Over the last two years in Rwanda I've been approached by a number of media outlets about working for them. However, apart from the occasional feature here and there, I've always declined any deeper relationship. Until now. When Reuters came calling about a foreign correspondent's gig in Rwanda, I think they got me just at the right time.
When I first moved here to Rwanda, I wanted my focus to be kigaliwire, photos and getting to know the people and the place. After two years, I wouldn't say I know the place, but I hope I have a better handle on things than I did when I first arrived in 2009.
So, briefly, here are the reasons I decided to take the job with Reuters as their correspondent in Rwanda.
- opens doors – blogging is great, but try getting an interview with someone for your… blog. Then, try doing the same thing with a big name behind you. Completely different story.
- photos – far more opportunities to get out and photograph people, places and stories. I might sell some snaps – not many, I suspect – the rest will go on the blog.
- journalism – I may be old-fashioned, but I still believe it's important.
- rust – I've spent a lot of time teaching journalists over the last six years or more. It's about time I shook off a bit of the rust and did a bit of journalism again. It can only help the teaching end of things in the long run. Not to mention, credibility.
- freedom – I've been given me a lot of freedom, "Our Rwanda file rather stagnated over the last year, so it is yours to do with as you like" is what I was told soon after I filed my first few stories.
- more freedom - Reuters are happy for me to continue training for the likes of the BBC.
- yet more freedom – they're happy for me to continue kigaliwire, in fact I'm beginning to think of ways the two could compliment each other.
- how stuff works – I know how a one-man newswire works with kigaliwire, now I get to learn how a big newswire works from the inside.
- security – having a big name behind you helps with security. I'll be going on a Hostile Environment Training course in October on their shilling. Something I simply could never have considered as an independent.
- cash – a steady paycheck is something I haven't known since the late nineties. Journalism may pay less than journalism training, but it pays on time, at the end of every month (I hope).
A few early observations:
- These days, I make sure my phone is always charged.
- Most day to day communication is done over Google Chat, breaking news is filed over the phone or Google Chat. Other pieces via email.
- Once a week I have to come up with four or five story ideas. As a result, I'm juggling five or six stories at any one time.
- To see how the editing process works when my stories reach the bureau in Nairobi has been an eyeopener – Reuters style is rather particular. It will take a while to adjust.
- I have a "ready bag" to go at a moment's notice, mostly with this stuff inside.
- I can see it's going to take me some time to learn about the financial reporting side of things. It's another bloody language.
I'm making the rest of it up, unlike the stories, as I go along.