Ms Kate Addo, the acting director of Public Affairs at Ghana’s Parliament and an alumna of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, has returned to campus to mentor the current level 300 journalism students.
For two consecutive days, Tuesday, November 3 and Wednesday, November 4, Ms Addo interacted with up to 300 hundred students as part of the Alumni Mentoring Program introduced by Peter Agbeko, the course lecturer, a GIJ alumnus.
The program is a new initiative aimed at developing and complementing GIJ students’ classroom education with practical and professional workplace experiences and career advice from mentors with first-hand appreciation of GIJ’s learning objectives.
The mentorship program promotes and supports a structured and formalized relationship between alumni and students during which alumni share their professional experiences, personal insights and also pass on career advice to the students. Student-journalists benefit from practical advice provided by top-notch professionals giving them an opportunity to not only get career advice from people who have been in their shoes but also by providing them life advice.
Both days kicked off with opening remarks by the course lecturer followed by a live tutorial during which Addo took the students through the steps involved in writing good feature articles. She noted that feature articles, also referred to as human interest stories differ from news stories in that they allow for creativity, provide a more relaxed pace and allow for greater detail, research and in-depth analysis.
Ms. Addo shared the following key points; “Stay focused – don’t bounce around between topics; be a storyteller- tell the tale you would like to read; if it doesn’t interest you, it won’t interest the reader; vary the pace – follow long sentences with short, punchy ones; use simple sentences to convey complex information.”
She focused on technique and also used the occasion to deliver some practical advice about life as a communication practitioner.
As expected, she fielded questions from students on both days.
Agbeko said the initiative also is advantageous to students because of their increased access to alumni, which can facilitate meaningful exchanges about career choices, key introductions, and job searches.
On feature writing, he said: “At the heart of all feature stories is human interest. Features differ in style, pace and structure from news stories. The writer can often have more freedom – and sometimes space – to analyse a subject.”
Columns, comment and editorials are all types of opinion writing, which also differ from news reports and have more emphasis on the views of the writer. Often the writer is an expert on their subject, or has personal experience which gives them a unique perspective. Columns can be highly personal, or may be on a specific subject.
The course lecturer added that “The five Features of Effective Writing are focus, organization, support and elaboration, style, and conventions”. He went on to explain that;
“Focus is the topic/subject established by the writer in response to the writing task; Organization is the progression, relatedness, and completeness of ideas. The writer establishes for the reader a well-organized composition, which exhibits a constancy of purpose through the development of elements forming an effective beginning, middle, and end.”
Other key writing characteristics are, “Style, the control of language that is appropriate to the purpose, audience, and context of the writing task. The writer’s style is evident through word choice and sentence fluency. Skilful use of precise, purposeful vocabulary enhances the effectiveness of the composition through the use of appropriate words, phrases and descriptions that engage the audience. Sentence fluency involves using a variety of sentence styles to establish effective relationships between and among ideas, causes, and/or statements appropriate to the task; Conventions involve correctness in sentence formation, usage, and mechanics. The writer has control of grammatical conventions that are appropriate to the writing task”.
On a final note, Addo urged the alumni to return to mentor and inspire existing students.
Thus far, three other members of the alumni, Messrs. Kobby Asmah, William Nyarko and Isaac Yeboah have interacted with the students, and we look forward to many more such engagements.