Amplifying citizen stories out of Africa

The pitch to Alan Rusbridger and David Smith

The pitch to Alan Rusbridger and David Smith


That tweet seems a fitting end to a remarkable week. It refers to the editor in chief of a global news organisation (Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian) passing on some useful advice to a new voice in journalism.

The ‘citizen reporter’ mentioned in the tweet was one of a group of five which myself and journalist Raymond Joseph have been working with this week as part of a programme being run by The Guardian’s head of diversity and inclusion Yasir Mirza.

At the start of the week we brought together 20 people drawn from across South Africa and neighbouring Lesotho to explore the burning issues from their communities.



They were tough issues, stories of real challenge:
– lives wrecked by DIY drug whoonga
– township’s secret rent boys
– the plight of HIV orphans in Lesotho
– the impact of gentrification in central Johannesburg
– economic development V community health in Durban

During a two day workshop we helped the group shape their story ideas so that they could pitch them to Alan Rusbridger and the Africa correspondent David Smith at a special session held during the Guardian Activate conference held in Johannesburg yesterday.

photo (17)

It was an interesting process and included journalism basics around sourcing, verification and ethics; social media tips and tools; many practical exercises and some legal guidelines.

After the two days, five representatives from the group got to pitch their stories and receive some expert feedback.
Here’s a brief Storify of what happened there

They got their stories out – not just to the Guardian editors, but to a room full of journalists and, of course, the wider world via Twitter.

Now those all important connections have been forged, it really is a case of ‘watch this space’. Some new storytellers are at work in South Africa.

* Further pictures and a video featuring the participants’ journey shot by local videographer Zaheer Cassim will be available to share here in the next week.