Caroline Ariba, Thomson Foundation’s 2015 Young Journalist FPA winner talks to Sara Loane about a media torn over Brexit, illegal cross-border activities and a slip-up by the Ugandan president.
This year has been a roller coaster. After winning the award, I returned to news of making it to the last round of another award – the David Astor Award. I was nominated by someone from the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and that in itself was huge. I went on to win and got to spend the next two months in London working for The Times and The Observer/Guardian.
I suddenly learned so much about Britain. I saw news change in an instant. I saw a country running headless, newsrooms going crazy, sides being taken. It was a lot to take in. I have never seen so many reporting angles given to one story during my time as a journalist. I also learned to appreciate data as immigration was the main focus of my assignments and very much at the heart of the debate.
This award came with enormous exposure. I walked into a meeting with ambassadors and they all stood up.
There’s very little hierarchy. Unless told, it is difficult to differentiate between editors and writers, especially during meetings. In newsrooms like The Observer, the boss pitches in just like everyone else. It was also fascinating to see how trending social media topics are turned into news features. A speech by my Ugandan president went viral back in the summer after his remarks mixed up Israel and Palestine. Thousands took to social media to poke fun at him and his press secretary was forced to attempt damage limitation on Facebook. It was a story I covered for the Guardian.
A lot has changed. This award came with enormous exposure. I once walked into a meeting with ambassadors and they all stood up. I wasn’t just Caroline Ariba anymore, but a multi award-winning and respected journalist. The win has given my by-line strength.
The biggest frustration would be access to information, especially as a result of bureaucracy and complacency in our public offices. Some stories are a no-go area and it’s difficult to complete them because the people who are supposed to provide the information just will not give it. Government reaction to stories is also, almost always, non-existent.
I’m currently working on some investigative assignments for The Observer tackling illegal cross-border activities, some involving the developed world’s depletion of African resources. Given that they are undercover, I can’t go into detail on them.
I would love to work on some amazing investigative projects and continue highlighting societal issues that will blow up dialogue. Widening my digital media knowledge will help my stories reach a larger, more international audience. I also hope to one day become part of a dedicated team that offers support and opportunities to journalists in the developing world, much like the Thomson Foundation.
Watch the 2015 Thomson Foundation Young Journalist finalists as they attend the Foreign Press Association Awards gala night at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in London.