"Hee-hee," giggles my colleague Matthew at an email
that's just arrived in his inbox. It's an email inviting Matthew and the rest
of our training team in BBC Media Action's Nigeria office to a team-building
karaoke night - and he's not the only one that’s excited.
Let me explain why. I love karaoke. And not just
because I love music.
It's because karaoke takes you seamlessly from the known
to the unknown - from the familiar beat of a song to the unknown, the lyrics on
This has become my strategy when I go out to train
journalists around the country: taking trainees from what they already know to
what they don't quite know. This is how I help them to make an impact.
I've worked as a trainer on a number of BBC Media Action
projects in Nigeria which aim to improve governance and help people to hold
their leaders to account. And since I joined BBC Media Action three years ago,
I've adopted my 'karaoke strategy' to make my courses as fun and creative as
I use teasers, exercises and icebreakers to inspire my
trainees to think differently. For example, if I’m doing a session on conflict
mitigation, I do an exercise with the trainees that demonstrates how easily
conflicts can erupt from simple statements that might at first sight appear harmless,
but can spark unexpected reactions in unforeseen circumstances.
The beat of the story
The trainees I meet know the beat of their story. They
know the issues that face Nigeria – corruption, unemployment and electricity
shortages, to name but a few. And of course, they're more than aware of the
challenges journalists and their employers face in Nigeria.
They all know a fellow journalist who has been suspended
or even sacked from their job and their employer heavily fined or shut down for
daring to publish a story critical of the government.
But without training, journalists don't know how best to be able to tell their
stories in the face of such pressure.
Singing the lyrics
In the same way karaoke guides you to sing a song's lyrics,
I lead my trainees through the rudiments of good journalism - truth, accuracy,
impartiality and the importance of reflecting a diversity of opinions, for
example. I also teach them techniques for avoiding censorship and the
importance of keeping editorial values in mind and referring up to editors to
This kind of training has enabled the journalists I've
taught in Nigeria to successfully "sing the lyrics" of their stories.
Journalists like Aliyu Misau from the state of Bauchi in
north-east Nigeria. He used his training to produce a radio package about the
appalling condition of the 98km road between Misau and Gamawa. What should be
an hour-long journey between the two towns takes two and a half hours because
of the huge pot holes which slow cars to a crawl.
But after Aliyu's package was aired, the state government
committed to repair the road and have allocated budget for the work.
Journalist Aliyu Misau showing his colleague the skills he learned during BBC Media Action training.
"Proud to be a digital journalist"
Ifeoma Udechukwu is another journalist who's used her
skills to help her fellow Nigerians.
As well as learning how to digitally record and edit,
Ifeoma was awarded a bursary as part of the BBC Media Action MESSAGE project in
2011 to deliver an investigative story. She chose to focus on sanitation in her
home state of Anambra in south-east Nigeria.
Her package focused on a notorious dump which had been
left to fester for ten years beside the Onitsa-Owerri road, scattering rubbish
across the road which led to a number of fatal accidents. The result of her
package? The dump was closed.
Ifeoma shows colleagues how digital audio editing works.
Ifeoma says, "The training helped me to know where to
get the right kind of information, the right people to talk to and how best to
package my programmes. I am proud to be a digital broadcaster now.”
If this is what my love for karaoke can bring, then play
me some more music and pass me the mic!