Back to Basics: Workshop on core journalistic principles held in Podgorica

Journalists from the Western Balkans gathered in Montenegro for a two-day workshop on core journalism skills.

Eighteen journalists from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia participated in the training workshop “Back to Basics” in Podgorica on 27 and 28 January. The workshop, designed for early career journalists, focused on core principles of journalism. The trainer team guided the participants through three important and nowadays sometimes neglected areas in education and training programs for young professional journalists: media ethics, traditional fact checking and interviewing skills.

Going through different professional dilemmas and challenges he has come across during a career in journalism spanning fifty years and many countries, Nenad Pejić discussed with the participants the importance of media ethics and new ethical challenges that arose in recent decades. Journalists should never assume they have learned everything there is to know about this aspect of the profession, explained Pejić.

“Media ethics is an everlasting principle, but it’s not just some theory you adopt once in a lifetime and that’s it. It is a practical, not a theoretical activity.”

Photo: Nenad Pejić lectures on media ethics

Pejić said he was glad the participants were active and eager to acquire new knowledge and skills, even though they were sometimes puzzled when faced with different ethical dilemmas of practical journalism.

“They were very open-minded, especially when we discussed important steps in journalism they [tend to] skip, which they recognized as their weakness,” Pejić points out.

Žarka Radoja, a journalist and editor from Serbia, who lectured on traditional fact checking and the importance of context in journalism, says she was encouraged by the level of interest of the participants and their active involvement in practical exercises.

“It was interesting to see how participants who work in various types of media think; TV, investigative media, from journalists who work for a news agency to those who have enough time to think about possible topics of their stories”, explains Radoja. 

She focused her lecture on basic verification steps and explained why old-fashioned ways of picking up the phone and calling possible sources still matters.

“Digital tools explosion has made us forget that it is actually possible to reach someone on the phone or SMS instead of sending a message using mobile applications. Today, we learn more about digital tools than the basics of journalism.”

As the basis of almost all journalistic genres, mastering the interviewing skills is an important step for early-career journalists. Petar Komnenić, the author of the show “Načisto”, a popular TV interview show on Montengerin Vijesti TV, shared his tips and tricks on the right choice of questions and interlocutors. However, this journalistic skill can only be mastered with experience, explains Komnenić.

“There is some theoretical basis, but journalism is a craft and it is being mastered by finding yourself in various situations. I experience some new situations even today and each one is special. Later, you have a reflexive reaction to what profession brings to you.”

Photo: Practical exercise during the session on interviewing skills

A young journalist from Albania, Oliverda Allmuca, was among participants. She believes educational activities like this one offer unique opportunity for journalists who are usually too busy to actually discuss dilemmas of their profession.

“For example, in Albania, young journalists are immediately faced with work and we don’t have time to discuss what is actually happening with journalism itself. Everything is changing and evolving, and you have to see things from very different points of view but we are not doing it because we don’t have time.”

The workshop Back to Basics was an initial activity within the project Building Resilient Journalism in the Western Balkans implemented by SEENPM in partnership with Transitions, BIRN Kosovo and SEENPM members Mediacentar Sarajevo, Montenegrin Media Institute, Albanian Media Institute, Novi Sad School of Journalism and Macedonian Institute for Media. The project is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy NED.

The two-year project will focus on the production of quality media content, including cross-border stories as well as the creation of new education, training and consultation programs for journalists and editors in the Western Balkans.