Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Dawn

For some people, turning 30 is a scary time because that’s when you start asking yourself what you have done with your life. It was my birthday on the 28th and though I have no intentions of telling anyone my age, I must say I woke up with a sense of peace and direction for the future. I can say without a doubt, I am always very hard on myself and my father has done all he can to let me know he is proud of me. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the gift of life and I’m equally proud of myself but there is always that sense of urgency that I can do better. For months before my birthday, there was an endless tug of war going on within me and I really couldn’t explain the feeling. Then I read an article where it was explained that it's the growing up process when a person is getting closer to the big number and the morning of life starts.

Sometimes, it’s hard to explain and there are times when I feel like I am just being lazy and we all have such moments. What makes the difference is what you do after you realise the phase of life you are in. Right now there is so much I want to do but I also understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t build a castle in one week. It takes time or you might as well build a sand castle and know that after a while, it will come down. My desire is to one day leave a legacy that will last generations after me. I want to look back and even after I leave this earth; people will remember me for the positive contribution I made to the world. I pray that is your desire because together we can make our world better, one day at a time.

For days, I was looking forward to my birthday. My friends and family made it a day to remember. I had so much fun, I can’t even begin to tell you about it but what moved me was when my sister who lives in Nigeria called me and said she bought credit on her phone so she could call me on my big day. No matter how dysfunctional your family is, times like this help you to realise that each individual is different to the other for a reason and purpose. Imagine if you all sound and look the same, that would be a lot of photocopies. I am grateful I have a family.

What matters right now is knowing that it's a new season in my life. I plan to make every day count and pursue my dream with passion and a burning desire to be a success in life not just for me but to be a source of inspiration to those around me.

I refuse to be afraid of the unknown but I chose to look into the unknown and discover what it’s all about. Dream I shall because my dream and all that I hope to be will become a reality.


When I blogged about my experience at the Guardian under the title “Getting There,” I wasn’t sure what to expect for the rest of the week but I was looking forward to it. It was and has been a wonderful experience. I learnt so much, I can’t even begin to tell you all about it.

During the course of the week, I wrote a number of pieces, the numerous feedbacks I got on my work and writing skills really encouraged me and made me want to do better with each opportunity I was given. I learnt the opening paragraph of a news story is what makes or breaks your ability to keep your reader interested. I also learnt to tighten up on my writing. There is no way I could have learnt all of that on the street and it gave me a good sense of direction from those in the industry. To me that was immensely useful.

When I went to the Guardian, I didn’t go in with the mindset of someone who had been published in other newspapers or magazines before. I went in with the mindset of a child who was learning to walk and that really helped me to get as much as I could from the whole experience.

When the intended terror threat to UK airports broke, it was amazing to see how news rooms react and respond to breaking news. It was like a classroom and I soon realised I was in the classroom of life so I could learn lessons that will stand me good and stead for the future.

News is about facts and you have no right to distort what you are reporting, that is the Journalism I have come to know and love and I pray I am not being naïve in hoping there are those out there who would like for it to remain that way.

I am looking forward to the final week when I go back to my favourite desk and learn some more. Journalism is not glamorous but it is rewarding if you work hard. Nothing will ever be handed to you, you have to fight for it and I have every intention of doing just that.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting There

It was day one today on Guardian Unlimited. I would say a good start because I worked on the quiz questions and helped to update some information on the money desk. I was happy because I had work to do. The assistant news editor read my piece on Christian fiction, the one I mentioned earlier. She said it was interesting but they don't do stuff like that. That was fine by me; at least I got feedback on my work. She also mentioned she would pass it on to the editor of the books section.

I totally enjoyed my day and I have a plan up my sleeve for tomorrow but I am not going to tell you about it. That would spoil the fun of it. You just come back here tomorrow to read all about it.

At the end of the day, we walked to the train station together and we got talking, she gave me really useful advice, sometimes when on an internship programme, maybe what you need to do is sit and watch people work and see how they do it. It is hectic and for a national newspaper, there is so much to learn. I have always said to myself that I was a features writer but there is absolutely nothing wrong if I also develop news writing skills. I intend to do just that and hope for the best. I was pleased when she said to speak to the other guys around and ask questions. Hearing that from her really encouraged me. Don’t be afraid she said, just ask. I am going to ask and learn.

Her advice really helped me to get last week into perspective when I thought I wasn't doing anything but I learnt so much. I already told you about the features desk, so there is no need to go back there but on the Pictures desk, I learnt how important and integral a picture is to a news story. Sometimes, the picture says it all. Take a good look at the current crisis in the Middle East and the images we see on our televison screens and daily newspapers. What gets at you? For me, it will have to be the images of young children who are getting hurt and those who have lost their lives. Pictures definitely speak volumes. Ask a pictures editor and they will tell you the same thing.

As for today, it has been productive and I am praying tomorrow will even be more productive.

Looking forward to it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rude Awakening

In the last few months, I have done everything I know to enable me become a good journalist. Though I am yet to get to the point where everyone knows my name but I really don’t care about that right now. What matters to me is that with every opportunity I am given, I do an excellent job. I have applied to every newspaper and magazine house I know for internship opportunities and this week, I realised, nothing will ever be handed to me. I have to fight, in order to gain something valuable out of every opportunity given to me.

It’s my first week at the Guardian newspaper and for weeks I was looking forward to it. It meant a lot to me to have been selected at all. There were over a 100 applicants and to be 1 of 12 finalists; that is an achievement I would compare to winning an Olympic gold medal. I honestly didn’t know what to expect and to be quite honest, I am still not sure what the next week will be like. Nervous and anxious on my first day though I was advised not to be but let’s face it; wouldn’t you be nervous if you found yourself in the newsroom of one of Britain’s biggest and oldest newspaper? There were times, when speaking I could barely hear myself let alone the person I was speaking to. For the first time, though people always commend my standard of English it was obvious to me, English was not my first language. I was as nervous as hell and goodness was I fidgeting. I did my very best to keep it on a low profile. Times like this, I count it a blessing that I studied drama years back.

The first day to me was very quite, as silent as a grave yard. I was on the money desk and totally enjoyed the mini feature I worked on. It was cool and with the knowledge I gained at the Finacial Times sister paper, The Financial Adviser, I knew the right language for writing a piece about money matters. Low and behold, it will not be getting published, just a few lines in the paper on Saturday but its all good. It’s still an achievement. I was on the Home desk for the next two days and again, very interesting. I read some breaking news on the news wires from the different news agencies The Guardian has subscribed to. Some were just barmy and others very serious but a good mix and the style varied from one writer to the next.

I attended a news conference and gained first hand, how the news I read each day in the Guardian gets started and worked on. People debate about it and give their opinions on any political matter or pressing issue in the public. The politicians were not spared if you must know. What I really appreciated about the conference was the fact that the Editor of the Guardian commends those who contributed to the paper on a daily basis. It is good to be acknowledged for doing an excellent job.

Now I have to admit, it felt weird sitting there and I had taken the approach of asking the person I was assigned to, what he had that I could work on, because I felt it was the best way to go about it. At the end of the day, I am an apprentice and very avenue made open for me to learn, I am going to take it. It didn’t matter to me if I had been published before, I wanted to know what I was expected to do and at the same time learn.

The tricky part is I haven’t quite figured out when to ask a question. Is there ever going to be a right time to ask about anything? People are always busy at work and it is extremely nerve racking when you want to ask because you don’t want to break their flow of concentration. It is only fair to see things from their point of view.

My two days on the features desk have been memorable. I got first hand advice from the commissioning features editor and I intend to take it on board and work with it. She explained the elements of what would attract her to a good feature and make her commission a writer to deliver. It was insightful to see the editor at work and how he runs things. The features desk is an hectic environment because you have to deliver at the end of each day when you work for a daily publication.

Did I mention, I tried pitching an idea in one of the feature ideas conference and my world was I nervous? It was reassuring when the editor laughed as I blurted out MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) reduces your sex drive. That was a fair enough response for me. What did I learn from that? I am not telling because if he laughed, I am sure others will find it funny. That’s all I am saying. Just watch this space

At times I felt unsure when I had nothing to do, I have always been the type of person who finds it hard to sit about, doing nothing and at such moments, I felt a little frustrated but my friend advised; it is at such times I get proactive and find something interesting to do. Hence I went back on the wires to look through some more news reports and see if I would get one or two feature ideas and I did but I won’t tell you.

The lesson is from my moments of feeling frustrated at nothing to do, I learnt if it is going to be, it’s all down to me. Yes I wrote one piece about Christian fiction and the person I was assigned to will be getting back to me on monday but I am not going to wait until then. I have already reworked my piece and I am running with it. Just wait and see what becomes of it. I will let you know.

I am usually forceful in my approach to things but this time around, as an apprentice I have to keep my eyes on ground level and learn every lesson there is to learn in the space of two weeks. It may be time consuming and feels like it is very slow and that my ability to express myself is being stifled but surely, one day I will know why this week existed in the history of my life.