Adedimeji Quayyim Abdul-Hafeez
It was with great elation and happiness that I received the news of my selection into the Ope Adetayo Journalism workshop, slated to hold on the University of Ilorin campus on the 16th and 17th of July, 2021. Ope had been a character I had greatly admired, right from his days of his Commonwealth Essay Shortlist win, and I had the privilege to experience his brilliance first-hand at a Journalism Workshop (organized by the Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation and Open Society Initiative, West Africa) which we jointly participated in. I was so glad that Ope was giving back to the journo-creative community, and giving a solid shot for budding journalists to thrive in freelance journalism.
Ope Adetayo is a Commonwealth Essay Shorlistee, a student of English, former Writing Fellow at African Liberty and an award-winning journalist and storyteller. His works have appeared in national, continental and global news and literary platforms, ranging from Foreign Policy, Aljazeera, TRT World, Guardian UK, Sahelien, The Continent, Mail and Guardian, Africa is a Country, African Arguments, Guardian Nigeria, Sahara Reporters and Punch Newspapers. Ope has had stints in different realms of the creative writing process, from being a Commonwealth Essay Shortlistee, to founding Fragbits (a creative non-fiction literary publishing platform) to being a full-fledged freelance journalist. Ope exudes brilliance, and his sterling profile heightened my expectations about the workshop.
On the first day, Francis Salako, an equally-brilliant writer, poet and freelance journalist (published on Aljazeera, Sahelien, More Branches, Jalada Africa and Brittle Paper), facilitated the session on “Sourcing for Story Ideas”, and emphasized on the importance of finding relevant angles in story ideas. He also mentioned that reading, passion, engaging in conversations and developing a seventh sense in developing in exploring perspectives are all important to the craft of a journalist, and that journos should channel these skills in the course perfecting their story ideas. Francis shared the advice he got from foremost journalist Abang Mercy, which entails attending Magistrate Court sittings to have insights into the plights of persons at the grassroots, thereby fueling ideas that can be worked on as stories.
In the session on “The Art of Interviewing”, Francis emphasized on the virtues of being truthful to the story subjects, researching on the themes of the story before conducting interviews and making the subjects at ease while conducting the interviews. He also mentioned that the ability to read the room is important, so that the subject would not have the feeling that the story is being extracted from him/her. He stated that respecting the story subjects, exercising care to not intrude deeply into personal lives and building a strong network community is important to ensure that the interviews are conducted with ease.
Facilitating the session on Pitching, Ope mentioned that it is important that a pitch answers the following critical questions: what is happening, who is it happening to and where the story theme is happening. He also stated that the pitch must be clear, brief, concise, contain a word count, when the story can be delivered, have a perspective it wishes to address and must appeal to global audiences (for international media outlets). He admonished that budding journos should ensure that their pitches position them as the best persons to tell the stories, and that the theme resonates with the objectives and goals of the media organization pitched to.
For the second day, Ope facilitated a session on “Storytelling in Journalism”, deriving inferences from Gabriel Gracía Márquez’s book “News of a Kidnapping” (detailing Pablo Escobar’s journalists’ kidnappings in Columbia), Rest of World’s “Beyond Silicon Valley: The six cities building the future of the global tech industry”, Ope Adetayo’s “Inside Nigeria’s backstreet abortion clinics” and “Nigeria’s bus drivers battle thugs..” (both published on Aljazeera) and Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Japan’s Prisons are a Haven for Elderly Persons”. He emphasized on the need for freelance journalists to harvest details, detailing the five crucial items to be looked out for to ensure the story is borne into perfection: character, plot arc, colour, setting and mode. He concluded that the story should paint a picture to the readership, to make it more relatable and impactful.
In his closing remarks, Ope Adetayo enjoined the participants to stay true to the course and abide by the ethics of journalism. The themes discussed in the workshop further boosted my interest in freelance journalism and would go a long way in embedding me into the realities of mainstream journalism. Ope Adetayo exudes brilliance, I tell you.
- Adedimeji is the President of the UCJ UNILORIN.