Experienced reporters shed light on the obstacles that journalists face when working in foreign terrain with students at a panel held on yesterday.
The event coordinated by the CSUN chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), took place at an Oviatt Library lecture hall, where aspiring journalism students filled the room.
The panel and discussion titled “Covering Greatness,” focused on the life and death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. It also encompassed the struggles that journalists endure while working abroad.
Ann Simmons, a video journalist at the Los Angeles Times, talked about how many in South Africa viewed Mandela.
“He was revered and treasured, but he was also criticized a lot for not doing much,” Simmons said
Other panelists included Darlene Donloe, one of Mandela’s former publicists, and Bob Butler, NABJ president and a KCBS radio reporter.
Butler, who covered Mandela’s funeral, stated he simply “happened to be at the right place, at the right time,” due to a coincidental family trip he had taken to Johannesburg. Butler said that a journalist must always be prepared for those situations.
The three journalists agreed that being abroad was a challenge, mainly because they didn’t speak the language. “It’s hard enough to be American and travel, now try being a journalist,” Butler said.
Several students expressed their concerns about the future possibility of being a foreign correspondent, while the panelists quickly eased their doubts.
All panelists agreed that while being in other places, you had to be respectful when visiting another country. “(It’s) like how you want them to be when they come here,” Donloe said.
While the panel did gear its attention more toward the journalistic aspect, the panelists also shared their respect for Mandela.
“It was surreal being there… here’s a man who not only united Southern Africa and the continent of Africa…but was the president of the world,” said Butler.
Simmons was the former Nairobi Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times and also covered events in South Africa as a foreign correspondent for two years. It was during this time that she met Mandela.
“I pushed my way to the front of the group and threw out my hand,” said Simmons, who shared how she met Mandela. “I was totally and completely in love with Nelson Mandela… Everything you hear is true. It is absolutely true,” said Donloe, who also shared her experience while working as a publicist for Mandela during his stay in LA.
Janae Franklin, president of the NABJ chapter at CSUN, said that this was one of the various events the club had planned for the semester.