BUDAPEST, February 5, 2020 – For some it is the first step in the world of real journalism, for others it is a meaningful experience that will help them to define their goals, but for almost everybody it is a life changing journey. The Young Reporters program by AIPS enters the 10th year of its existence and it can look back with pride. Over 300 hopeful journalists from 90 countries and 5 continents, had the chance to be part of it by traveling the world and being in close contact with well-seasoned mentors and sport figures of the highest caliber.
Being attached to this program since Israel 2013 UEFA Euro Under 21 makes me aware I am part of something that back than I couldn’t envision. The AIPS Young Reporters program went from being an honorable attempt to teach some basic lessons in journalism to become a reliable weapon to preserve the essential principle of good journalism, now in the hands of young generations.
The numbers of young reporters coming of AIPS, now employed in major media organizations is the evidence that program like this can pave the way for a stronger culture based on professionalism, responsibility and overall ethics.
But I believe we should not measure our success with the names of those achieving a successful career. The real sense of what the AIPS YR program can do lies in the network that has been created through the years. Young journalists from all over the world are now in touch with each other, and this is the most powerful answer to those fighting to break barriers and erase prejudice and bias.
Not only that. My last two experiences as a mentor were enlightening (yes, it’s not just the Young Reporters that learn quite a lot from these experiences): Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Morocco has been the first (and hopefully not last) program held in Africa and with the help of our local AIPS Committee we were able to create something absolutely unique. The level of enthusiasm and craving for good journalism on the continent is electrifying. It is not a coincidence that some of the best story at the AIPS Awards came from Africa, a place where the stereotype of corruption should be counterweighted by the certainty that the continent harbors the most promising generation of young journalists.
Saudi Arabia was a challenge. The country is constantly in the shadow of its bad record regarding human rights. Stepping into Jeddah with its first ever Young Reporters Program, I believe AIPS established a historical precedent. The country is currently being subject to an incredible transformation. It will of course take years to see a real improvement but to be in front of 16 students, 11 guys and five females, and talking about the importance of freedom of speech I think is quite remarkable. Every process requires a first step. The one in Jeddah was in the right direction.
Of course, the YR program now needs to grow and correct the flaws that any 10 year-old would still be subject to. With the world of journalism under constant threat by the plague of fake news, the lack of funds, the invasive attitude of corporations and governments, it is now time to step up, to create something that can resist in the long term.
Hundreds of young journalists all over the world are now counting on us, the numbers of e-mails I receive weekly from former students, confirming the global desire for better journalism. Good journalism is vital to achieve a better quality of life everywhere in the world. It is our responsibility to stand up for those who believe in us.
I was recently in touch with a young lady from Palestine dreaming to be a reporter. I was happy to have one of her stories published on the AIPS website, a compelling tale about a marathon runner without a limb. When I told her we would post her story I was moved by looking at her eyes flooded with tears.
Sometimes we underestimate the power of our role. Sometimes taking things for granted makes us feel numb and distracted from what really matters. It’s our duty to correct that. The YR Reporters program must be the means to achieve that.