Of Intwasa Arts Reporting Masterclass

The 18th edition of the Intwasa Arts Festival ran from the 28th to the 30th December in Bulawayo. I attended a workshop on Arts Reporting Masterclass for Bloggers and Reporters facilitated by Robert Mukondiwa and Busani Bafana.

The backdrop of the workshop comes from a need to address the disconnect between arts journalism and the creatives sector. When I attended the Creative Hustle Seminar on theatre, Raisedon Baya who was one of the panelists talked about how journalists who covered theatre seemed to not have appreciation for the arts. This sentiment was echoed by other panelists on how someone would not know the difference between an act and a play, then getting newspaper reviews from someone who might have not have even attended a play’s theatre run.

During the opening remarks of the workshop Raisedon reiterated the need of such initiatives and gave an example of how he had gotten a call from a local journalist at leading media house who had asked the following questions:

Why they started Intwasa
•What they hoped achieve through Intwasa
•The venues for the events for Intwasa

Upon first glance they seem like logical questions anyone would ask about an event – Were it the first time you were hearing about it. This was the 18th edition of Intwasa since its inception in 2005 making it easily one of the longest running arts festival in the country.

Now, if you were the director of such a festival and a journalist asked you these questions – questions which have likely been asked many times over, questions whose answers can be found if one simply looked up the official Intwasa website, questions an ordinary person with a remote interest in the arts industry in Bulawayo would be able to answer – and these are questions coming from a journalist – a member of the esteemed 4th estate.

Arts Journalism Masterclass

Robert Mukondiwa, an author, journalist and a media anthropologist was one of the facilitators.

Robert touched on how in some media institutions The Arts Desk was considered low hanging fruit, usually delegated to the junior members of the staff while the more seasoned journalists tackled the more demanding stories. Its easy for the sentiment to trickle down to the journalists who then simply churn out an article to meet the print deadline than that they had a passion to delve into a finer understanding of the creativity behind a project.

Emotion

While emotion can be a great inspiration, don’t simply write from a place of emotion, for example, anger. This it makes difficult for your reader to tell the difference between your emotion and your common sense.

Robert gave the example of how some his early writing had been fueled by anger which overshadowed the point he was trying to make and it took for this pointed out to him by someone whose opinion he valued to reign in the emotion.

This does mean that you stop being angry or disavow your feelings but to keep them in perspective to the point you are making.

What drives you?

There is no right answer to what drives you but you need to keep this in check. It gives perspective to your writing and allows you to contextualise it –

•Anger
•Love
•Hate

Where do you write from?

Write from a place of knowledge.

-when you understand a subject and can authoritatively inform others on its various nuances.

Write from a place seeking knowledge

-you may need to admit that you don’t understand a subject or know it as well as you should. Learn more about it, be more informed and educate others as well.

Knowledge

Be hungry to learn.

Interact with different things, see how others are doing it, what makes them stand out. You cant write well if you don’t read.

Immerse yourself in new experiences.

Don’t just be an armchair critic, try writing a book or the script of play, try acting in a play for a full appreciation of the work that goes into the creativity.

Learn the lingo, seek out the meaning of the words and phrases used. A writer should have an appreciation for language that is how you distinguish yourself.

When you run into something new, learn more about it; Google it, search in a dictionary.

As a writer, you are a cultural tutor and you should be sharing the knowledge that you have. If you don’t fully understand or know something, ASK. Be brave enough to ask even the stupid questions. 

“Sometimes the right answers come from the right questions”

-Break the rules, but break them from a place of knowledge and not out of ignorance.

Who do you write for?

Evaluate who it is you are writing for:

Write for yourself

-while its important to write first and foremost for yourself; always keep in mind WHO you are writing for.

Why do you write?

Ask yourself why are you writing something.

Which can lead to a discussion on the Ethics of reporting. Busani Bafana shared on Ethics in journalism.

Ethics

It boils down to 3 key elements:

  1. What we say
    2. How we say it
    3.Why we say it

–It could be to shape or influence opinion, to inform others, maybe to entertain or educate.

Do you write because there is a paycheck at the end?

Learn from the right source

-A wine connoisseur is able to distinguish the bad wine from good wine because they know what good wine is supposed to be like. Conversely how will one effectively critique what is bad when one does not have proper a benchmark.

Balance

-when working on your criticism, give people their voice or a chance to respond.

Don’t just criticize for the sake of criticism, it doesn’t have to be about pointing out the negative, find the positive too.

Context matters
A narrative can be interpreted differently depending on the context surrounding it. What is the context of what you are saying or writing about, does it convey the right message? Know what to include and what to leave out. Some rush to include sensational details which are not relevant to the context of the story.

Fact Check

Know your stuff.
Check and recheck, make sure.


11 Comments

  1. I was always taught that Context was King. Even blogging, I try to keep that in mind (and of course, deliberating twist things when I think it would make everything funnier 😉 )

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  2. This is powerful stuff , thank you greatly to Becoming theMuse , Intwasa Director Baya , Mukondiwa and Bafana . Wonderful messages there.

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  3. It’s a shame that stories concerning the arts aren’t taken seriously! The arts make life far more interesting, and I’d even say worth living. To me those are incredible benefits, and deserving of serious attention from journalists. No matter what they’re writing about, though, you’d think that journalists would want to learn about their subject matter, so that they could do a better job.

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  4. These are great lessons for all writers. I’m glad you added “fact check” because I feel like some writers forget to do that. If you’re writing about a certain topic, your reader expects you to know about it.

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  5. Yoh wowww great and helpful pointers for all creatives. Be hungry for knowledge. When I started blogging, there were topics that I left out and never write about because I had no ‘knowledge’ about the. As of now, I write about almost anything, research is indeed key.

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