To mark the Thomson Foundation’s 60th year of nurturing and training journalists globally, we matched six talented young journalists with six of the best in the industry and called this mentoring project, Connect 6. We gave the pairs six months to work together. Now, at the end of the programme, our mentors and mentees tell us what the experience has taught them.
Patrick Greenfield is sitting in his car enthusiastically discussing the benefits of mentoring.
“The point of mentoring is to help people grow in confidence”, says The Guardian’s environmental and biodiversity reporter who is one of the Thomson Foundation’s Connect 6 mentors.
Patrick is on holiday and has found a quiet moment in his car to take a call from his mentee, Choon Chyuan Low, who’s in Malaysia. It's clear from the smiles that the two are relaxed in each other’s company.
“What have I learned through mentoring? A huge amount, especially through Choon,” says Patrick. “Mentoring makes you challenge your own advice. You hear yourself say things sometimes and go, whoa, is that right? ...and it helps you improve too.”
Choon says he’s really grateful to have been mentored by Patrick. He was one of three applicants in the Thomson Foundation’s Young Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 who was chosen to join our three finalists for the Connect 6 programme. He credits Patrick for helping him develop new ways of finding contacts and data for stories.
“I think this mentorship was a very good chance for me to clear any doubts and ask basic questions...how to talk to sources, how to build contacts, how to respond to different people on the ground”, says Choon.
It’s nice to know you’re not obsolete
Other participants are equally enthused with the programme.
The former India correspondent for the UK-based The Telegraph and now the Editor of the South East Business Insider, Saptarshi Ray, mentored Jyoti Yadav, one of the three finalists in the 2022 competition, who’s in New Delhi.
“I've learned I've still got something to share. It's nice to know that, you know, you're not redundant or obsolete,” says Saptarshi.
Jyoti says she used her time with Saptarshi to try to improve her writing style. “My editor... can see a change,” she says.
Our Connect 6 mentors and mentees were drawn from countries around the world.
Based in Massachusetts in the USA, audio and podcasting expert Julie Shapiro was paired with Carlos Raúl Kestler from Guatemala. “Mentoring is as much about learning as it is about teaching’, says Julie, who found Carlos to be ‘dedicated’ to his job. “I've really seen how much he cares about the future of his country.”
Carlos is now working on his first podcast and says he’s very grateful for the ‘personalised advice’ he got from Julie.
“I had a mentor who made sure that I was learning something, and she took the time to answer each question that I had,” says Carlos.
It's been a particularly challenging year for one of our mentees, the winner of the 2022 Young Journalist accolade, Yashraj Sharma. He was unable to leave Indian-administered Kashmir to collect his award for legal reasons. For Connect 6, Yashraj was paired with veteran journalist and Pulitzer prize-winner Ewen MacAskill. He says it was a ‘privileged opportunity to...pick [Ewen’s] brain’.
“Just having him around is a huge pillar of support for me,” says Yashraj.
For Ewen the experience showed the positive power of mentoring.
“Lots of journalists these days are working in isolation...I think that mentoring is a way of trying to replicate the newsroom experience where you learn almost by osmosis,” he says.
“When you are a young, inexperienced journalist working as a freelance, the gulf between you and an international reporter on the BBC, New York Times or wherever can seem enormous. A mentor can show that the gulf is not as big as it might seem, if you are determined enough and have some talent.”
Confident about the future of journalism
Like all of our Connect 6 mentors, Ewen is full of pride for his young mentee.
“When you come across someone like Yash operating in very difficult situations, trying to keep a paper going in a conflict zone and doing this for not much money but because he sees a value in journalism, that can only make me feel confident about the future of journalism”, he says.
The praise is echoed by other mentors. Saptarshi Ray calls Jyoti Yadav ‘fearless and determined’.
“She has that unteachable quality of getting people to confide in her, which I think is...a spectacular quality to have as a journalist,” he says.
The project coordinator Catherine Mackie who is Thomson Foundation Training and Communications Editor says the response from all the participants in the programme had been overwhelmingly positive.
“All of our cohort were really engaged and enthusiastic throughout the process,” she says. “Part of the key to the programme’s success was matching the mentor with the right skills and experience to what the mentee needed. Connect 6 really has shown the power of mentoring.”
The Connect 6 pairs were:
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