The calm but firm and authoritative voice of my Managing Editor, Elvis Kwashie rang through my ears and woke me from my two-week leave.
“Erastus why are you not at the training?” I was surprised, but excited at the sound of the official communication that I was part of a training programme for multimedia correspondents in Accra.
It became clear that as adhoc as our job is (where your sleep could be interrupted at any time) many of my colleagues received similar invitations.
In all, seven correspondents of the Multimedia Group across the country made it to the two week intensive media development programme facilitated by experts from the Deutsche Welle Radio Akademie in Germany.
I had known my colleagues through their reports on Joy FM but could not attach faces to the voices I heard.
“Reporting for Joy News Rafiq Sallam Waaa”, You know whose signature it is from the Upper West, Mawuli Yevu-Agbi, who doesn’t joke with his name, reporting from the home of favorite delicacies like “abobitadzi” Volta Region, the shortest reporter in Multimedia, Albert Sore from the Upper East, the all-embracing, Martina Bugre Northern Region, the Fisherman without a net, Richard Kojo Nyarko from the Central Region and the “Cheesy” Nana Adwoa Enstuah from the Western region.
There they were, in one conference room, all smiles beaming with expectations of learning more about news writing, how to pitch their stories well to attract the attention of editors like, Araba Coomson, Dzifa Bampoh and Almighty Elvis.
That’s actually how the DW Training started, with expectations from the participants.
Wait, I forgot to introduce the two fantastic trainers from Deustch Welle, Germany.
There was the more reserved, Mathias Bollinger and the expressive Chris Kilanowski.
Each day started with breakfast, baked beans, hotdogs, assorted fried eggs, vegetables, fruits, the one they call (rice water) and sometimes a variety of other foods to choose from.
There was this argument that the food time-interval was too close and participants were being overfed.
But whenever there was a break the German Chris and Richard Kojo Nyarko will say, “It’s a long time we ate.”
The training was very practical and we were allowed to freely critique others' work. As fierce as the criticisms were colleagues took them well.
One interesting moment. The task was to conduct interviews in a given community and identify the mother of an abandoned baby. Two groups were set up to conduct individual interviews. We had been schooled on types of interview questions, closed and open.
My briefing indicated my interviewee was a sex worker but the counter briefing to Matina Bugre (who played the sex worker) was “deny and remain secretive if he’s not good with his interactions”. In my mind, the mother of the abandoned baby must have been a sex worker. So my first question was, “Are you a sex worker?” It instantly put her off.
“No I'm not! She said curtly. The rest of my questions received "no idea" as answers; I failed. Miserably!
Two days to the end of the training, we went out for dinner. Nana Adwoa Entsuah and Chris Kilanowski chose an Italian restaurant, La Piazza and we all followed them.
When food was served, people’s faces changed.
Rafiq said his food looked like “Mpotompoto” (a local paste-like food prepared with cocoyam or yam). Albert queried, ”why should my food prick my hand even before I eat it”. Richard said the meat didn’t taste like the chicken he ordered but Nana Adwoa said her lobster dish was “cheesy”. Mawuli had to change his entire dish. I guess we were foreign, but the menu was local.
We had physical voice training sessions. There were also times in between sessions where we played "grannies and samurai games".
Lessons on feature writing started with a video of a small elephant walking happily and dancing around until it fell into a pit. Then it struggled out.
Lesson learnt; features must have characters (main and sub); their challenges and how they are linked to each other, play a major role in the development of the feature.
We made some wonderful features; Erastus (beach hygiene-James Town Sempe Beach), Mawuli (same topic-Chorkor), Nana Adwoa (relevance of counseling in the sustenance of marriage), Martina (plight of a street porter in Accra), Rafiq (footbridges in Accra), Richard (illegal fishing methods) and Albert (migration, story of people who migrate from their places of birth to other parts of the country).
In all, the certificates, presented to us by Elvis Kwashie, were beautiful but what we took with us, I guess will show in our reportage in the coming days and months.