Monday, January 14, 2013

Where happiness is a 2 pence bag of water

It is very hot in Kampala today. Currently 28 degrees with the sun baking down out of a clear sky. Time to get the camera out and see who’s doing what…

THIS BAG of water cost the thirsty customer 100 Ugandan shillings – a little more than 2p in Britain. She is either unwilling or unable to pay 10 times that for a bottle of water.
The bag comes complete with carefully cut straw, which pierces the bag. Just gotta be careful how you carry it…
NATIONAL hero Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic marathon champion, is everywhere on billboards. ‘Kip Siping’ doesn’t really do it for me, but I think we get the message.
‘A BILLION REASONS TO BELIEVE IN AFRICA. I’m not sure what Coke’s slogan means. It’s also a typographical masterpiece so I guess it’s all in CAPS. This huge truck towing a trailer rattled and rolled along Kira Road delivering glass bottles which will eventually find their way into the thousands of shops, restaurants and roadside kiosks.

THIS girl slogs up the road under an umbrella sunshade. Still looks hard work, though…

Monday, January 07, 2013

“You have to love journalism with all your heart; if you lose the sense of excitement, give up.”

THESE are sadly not my words – I wish they were – but from William Rees-Mogg editor of The Times from 1967-1981 who died just after Christmas.
I hadn’t realised he was so young, just 38 when he became editor (below, right) and only 54 when he switched careers to become chairman of the Arts Council.
His career reminds me that journalism offers a ‘suite of skills’ like no other job. Journalists work fast, are accurate and fearless in dealings with people from all walks of life. No wonder journalists carve out extra careers in politics, education, the arts, charity sector and, whisper it, the dreaded corporate communications.
My concern – as an editor, a journalism educator and a lifelong advocate for the part that journalism plays in holding society together – is that not enough of the right people are coming into journalism and a lot of those that do just don’t stick at it.
Some very good young reporters that I recruited have drifted off into marketing, PR and all that netherworld where no-one cares that you can take down shorthand at 100 words a minute or that your legal and public affairs knowledge will make you everyone’s friend at the pub quiz.
Perhaps I’m just an old romantic for the difference that journalism makes to people’s lives. Whether it’s a phone call to the council to get a street light fixed, reuniting lost-long family and friends or calling the rich and powerful to account what we do does get things done.
But I wonder whether it’s a lack of application from the young journalists or the industry’s failure to provide both more money and a discernible career path. Like a lot of people I swerved around both with some hard work and a bit of luck.
I cut grass and cleaned windows to help supplement my even then meagre newspaper salary, but at no time ever considered giving up to go and do a job that needed no qualification or special skill. And the career path just sort of opened up as I was in the right place at the right time but only after doing some of the stuff that no-one was queuing up for like working at night/holidays/weekend.
I’m embarking on a piece of academic research to see what became of cohorts of NCTJ graduates through the years. My own alma mater (Harlow block release 1975-6) boasts Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes), tennis correspondent of The Times (above, left with you-know-who), and Bob Bird, former editor of the Scottish News of the World.
But what became of the others? My guess is that more are still involved in and around mainstream journalism than from subsequent years.
I know a former journalist, who now works in digital, who wouldn’t help put together a New Year Honours piece because it was the “end of his shift”, not the first time he has pulled out the time card. If that’s what we all become, last one out turn off the lights…