Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Leper Colony, Loilem Myanmar

Leper Colony, Loilem Myanmar

There are two priests and three sisters taking charge in Leper Colony. Fr. Victor is superintendent for Colony and Fr. Albert is working as an assistant priest. Sister Catherine is working as superior of their congregation and taking care of the people in Colony especially for health. Sr. Natalina takes the responsibility of the health of the leprosy patients. Sr. Regina is taking care of the children for their education and look after the needs of the Church.

There are three quarters for the families’ line and most of the people are working as farmers. All together, there are 90 families. Some stay in Colony and some went to Thailand for a job. Many young people go and work in opium fields because they get more money from there.

The patients are taking care by Colony. There are above eighty men and women leprosy patients. Most of them are Shan and some are Palong, Paooh, Lahu,Burmese, Leesu, Indian and Danuh. Every morning those who can work come together in front of the Clergy house and some go to get oleo-resin from pine tree in the forest nearby Colony. Some go to work in the garden and they work from 8 am to 11 am. Those who cannot work go and pray one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening for the benefactors.

As Sr. Lina taking charge of the clinic, she gives the medicine to the patients at 11 o’clock everyday. Sometimes, a doctor from Loilem comes for treatment for the leprosy patients. There are also some local donors from Namsam, Pinlon and Loilem to donate some foods and clothing to the patients.

Two students sat for matriculation and both of them pass this year. There are thirty students in secondary level in this academic year. All of them are sent by one piston engine ferry.

There are three concerts in a year, Christmas, Easter and parents’ day. Though they are far away, they came back to participate in these occasions.

The priest offers daily Mass in the Church and used to go to the handicapped once a month for confession and communion. Sometimes in danger of death the priest goes to the patient to give the last Sacrament and anointing. Sr. Catherine and a group of ladies used to go to the families for the moral awareness and social teaching once a week.

We got subsidies from ILEP-AIFO and St. Francis Guild yet it is not so sufficient for foods and medicines. There are some difficulties for the education of the Leprosy patients’ children because we did not get separate expenses for the education of the children. The parents are not able to spend the expenses for their children’s education.

So, we thank you, ILEP-AIFO for the subsidies to our Colony, Loilem and we hope to get some help from you in the future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Six years with the Sheep of Catholic Church in Myanmar

According to Catholic Directory of Myanmar (2007), the population of Catholics in Myanmar is nearly 621,706. The Catholic Church in Myanmar consists of 14 dioceses; namely-Yangon, Pathein, Pyi, Mandalay, Hakar, Myitkyina, Taunggyi, Loikaw, Taungngo, Mawlamyaing, Lasho, Pekhon, Banmaw and Kengtung. At present, there are 17 bishops, more than 677 priests, and over 2000 Religious. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) is the highest decision-making body of Catholic Church in Myanmar.

All the Catholic associations and organizations are under C.B.C.M. They are basically categorized into pastoral and laity organizations. National Catholic Youth Commission (NCYC) is one of laity organizations. The list of youth, not registered in the book yet it is at least 20 percents of the faithful of the country. Some are working, some studying, and some are jobless but they are the present factors of the time.

The most dynamic generation is the age of the youth that I ever noticed. As a youth, I wanted to be a free man in thinking, talking and acting with creative idea. In my mind, the youthfulness is the most attractive and happiest stage in the life of human.

I was with the youth for six years as a national Catholic Youth coordinator in Myanmar. It was a good chance to learn the life of the youth as a young priest. I found something in the youth that are invaluable for life. I simply like to say that I was not much involved with the youth ministry in my village, parish and the Diocese before the appointed to be the national youth coordinator in the year 2000 after three years of my priesthood. I had not very much experience about the youth in my life before. It is only after with the youth for six years, I learned something about the youth together with the youth especially in my country.

I am not a graduate. I just finished two years of Philosophy and four years of Theology in the Catholic Major Seminary after the post-tenth. I did not have idea to lead the youth with my poor ability. But I noticed that they love music and attached to technical media of the modern world. I did not teach them, but they taught me for life. I went around all dioceses in the whole of Myanmar to see what the youth were doing in their respective dioceses. I have found different skill, abilities, education, and all different situations of places and mentality of the different races and clans. However, different in something, they have the same spirit that is a hope of dynamic progress for their life as well as in the community and in the Church.

One of my friends from Thailand asked me “Is there any freedom in your country?” and I replied “Yes…… we are free to breath.” I don’t want to say that somebody is not good, and even sometimes they would be good and better than us as view of Christian love. I know that there should be no hidden thing to write the truth and to say the reality of the past and present not of the future if that harms nobody.

So, this is the view that I found in the hearts and the real situation of the youth of Myanmar. It was the collected facts of some youth and we analyzed together.

Situation Analysis (Catholic youths today in Myanmar)


Under the repressive and totalitarian military junta, Myanmar has been suffering enormously in all aspects. Since the junta seized the political power in 1988, education of young people has been undergoing setbacks resulting from political instability and manipulations. In the early and mid 1990s, academic institutes, particularly Universities were opened and closed on and off by the junta at its whim and on the pretext of protecting peace. It doubtlessly affected education of young people. The worst of all, the so-called experimental educational system its education ministry has used proves little quality. This has been planned on purpose to not educate youths but to close their eyes to what young people must see and know.

Affected by economic sanctions by the west and mismanagement of the junta itself, the overall economy of Myanmar has been stagnating and faring badly. In the wake, high inflation, high rate of unemployment and poverty and corruption come. There are many young people who are university graduates, yet jobless. It seems as if there is no future for them.

There comes the danger of drugs. Many youths resort to drugs such as heroine, marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamine. This is followed by social illnesses such as crimes, family problems, and HIV/ AIDS. Many young people are but victims of circumstances and a heavy burden on their society.

Young people are also vulnerable to evil effects of globalization such as many unhealthy media influences, technological and economic impacts, and imported culture(s) that sabotage and are against the long-standing culture of Myanmar.


Problem identification:

In many places in Catholic community in Myanmar, there are many young people inactive and uninterested in church activities and the progress of youth's movements is slow and unsatisfactory. There are some factors that cause them.

Leadership factors

  1. Failing to organize, lead, guide, motivate, and encourage young people to participate in church activities and movements
  2. Lack of understanding of the need and purpose of youth movements and lack of recognition of the fact that young people are potential leaders and members who will serve the Church and their community in the future
  3. Lack of understanding and recognition of the role that youths can and should play in church activities and apostolic movements
  4. Too little input and intake of religious and spiritual values and principles, that causes shallow faith and lack of serious attitude toward the Church
  5. Lack of good parenting and spiritual formation resulting in low or loose moral character of young people
  6. Lack of role models in the church causes lack of interest of young people in church activities
  7. Failing to organize or implement formation programs and courses for young people
  8. Type of leadership and management that denies young people a significant role in diocesan activities and decision-making

Youth factors

  1. Poverty causes young people from poor families to engage fulltime in making ends meet.
  2. It is also one of the main causes of low education and low moral character among young people.
  3. Materialism supersedes religion due to lack of spiritual formation of youths.
  4. Material aspirations cause spiritual disinterest among young people.
  5. Lack of sense of responsibility for the Church and community and lack of motivation to be active in youth movements due to lack of effective leadership and being in need of awareness and formation programs
  6. Inability to resist morally, psychologically, and spiritually destructive inputs that come through modern advances and the media resulting from weak faith and infirm formation
  7. Weak network, affiliation, and cooperation among youth organizations in the Dioceses and lack of effective leadership of youth's organizations


  • To organize and conduct awareness and formation programs for the youth
  • To conduct courses and programs that are conductive to the present days
  • To promote and encourage the existing youth movements and organizations at various levels
  • To promote and encourage new youth movements at diocesan and regional levels
  • To promote and establish youth animation, information, organization and formation teams at diocesan and regional levels

To do all these thing in the Church is not an easy task yet I still want to encourage the young people to go on with a explosive enthusiasm and to be united each other for the all round development of future life.

I want them to be ready for the rapid modernization of the system of the day in every minute. The youth must know the danger and the side-effect of a rushing life in the present time as the progress and declination are parallel. They need to take care of their spiritual life as they are like sheep in the midst of wile wolf.

Finally, I hope that there will be many different colorful flowers blooming in the garden of Myanmar Catholic Church soon. My prayer and spirit will go on with the enthusiasm of the youth of Myanmar forever.

Fr. Albert Pho Kwah.

Mechanics of Story Writing

Mechanics of Story Writing

The following is a rough checklist of activities a reporter should pursue when writing a story after returning from the reporting assignment. This is a “nuts and bolts” guide to UCAN stories. This list is worth referring to regularly to make sure you don’t forget something.

  1. WHAT’S THE STORY? After you have done your reporting and you prepare to write up the story, keep in mind the main theme or focus of the story – What’s the story? Make sure it is a theme that will make a UCA News story – a story about the Church or of interest to the Church in Asia. Write a “mission statement” for your story. It can be one, two or three sentences long. Keep it is front of you as you write. This will help you keep on track.


    - I want to tell the story of a nun who offers food and shelter to homeless women by focusing in on one or two of the women to tell of the problems they face and how the nun is helping.

    - I want to tell the story of a former street kid who is a lay Catholic and is running an NGO to help fellow street kids. I want to tell the story through the experiences of this NGO worker.

    - I want to tell the story of small lay prayer groups who are trying to encourage Catholics to pray more often. But I want to show that their mission is not always easy as they face resistance from some disenchanted Catholics.

  1. PLAN THE STORY Sketch a brief outline of the story before you begin to write. The idea is to briefly indicate what your Lead will be, what you will put into your Nut Para, how you will lay out the Main Body of the story, and then what you think might work well as an Ending.


    LEAD – Nun welcomes woman, Imelda, who has been beaten by her husband who turns up at her center. Show the drama of woman turning up bruised on the nun’s doorstep.

    NUT PARA – Beaten woman is just one of the 50 women who have been taken in by Sister Mary at her center on the western outskirts of the city. Her center has run out of beds. Domestic violence is rife in the city.

    MAIN BODY – Imelda, the new arrival, tells of her reason from fleeing from her home. Two other women tell their stories. Sister Mary explains the history of the center and why this is her mission. Nun makes reference to Imelda and how her case is typical. Local priest talks about violence in households. Women’s NGO worker talks about the type of households that experience violence. Why Imelda’s experience is common.

    ENDING – Imelda sits eating a meal with the other women at the center. She says she is grateful for the help. But she wants to go home. She says she will give her husband “another chance.”

  1. VOICES Try to make sure you have at least three people quoted in your story. This is the minimum for any story. On the other hand, you don’t need to include 20 people’s views. You may have talked to 20 people but if you include all those names and quotes in the story it will be hard for the reader to follow.


    - If you were writing a story on a Catholic-run shelter for street kids, you might want to include comments from (a) two or three street kids, (b) the nun that runs the center, (c) the Catholic commission that is responsible for youth affairs.

    - If you were writing a story about a Catholic media training seminar, you might want to include comments from (a) two of the speakers, (b) the organizer, and (c) two or three participants.

    - If you are writing about a conflict story about a priest who is helping Catholic hill tribe people who have been kicked off their land by the forestry department, you might want to include comments from (a) the priest, (b) two or three hill tribe people, (c) the forestry department (important), and (d) an NGO that helps tribal people.

    Continued …

  1. TELL A STORY Imagine you are an oral storyteller. As you write the story, make sure it is easy to understand and that it “flows.” Try reading the story aloud, to make sure it reads well and makes sense. Offer the reader a “good read.” Use transitions – those words, phrases or sentences that encourage the reader to read on – as in the following examples.


    - It wasn’t always like this. Bill used to be athletic when he was young…

    - The neighborhood had been tense for weeks. Local Catholics claimed the trouble started…

    - The nuns have not lost hope. Sister Mary said…

    - Cleanliness is a problem. The street kids need a good bath before they can sleep under clean sheets…

    - This was not the only challenge the reporter faced. He had to write up the story in one hour…

  1. ATTRIBUTION Make clear in the story where you got the information. If a person talked directly to you, say “told UCA News.” If the information came from a newspaper, say so. If it came from a particular organization, name the organization. Always state your sources. Even if a person wishes to remain anonymous, you still have to indicate what type of source the person represents - a government source, a social worker, a member of a rebel group, etc.


    “The priest knows who the culprits are,” said Father Anthony.

    The bishop told the parishioners…

    Sister Mary told UCA News that…

    According to a government official

    A social worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, said…

    According to a Sept. 2 story in The Nation newspaper

    A recent TV news report claimed…

  1. THE FIVE W’S AND AN H Make sure to include the basic nuts and bolts of the story – WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW. These are the questions a reporter uses to get the basic facts of the story.


    WHO – Sister Ann runs the soup kitchen.

    WHAT – A rally was held to protest against the anti-conversion bill.

    WHERE – The angry protesters converged on the Shah Minar monument in the center of the city.

    WHY – The woman was protesting because her son had been killed in Iraq.

    HOW – The villagers built the church from the ground up, digging the foundations, erecting the walls and roof.

  1. FACTS, FIGURES, NAMES, DATELINE Make sure to check the details of your story so that the facts, figures, names and dateline (where the story was reported from) are correct. Check the spelling. Include a reference as to how many kilometers and in which direction the place is in relation to the capital.


    Spelling – Ulaanbaatar (not Ulanbatar)

    Spelling – Kathmandu (not Katmandu)

    Spelling – Father Augusty Pulickal (not Pullikal)

    Distance – Dharan, 240 kilometers east of Kathmandu.

    Dateline – You reported the story from Negombo, so your dateline would be NEGOMBO.

    Dateline – You reported your story in Dili, so your dateline would be DILI.

    Continued …

  1. REWRITING YOUR OWN STORY When you have written the story, go back over it and edit your own work. Try to take a fresh look at it to see how you can trim and improve it.


    The nun said the culprits ran away quickly. Try - The nun said the culprits ran away. Cut “quickly.”

    He smiled happily and ate the food heartily. Try - He smiled and quickly ate the food. Cut “happily” and “heartily.”

    The boy put some strong effort into disciplining the noisy, barking canine. Try - The boy hit the barking dog.

  1. DEAL PROMPTLY WITH EDITORS' QUERIES Try to respond quickly to editors’ questions in order for your story to be published quickly. If getting the extra material requested is going to take some time, let the editor know. Remember that editors can help improve your story. Reporters and editors should ideally work as a team.

The story is now finished!



Writing news stories

There are different ways of structuring a story. Here in our Basic Reporting Program we will show you two simple approaches – the news story and the feature story – that are worth mastering before you move on to the slightly more complicated methods that we will demonstrate in a set of Good Storytelling modules.

In this module, we look at writing a simple news story using the well-known Inverted Pyramid structure.

This is the type of story you will commonly see in newspapers. It begins with the most important information and tapers off to the least important – hence the upside-down pyramid shape. This type of story structure has been the mainstay of newspapers for over 100 years. In the new media of the Internet, the Inverted Pyramid still plays an important role. It offers readers the most important information at the top and if the reader is in a hurry or is not

This type of story has its uses. It can work well for fairly simple pieces of news – a wedding, a funeral, an accident. Although there are better storytelling methods, this type of story is worth mastering.

Draft a plan

If you have followed the advice in the Preparing to write module, you will have organized your interview notes, research and background material. You will also have a fairly clear idea of What’s the story – the main theme and thrust of the story. Now is the point at which you draft a plan for how you are going to lay out the story.

The plan is an outline of the story. Resist the temptation to begin writing until you have sketched this outline. You would not build a house without putting in the foundations and supporting pillars.

When writing a news story there is a template you can use.


Try to make this list clear and simple. This is the list or template you can use to write the story.

For example:

LEAD – Protest march over poor wages for women workers

SUPPORTING QUOTE – Woman activist speaks out

CONTEXT – NGO rallies women workers to improve their conditions. Poor pay. Women lose their jobs if they have to take off time to have baby. Harassment in the workplace.

FURTHER QUOTES – Protestors speak, government official speaks

EXPLANATION OR BACKGROUND – number of women in work force, problems about women’s status in the past. Comparison of wages of women and men

Write the story

Use the template to write the story. What you will be doing is filling in the information, step by step. If you have drafted your template correctly, the story will flow. But don’t worry if you have to move some material around. Most reporters find their template is never 100 percent correct.

One draft or several?

There are different ideas on whether you should aim to write one main draft of your story or several drafts. Some reporters methodically write the story from beginning to end, referring to their notes and adding in the right quotes and statistics as they go. Others write a quick draft and then come back and add in the quotes and materials in the second draft. Some write draft after draft after draft.

The answer is to aim to write one draft, or at least try to avoid endlessly rewriting. Many reporters get caught up in spending too much time rewriting.


When you put a piece of information in your story, you have to convey to the reader where the information came from. If you talked to somebody and they gave you some information, then you can put, “told UCA News.” If the person you are quoting spoke to a press conference, then you put, “told the press conference.” If the information came from the media, such as a the Daily News newspaper, then you put, “according to a report in the Daily News.” Always state the sources of your information. Reporting should be based on information you have gained from talking to people, e-mailing them, people speaking in public, published material and so on.

Facts, figures, names, dateline

Make sure to check your basic facts, figures, spelling of names and designations, and that the dateline (where you reported it from) are correct. If you make mistakes in the spelling of names and people’s positions it can upset people and lead to mistrust of the story.

Is your story too long?

Writing to length, as it is called, is one of the hardest parts of writing news and feature stories. So often a reporter who is asked to write 60 lines ends up writing a 100 lines. One of the skills of learning to write well is learning to write to length and to encapsulate your story in a short, tight story.

Edit the story

After you have written or drafted your story, you should aim to approach it again with the eye of an editor or somebody reading the story for the first time. Make sure the story is clear and logical, that the questions that arise in the story are answered and that it includes the answers to the 5 Ws and one H – who, what, where, when, why and how. After you have made sure it includes all the information necessary for the telling of the story, try to edit out unnecessary words, phrases and sentences. Try to avoid repetition. Make sure sentences are not too long. Print out the story and give it a final check and polish.

File your story

Once you have checked the story, send it in by e-mail and be ready to answer any questions that may arise from editors. Even the world’s best reporters are involved with a dialogue with their editor in which questions may arise or suggestions may be made for changes. This is normal professional practice. Try to respond quickly to the editor’s request so that the story can be published quickly.



Reporting checklist

The following is a checklist of the main activities a reporter should pursue when reporting, before returning to write up the story. Many of these items may be obvious but it may be worth referring to this list regularly in order to make sure you have not forgotten anything.

  1. WHAT’S THE STORY? Before you go out to report, write down for yourself a one-sentence declaration about what the story will be about, that will include your theme or the story “angle.” Always keep in mind “What’s the story,” even if you have to rework or change the main theme as you report.
  2. WORK OUT A STRATEGY Before you go out to report or pick up the telephone, work out a strategy and try to set yourself a time limit for reporting the story. List the research you need to do, the people you need to interview, and the tasks you need to perform. Plan to report within a reasonable period of time.
  3. COLLECT INFORMATION Reporting involves the collecting of information from a variety of sources – direct from the main players in the story, from secondary sources, from so-called experts, from the Internet and from various organizations concerned with the story, among other sources. Keep this material organized as you collect it.
  4. RESEARCH CAREFULLY Be careful with your research, especially when using the Internet as you cannot be sure how reliable the information is. Try to be systematic and organized when you research.
  5. GO TO THE SCENE One thing that will usually makes your story stand out is reporting from the scene of the event, action or meeting. Try to go to the scene and try to convey a picture of what is happening and what the key players are saying.
  6. CONDUCT INTERVIEWS Try to talk directly with the key players in your story. Key players are first-hand sources, people directly involved in the event or action. Take care with making notes or recording the interview. You want to make sure you quote the people accurately. Make sure you find out exactly who these people are and who they represent. Get their names spelt correctly.
  7. USE SECONDARY SOURCES Apart from interviewing first-hand sources, aim to interview secondary sources, people not directly involved in the action or event but who are in a position to comment. Again, take care with quoting these people.
  8. GET THE FACTS, CITE THE SOURCES Try to be accurate, focusing on the facts, and make sure you note and cite the sources of the information.
  9. BEWARE OF LOCAL DIFFICULTIES Don’t take unnecessary risks. Bear in mind the limitations to reporting events and issues in your country. In some countries, the press is relatively free. In others, it is not. Take care.
  10. STAY ORGANIZED Try to keep your research material and notes organized, as well as your list of sources and your story strategy or plan. Spending 10 minutes getting organized every day can save you hours of time. A messy desk, for example, can indicate muddled thinking.




In simple terms, an interview is a conversation between two people. A quick "chat" with a member of the congregation after Mass may elicit some of the quotes you are looking for to convey how at least one layperson felt about the event. That layperson may not even realize he or she is being interviewed, given the casual nature of the way the questions are asked.

At the other extreme is the formal interview with an "important" person - an archbishop, government minister, guerrilla leader - with ground rules which may have to be agreed beforehand, such as in some cases submitting a list of the questions to be asked before the interview.


In both cases, though, interviews are usually conversations between two people. And what really pays off it to have an enthusiastic sense of curiosity. Being interested in people, interested in their lives, in what makes them tick, can be invaluable when interviewing. Such curiosity will help you convey more than merely a superficial depiction of the subject you are discussing and the person, the interviewee.

For example, you may be interviewing a female social worker about a program at a children's home she set up. Although the program may be the focus of your story, your interest in the social worker may lead you to ask why she started the home in the first place and how she struggled through funding difficulties to make it successful. It is in this questioning that you might find out that the social worker was herself brought up in an orphanage, and that it wasn't just funding problems but also resistance from local people to the setting up of the home that she faced.

So, although your finished story will focus on the social worker's latest program, you may be able to include elements and description of the personal struggle the social worker has faced in life and in starting and running the home. Focusing just on the program, without the more personal questions, might result in a dull story. Adding "spice" from the life and struggle of the social worker - herself an orphan - may really help in writing an interesting story.


Although an interview can be considered a simple conversation, this does not mean you should write just chit-chat, simple comments and pleasantries. You need to go deeper than noting down easy comments such as – “I liked the meeting.” Why did the person like the meeting? How did it help the person? What will the person do as a result of having come to the meeting?

On the one hand, you don’t want to give the impression you are “interogating” your interviewee. On the other hand, you want to find out what the person is doing and why.

THE KEY POINTS Keep in mind those important questions – the 5 Ws and an H - that need to be answered in any story – who, what, where, when, why and how. These questions need to be answered in the interview.

For example, take the following interview with a Catholic priest who is running a soup kitchen in Uzbekistan. The following might be the sort of questions you would want to ask:

- who is helping fund your social program?

- what meals do you provide?

- where do the people come from?

- when during the week do you offer the meals?

- why did you start the program?

- how do you offer the meals?

This is just a simple example to illustrate the need to make sure the key questions are asked. Obviously, every W could be asked in a number of ways such as:

- who is helping fund your social program?

- who do you help?

- who helps you run the soup kitchen?

- who thought of the idea?

- etc.

Of course, in the interview you may not need to ask certain questions as you may already have the answers. For example, you may already know that the soup kitchen is run every Tuesday lunchtime and that the idea came from the priest. So your questions should try to delve deeper, to look at the underlying reasons and causes, to try to paint a more comprehensive picture of the soup kitchen and why it is needed.

TYPES OF INTERVIEWS Interviews can be carried out in several ways:

1. Face-to-face - the arranged or official interview

2. Face-to-face – the casual interview

3. Telephone interview

4. E-mail or fax interview

There is a basic formula or set of "rules" for face-to-face interviews that will help you get the best out of your interview. This set of rules is by no means inclusive – there may be other important points to remember – but it does offer a useful working guide. These rules concern preparation, the conducting of the interview, and what you do after the interview, and can be presented briefly as follows:

1. BE PREPARED - Make sure you know enough about the interviewee and/or subject before you ask questions. Ideally, you should know the basic facts about the person or subject so that you can ask the right questions. Make sure you have done enough research so that you can have a "good conversation" - in essence what interviews should be - with the person you are interviewing. If you can, try to make a list of questions beforehand to ask.

2. DON'T BE LATE! - It is always worthwhile making sure you arrive at an interview early. Firstly, you will not be late, which could give a bad impression and sour the mood of the interviewee. Secondly, it will give you the opportunity to observe things, possibly helping you obtain a more rounded picture of the interviewee by observing the personal effects and pictures in his or her office or home through which you can gain a sense of the living environment of the person.

3. GET THE RULES OF THE INTERVIEW STRAIGHT - Before you start the interview, make sure the interviewee understands that the interview is "on the record," and that the comments will be used by UCA News under his or her name. There may, however, be exceptions to this rule in countries and circumstances where the reporter cannot reveal his or her identity as a UCAN reporter. If the subject requests anonymity, respect it. Make sure you don't unwittingly give away the person's identity. For example: "the local parish priest, who requested not to be named" may give away the person's identity if there is only one priest in the parish.

4. NOTES OR TAPE? - The answer to the question of how to record your interview is not a simple one. It is good to develop skill in notetaking or shorthand and to use this to record the interview. But there are also times when it is preferable to use a tape recorder to accurately record the interview. Make sure to label and date your notes and tapes to avoid confusion and delay later trying to find certain quotes or material.

In some cases, you may not be able to use a notebook or a tape recorder. You may find you have to use your memory. This may be necessary in countries or in cases where you do not want to make it obvious that you are a reporter. One tip to bear in mind is to go to the toilet often (that is if there is a toilet!). Once you get into the toliet, jot down quick notes that will help you remember the quotes or conversations when you get home. Or find somewhere else where you are out of sight and can quickly make notes. Try to be relaxed about it.

5. BE OBSERVANT - Interviews can be as much about what you see as what you hear. Make sure you take in as much as you can about the interviewee's behavior and gestures during the interview as well as the place of work, home or the site of the interview. This may help to add color to your story, and may give you extra insight into the life of your subject.

6. DON'T RUSH YOUR INTERVIEWEE - Let the person speak. There are times when you may have to be "hard" on your interviewee - pushing the person to answer a question he has been evading. But most of the time, the interviewee – not the interviewer - should be the one who is talking.

7. SILENCE IS GOLDEN - Following on from the point above, keep quiet. For example, you might ask a question, yet not receive an adequate reply. Allow a pause, keep quiet, and your interviewee may feel compelled to continue, trying to explain more, and possibly offering the reply you were looking for.

8. INTERUPT IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND - If you don't understand something that was said, ask for an explanation. There is no problem in asking your interviewee to explain something. Or put what the person said into your own words and ask whether this would be the correct way to explain the point to your readers. This is better than ending up with an answer that doesn't make sense or can't be adequately explained to the editors. One way to try to mask your own ignorance about a subject is to ask the interviewee – “For our readers, how would you describe that to a reader who has no understanding of the subject?”

9. ENGAGE YOUR SUBJECT - Look the person in the eye. Show you are interested. Don't keep your nose in your notebook. Body language can mean a lot in an interview. It is interesting to watch a couple of people talking together. Their body language can indicate whether the people are friends, are in agreement with each other, or are angry or disturbed. Act naturally, but be aware that your physical posture and actions - scribbling with your head stuck in your notebook or fiddling with your tape recorder - send signals.

10. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE? - It is always worth asking an interviewee at the end of the interview if there is anything the person would like to add. You might be surprised. There may be a burning issue, not brought up in the interview, that the person wants to talk about. That final answer or conversation may provide you with valuable material for your story or Q&A interview.

11. LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN FOR QUERIES - It can be helpful to add at the end of the interview a request to be able to get back to the interviewee if there are any further queries or maybe to follow up with an interview in the future. This is one of the reasons why it is best to ask an easy or "friendly" open question at the end of the interview, even if you had to "grill" the interviewee with some tough questions. Try to finish off in a friendly manner.

12. REVIEW YOUR NOTES AND WRITE UP THE INTERVIEW QUICKLY - Just because you have finished the interview doesn't mean it is time to relax. Try to make sure you review and clarify your notes, marking the key answers. Then try to write up the interview or story as soon as you can while the event is still fresh in your mind. It is amazing how quickly you can forget important points or gestures in an interview, especially if you have been busy interviewing a number of people.

13. KEEP YOUR NOTES AND TAPES SAFE - File your notes and/or recording tapes so that you can refer back to them but also in case there is any dispute over what was said after the story is published.

Next: Reporting checklist



Get close to the action

If there is a motto that reporters should apply as often as possible to reporting it is this -- get close to the action. As a reporter it is important to go to the scene to be able to report the real events as they unfold or at least talk to people at the scene after the event.

Many reporters do just that. If a demonstration takes place, they go there and talk to participants. If a bomb explodes in a public place, they go to the scene to interview witnesses.

BEING ON THE SPOT Getting up close and personal matters. Stories gain measurably from reporters being on the spot. Quite often what you see can provide the action or description for the “lead” or beginning of your story. Some of the best stories come from reporters who were at the event and were able to convey the story through description, action and quotes. (EXAMPLE)

SEE FOR YOURSELF Being at the scene can help in verifying the authenticity of an event. How reliable and how detailed can secondary sources be? Secondary sources are usually people not directly involved in the event or action. There are times when these people have their own agenda, they have a bias, and unless you are actually able to go to see for yourself, their views can give the wrong impression of events. This happens in international media reports more often than you might expect. Shoddy reporting results in misleading stories. Sometimes reporters can be plain wrong.

DON'T RELY ON THE PRESS Take a story of an event you have read in newspaper. Often going to the scene of the event will change your initial approach to the story. Many stories "evolve" out of on-the-ground contact with the people and the subject. What you find may be different from what has been published in the newspaper. Much of the best groundbreaking journalism comes from journalists who don't follow the "pack.” Avoid the “herd instinct.”

KEEP AN OPEN MIND Not that visiting the scene will guarantee you get the story right. Think before you rush out the door and think while you are reporting. This may sound obvious. But there is a danger that some reporters, in the rush to get the story, might fail to open their minds to what they are reporting. Pay attention to your preparation for the story. Even if it is rushed, try to make sure you have done some research and understand the background to the events that might unfold before you. Draft a list of questions to ask at the scene, even if you end up modifying those questions due to the real-life circumstances you encounter. Ask yourself what the story is really about. Delve deep. But also stand back and ask yourself what it all means. Keep an open mind.

KEY PLAYERS Even if you miss the event or incident, try to get as near to the action or as high up the ladder, in terms of talking to key players, as possible. Take the example of a social worker injured in a demonstration. You may have missed the protest but you could go to the hospital where the injured person, in this case a woman, is recuperating to try to talk to her. Ideally, it is better to talk directly with her than with the nurse who is looking after her or her family waiting outside with flowers. Their comments may be valuable but they are secondary sources. The woman with the bandage on her head is the person to talk to.

COLOR On-the-spot description can bring the story alive. You will have the opportunity to include in your story what you see and hear when you go to the scene. There is the opportunity to include description to make the story more interesting to read, though try not to clutter your News Report with adjectives and adverbs – those colorful, descriptive words (see use of color in a later Reporting module). (EXAMPLE)

SHOW, DON'T TELL Description obtained from being at the scene matters if you are to follow the story writers' directive "show, don't tell" when writing the story. This is where you take your first-hand observations and use the description to illustrate an issue or point in the story. (EXAMPLE)

CAUTION On-the-spot description may indeed bring the story alive. But you need to be alive to tell the story. Don’t put your life at risk. Bear in mind the local sensitivities in reporting a story in your country. In some countries in Asia , danger to life and limb is greater than in others.

By calling on you not to put your life at risk, we are aware that some reporters do take risks. But sensible and experienced reporters take “calculated risks,” stepping into dangerous situations that they know they can get out of. There is a fine line between care and folly.

THAT EXTRA KILOMETER Naturally, reporters have to be practical. It may not be possible to cross the country to visit the scene of an event or incident. Time or expense may prevent it. It may be impossible to meet directly with the main players. For example, how easy is it to just drop in on your country’s prime minister and ask him directly about a burning issue. The political situation in the country may pose serious censorship challenges, preventing the reporter from covering issues that are too "politically sensitive." But try as much as the local situation allows to get as high up the ladder as possible and as close to the issue as you can. You may find it worthwhile going that extra mile (or kilometer!).

WITNESSES Often the real story can be found in the lives of those directly affected by the words and actions of people in power. People at the scene of an incident or development may provide telling first-hand accounts. You may not be able to talk directly to the person who issued the directive, who made the speech, or pulled the trigger. But you could talk to the people who have been affected by the action - the people helped, the people evicted, those who witnessed the event, or the man lying in a hospital bed in agony from a bullet wound.

Finally, bear in mind the spin-off benefit for the reporter of visiting the scene. Apart from being able to provide more insight into the story, it can be personally satisfying. If you get close to the action, you may find yourself a witness to history in the making.



Your safety comes first when reporting. CLICK HERE to read about the frame of mind you should have when reporting in potentially dangerous situations.



Take an account UCAN ran telling of the appalling conditions faced in Gujarat, India by Muslims who had fled communal violence to the safety of a camp. In relatively few words, that "frontline" account conveyed the horror of people living in fear. The story says “twenty-six children have been born in unhygienic conditions in the camp,” mentions the visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the camp, and notes that while the premier spoke about friendship, a Muslim woman Ameena Begum was suffering labor pains just meters away. As soon as the premier left, Begum prematurely gave birth to a boy whom she named Aman (peace).

If the reporter had not visited the camp, he would have been unable to describe that incident or effectively convey the feeling of fear in the camp.


Let's suppose the army had evicted farmers from their village, claiming they had encroached on a national forest (this is a fictional example of a real reporting experience in Asia). Obviously the story can be brought to life by actually visiting the village and interviewing the villagers camped out nearby. These people may be able to tell in their own words who evicted them and why, and describe the action. All this is grist for a potentially compelling Feature story.

The story might begin as follows: It was midday when they burned down Lungka village. Fifty armed men walked casually from house to house, torching the tinder-dry buildings. "They didn't say anything, they just set the houses on fire while most of the people were in the fields," said a local member of the Banhu tribe, standing amongst the weeds that now grow where his family home once stood. Eighty houses, as well as crops, were destroyed in the raid on the village, leaving over 100 people homeless.

Why this works as the lead to a Feature story is because the reporter was actually there, talking to a member of the tribe amidst the wreckage of the person's village.


Getting close to the action can be seen in the few words in a Feature story we ran on a slum in Japan, words "showing" homeless men rising in the morning to line up at an employment bureau, helped convey the despair felt by those living on the margins of Japanese society. The story was about the slum of Kamagasaki, the "other face" of Japan that many local people wish did not exist. The neglected area is a blot on the image of Japan as a modern, developed society.

The story included the following description: Before dawn, hundreds of disheveled men rise from under cardboard or newspaper coverings on the garbage-strewn, urine-stained sidewalks to line up at employment bureaus in the hope of obtaining a day's work.

Few words. But it conjures up an image in the reader's mind of the face of Japan that few see.



(SUB-HEAD) Go to the scene but be careful


Get the story! Get up close! Talk to the key players! Reporting is all about getting close to the “action.” But you have to survive to tell the tale. Reporters ought to be treated as objective observers offering a service to society. Sadly, some are injured or killed pursuing their profession.

Reporters should develop a sense of survival. In most reporting situations you will not need to use it. But for those who do get caught in threatening situations – a demonstration that gets out of hand, armed conflict, or a potential hostage-taking scenario – you need to know how to react.

This comes down in large measure to commonsense. Some responses are obvious. If a demonstration turns violent, you should try to back out calmly. If somebody starts shooting, you should take cover. Don’t take any unnecessary risks. Obvious? Yes. Commonsense should be your guide rather than any desire to be seen as a hero (or heroine). Pride and ego should be put aside. Your job is to report and then return to write up the story. Try to stay calm and get out of danger. You don’t want to be the one who is featured on the front page of the newspaper the next day.

All this might seem a little simple -- easier said than done. In a later module, we will take a careful look at safety.

For now the matter can best be summed up by maintaining the “correct frame of mind.” Try to remain calm while reporting. Don’t be intimidated by angry or aggressive people. If people do threaten you, try to talk to them. You are there to report and maybe they have a message they want to convey. This may not be easy, but holding a conversation may give you some leverage. If you do get caught in a dangerous situation, don’t prolong the excitement. Try to get out.

Be cautious and careful. Live to tell the tale. That’s the bottom line.