Experienced international journalist, Sarah Wachter, taking journalists through session on disinformation during workshop on Basics of Journalism in Douala
Dozens of young journalists in Cameroon recently tapped from the rich experience of Sarah Wachter, a versatile American journalist who was contracted by the United States Embassy in Cameroon to drill journalists on the “Basics of Journalism”.
In two workshops held in Yaounde and Douala, Wachter took journalists through the steps of professional journalism.
From interviewing, to sourcing, fact-checking and news gathering, she used her experience with the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and other renowned media outlets, to drill journalists on how to handle various ethical dilemmas.
In Douala, where the workshop held on June 8 and 9, young journalists working in the Southwest and Littoral Regions had a two-day interactive session with Sarah Wachter during which they discussed: best practices of journalism, how to deal with government sources, journalism ethics, fact-checking, strategies to counter disinformation, and how to secure themselves when covering violent events.
“I hope they will be very useful. I know that I’m a rather strict person when it comes to things like ethics and in following rules but I’m hoping that if people can actually respect these rules and these practices they are going to produce some good journalism in the decades to come,” Wachter said in an interview.
That was the sixth time the veteran journalist and journalism instructor was coming to Cameroon for a journalism-related training.
The US Embassy officials said the recent workshops were part of America’s global agenda of promoting human rights and freedoms through professional journalism. The Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, Ethan Tabor, said they targeted 30 young journalists for each of the workshops in Douala and Yaounde.
“The goal really is, you know, as the US Embassy, we strongly believe that a free press is a really critical thing for any democracy. And, and for that reason, we do a lot of programs, not just in Cameroon, but globally to promote a free and fair press,” Ethan said.
“And so, this is part of that series. And we’ve also had conversations with partners, journalism unions and other journalists, and young and old, who expressed an interest to have these types of workshops, and so this is us trying to respond to that demand,” he added.
He asserted that the workshops were coming at a time when basic journalism ethics were becoming harder to respect in the new media era.
The US diplomat lauded journalists’ participation at the workshop and hoped that they will harness the skills they had acquired to polish their journalism practice.
Among the young journalists who participated in the training was Djougang Divine Florida, a first-year journalism student of the Advanced School of Mass Communication, Yaounde.
She attended the two-day training in Douala alongside over 20 other journalists. One of the lessons she took home was how to build relations with news sources and how to remain credible as a journalist.
“During this two-day workshop, what I’ve learned so far that could help me, that will help me in the whole of my career, journalism which I’m engaging is the means to acquire credible sources, and the various methods we have… in fact, the various methods we have to, like, apply to maintain this relationships, maintain good relationships with sources,” she said at the end of the workshop.
Like every other participant, she went home with a journalism book offered by the US Embassy, as well as a certificate of participation.