For this segment, we passed along the question from Aboaondofa (who asked us in an email: “how do you help people in your journalism?") to one of our correspondents – Nico Colombant in VOA’s West Africa news bureau in Dakar.
Here is what he replied:
“I believe a journalist’s first job is to raise the alarm on abuse. Examples of what can be flagged in a report include corruption, security crackdowns, violence against women and minors, victims of oppression.
“Another important mission is to report accurately in times of crisis, scandal, upheaval, disaster, election, so that listeners can make informed decisions.
“Building awareness among people, across borders and cultures, breaking down misunderstandings, is also crucial."
Nico notes that sometimes someone in our audience will be spurred to send money to a person in need or a relief organization highlighted in a report. He says, “Other times someone will be moved so much that they will act on the emotions that were awakened, sometimes to the point of finding a new mission in their life.”
We know several journalists who have found such new missions in humanitarian aid or human rights organizations, career shifts triggered by experiences reporting in the field.
But for those who remain in the news business, reporting on the plights of those who might otherwise remain unseen and unheard is among their most important duties.
Nico has filed many such reports. Two recent examples come from a trip he just made to the West African country of Guinea where he wrote about abandoned and exploited children, sometimes found working in slave-like conditions.
You can see these reports at http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-01-13-voa21.cfm and http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-01-28-voa21.cfm