Ana Katulic from Croatia was a participant on our Writing and Reporting News course in November 2010 and on our Making TV News course in September 2011. Here is what she has to say about our courses and being a journalist:
How did you become a journalist?
Some people have an ambition to become actors or singers, successful lawyers or managers, but for me, journalism was always on the top of that list. I guess I knew this would be my future occupation since high school. I started writing for the school paper, and then was hired by a local radio station as an intern. Seven years later I'm still working there, as a chief editor of the program.
What was the best part of the course?
I’ve had a chance to participate in two of the Reuters training programs (Writing and Reporting News, and TV News Reporting). Each had a different approach. For example, Writing and Reporting News was based on us doing a lot of writing and editing of international news, which was challenging. For some of us that don’t use English on a daily basis we had a hard time putting our thoughts into sentences. Of course it’s pretty great when you find yourself at the end of the day doing big news stories and reporting “by the book”.
Our teachers, Colin McIntyre and Angus MacSwan, made sure we covered all the basics in news reporting and during the lectures we deepened our knowledge on interviews, sources, ethics etc. They also gave us some pretty good advice on what to keep in mind while reporting. For instance, I’ll never forget that blackboard saying: reporter + maths = error. That was so true! So now, every time I have numbers in my article, first thing I do is count, to make sure I have all the facts and figures right. I do the same thing with names. It’s surprising how many mistakes are made just by misspelling people’s names.
The course on TV News Reporting was focused on “telling a story from pictures” so we did a lot of field work. I’ve learnt to appreciate my cameraperson more, and came to the conclusion that camerawork is something every reporter should know. We spent a lot of time looking and commenting on some great pieces, finding out how to interest the audience, and knowing what shots to use when and why. The most valuable thing I learnt is how you don’t need a lot of talking to make a good story. The best stories are the ones where you let the pictures talk for you.
And of course there is the part of getting to know people from all over the world, exchanging thoughts and ideas. It’s great to get to know how others deal with issues like censorship or corruption, as well as other problems they face working as journalists in their countries.
The courses were truly a unique experience, and had such a huge impact on me. Now every time I face a problem in reporting I ask myself: how would Reuters deal with it? And I always get my answer.
How did the course impact your work or approach to journalism?
I’ve become more thorough, checking my names and numbers, trying to get as many sources as I can while working on a story. I’ve also become more critical judging the work of my colleagues that now make the mistakes I used to make. I realized the importance of the work and the results we give to our community when reporting. Now more than ever, I think journalists have to have an education. It’s an important and responsible job that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
What is your favorite story you've reported on thus far?
I don’t think I can pick just one out of the bag. I see every story I do as a new challenge. Since I’ve been working in the same surroundings for seven years now, it’s inevitable that some events and stories repeat. There is always a different angle you can tell a story from; you just have to set the focus right.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of political reports with the elections in Croatia coming up, and there was a follow-up story I did on the floods that occurred a year ago. It was a report on the consequences, how people cope with them and the way this disaster has changed their life. It was a challenging piece and I think we did a good job.
What story would you most like to write in the near future and why?
I realized that the stories that fascinate me are the ones with ordinary people and their destinies, especially concerning topics like poverty, education, social welfare or minority rights. There is a difference between news and storytelling, and plain news isn’t so exciting sometimes. That’s why when I’m feeling unmotivated I always glance at Bill Neely’s piece on Haiti (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmUUehMLl44 ) and say: now, that’s what I want to do. It’s always inspiring.
What are the major challenges faced by journalists in your country?
The biggest challenge is to be free from bias. There is also a lot of censorship involved, especially with the national media. But I find journalists are becoming more aware of this problem, and trying to fight it.
The bigger issue lately is a huge wave of unemployed journalists. Newsrooms are seeking less experienced journalists to lower their expenses, or hire “politically eligible” people for the job. Treating journalists like consumable goods leads to losing credibility and professionalism in producing news.
What are five words you would use to describe your country and its people?
Slow, but active, traditional, critical and very friendly.