10 tips to elevate your event reporting

Event reporting can be the ugali and beans of journalism – it fills you up and keeps you going, but sometimes it lacks a bit of flavour. Political pronouncements, NGO projects, product launches, traffic crashes – these are the daily headlines that keep us informed.

The problem? By the time your report airs or hits print, social media has often split the beans (pun intended!). And sometimes, the event organisers themselves steal your thunder with flashy photos and videos, breaking the news before you can.

Journalists are the historians of the present, and documenting events is essential. But it is not just about the “what” – it’s the “why” and the “how” that make the real story.

So, how can you take your event reporting to the next level? ACME Mwalimu offers 10 tips to add some spice to your event reporting, to help you take your audience beyond the surface and into the heart of the story.

1) If it is a planned event, go prepared with your own agenda – Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the key issues you want to address before attending the event. This will help you to approach an event with curiosity and focus on what truly matters. It will also help you avoid simply repeating the event organiser’s narrative.

2) Look beyond the spectacle – We all know the power of a gripping headline. Events like natural disasters, political upheavals or shocking crimes naturally capture attention. However, a truly impactful news story goes beyond the initial spectacle to unpack causes and connect the dots.

3) Shift focus from event to issue – Go beyond the W’s and H. Report on the reasons behind the event and what factors were at play. Look for links between the event you are covering and other important issues. Ask yourself: How does this event affect a larger group of people or a system as a whole?

4) Go past the speakers – You are not a stenographer, so do not just report on who said what. While key speakers at an event are important, pay attention to the sidelines – the interactions, discussions, and reactions among attendees. Explore panel discussions featuring rising stars, attend sessions tackling unconventional angles, and engage in informal conversations with attendees from various backgrounds. Often, the true story lies in the diverse perspectives and conversations happening away from the spotlight.

5) Ask the uncomfortable questions – Challenge the status quo by asking questions that go beyond the scripted responses. Uncover the nuances and complexities, even if it means pushing back against the event’s narrative. Your role is to inform the public, not to serve as a megaphone for event organisers.

6) Tell us why it matters – Always answer the fundamental question: Why does this event matter? Help your audience see the relevance and significance in their lives, so they can truly understand the issues at hand.

7) Embrace the role of educator – Approach your event reporting as an opportunity to educate your audience. Provide the necessary information to explain complex concepts and empower your readers/viewers to make informed judgments about the event.

8) Follow the money – Do not be dazzled by the pomp and ceremony of planned events. Investigate the financial backers and sponsors of the event. Understanding the financial interests at play can provide insights into potential biases and motivations behind the event, contributing to a more comprehensive story.

9) Monitor public debate and reactions to an event – What are people saying about the event online and offline? Check social media and public forums, and obtain community feedback to understand how people from various backgrounds are responding. Hearing diverse perspectives enriches your reporting and helps you analyse the event’s importance more thoroughly.

10) Report on the aftermath – Do not stop reporting once the event concludes. Follow up on the aftermath – the policy changes, societal impact or any lingering consequences.

ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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