-tuned, the fellowship application review officers need to know that your life as a journalist is going to blow and your pictures with some white folks, in a roundtable discussion, probably with a long body sweater, matters a lot.
Do I need to mention that you need an iPhone? It does not have to be an iPhone 100. What you need in there isn’t the capacity to capture the world but your tea breaks, lunch, and probably the hotel interior. Stand beside that long mirror pinned to your wardrobe and take a good picture of yourself. Don’t disappoint your village people, please.
It can be iPhone anything. Make sure it has a portrait mode that can radiate the light on you while defocusing every other thing around you. In case you don’t have one, well, there is a way around it. You can always network and make friends. They will snap you. But don’t bring out your phone should they ask you whether to Airdrop it for you. Quickly hurry out and tell them you will get the pictures on WhatsApp.
By all means, ensure you keep the Nigerian version of yourself intact.
You might even imagine yourself aboard an elegant locomotive, clicking away on your laptop as the scenic countryside gracefully unfolds outside your window. I mean the dear five-star hotel room that you never ever need to clean or arrange yourself. But alas, reality strikes with a vengeance. We will talk about reality later.
Let me paint a picture for you: You see all of the soothing clickety-clack, a symphony of baby cries, snoring passengers, and a constant reminder of your regrettable decision to grab a rickety cab with other frustrated Nigerians while trying to beat the traffic as a reporter in Nigeria? The gorgeous landscapes that are often replaced with grimy windows that showcase nothing but a blur of graffiti and questionable street food vendors?
You’ll even be lucky most times if you can get a single usable picture amidst the chaos.
It is well with you. But life abroad as a journalist must be fascinating; sip a coffee, press a laptop, look through the window to see a beautiful city.
So keep all that in your mind when pitching for international fellowships. If not for anything, your social media life matters. Forget humility; you are a big industry man.
Let’s talk about pitching.
When pitching internationally, there’s nothing that can go wrong with your tech aid, right? Your meticulously prepared PowerPoint presentations will work just fine while projecting your plans to a mesmerised audience. Wrong.
Sometimes you must prepare to face the wrath of technical demons. Your laptop battery will die at the most crucial moment, and when you finally manage to revive it, the Zoom (or whatever) link will decide to engage in a wild dance of colours, making your seemingly professional presentation resemble a surrealist art exhibit.
And don’t even get me started on the classic “slides not found” error message that always seems to appear at the least opportune times.
Have this in mind during the interview: The glamorous life of mingling with fellow journalists and industry professionals at international events. You might envision rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of the media world, exchanging witty banter over champagne and canapés (only if you know about brands, though).
But dear journalists, I hate to break it to you: you will spend 90 per cent of your time stuck in awkward conversations with people who are just as lost and desperate for a story as you are.
The remaining 10 per cent will be divided between hurriedly gulping down a glass of lukewarm tap water and desperately searching for a power outlet to charge your perpetually dying phone. (Be like me, have a power bank that can last the test time).
And as for that irresistible allure of securing exclusive interviews with global powerhouses? Brace yourself. You might envision riveting conversations with charismatic world leaders, but in reality, you’re more likely to engage in exasperating battles with overprotective press secretaries armed with rehearsed lines of denial.
It’s like playing a never-ending game of cat and mouse, only this time, the mouse is wielding a PR strategy. At the end of the day, you’ll realise that your desperately sought-after interview is nothing more than a painfully shallow soundbite, and the satisfaction is fleeting at best.
So I came bearing this exciting news today as an early career journalist. You need to be international to be “relevant” in this industry. We might even call you to conferences and TV shows to speak about your experience and how you managed to get a picture dump featuring Donald Trump.
So, my aspiring journalist friends, while the allure of international opportunities may initially hypnotise you with its fairytale-like charm, remember that the reality is often tinged with chaos, technical headaches, and disappointingly shallow encounters. But fear not, for through these hurdles, you’ll find the true essence of journalism — the indomitable spirit to persevere, adapt, and transform even the most mundane moments into stories worth telling.
Keep a sense of humour, and you’ll survive anything that the world of journalism throws at you. Good luck out there, my intrepid reporters!
Jairus Awo is a journalist currently robbing (rubbing?) minds with development workers at The Middlebelt Reporters.