#MediaTribune, Babacar Khalifa Ndiaye treasures the secrets of sports journalism in Senegal

  • July 05, 2019
Babacar Khalifa Ndiaye during the World Cup Brazil 2014

By Diacounda SENE

DAKAR, July 5, 2019 - When it comes to diagnosing a corporation to which he belongs, Babacar Khalifa Ndiaye does not beat around the bush. Known for his professionalism in Senegal, he is nonetheless a man of truth, passionate about a profession he loves.

A graduate of the Center for Studies in Information Science and Communication (CESTI), Khalifa has devoted 30 years of his life to sharing sports history from around the world, on behalf of the national daily newspaper "Le Soleil", where he was head of the sports department for 20 years.

This job has no secrets for him. In fact he entrusts his secrets as a sports journalist to young journalists at the school where he provides writing press courses.

A true professional which any young person who wants to make a career in this field can take on as a role model.

What do you like most about sports journalism?
First of all, the freedom to do what I loved! Since writing is my passion and sport is one of my favourite hobbies, I quickly felt comfortable combining both: writing about sport. I also liked back then a certain freedom of tone that I had not had when for example I was at the nation section of Le Soleil, even if it happened that I faced some kind of pressure. But I did not let myself go.

What are the biggest challenges of the profession these days?
The battle for credibility, because the media is infested with people from everywhere and from nowhere who seem to have taken power. Or, in any case, they make so much noise that real professionals are often reduced to being silent. This situation is especially due to some press owners who hire people with few qualifications or who are not at all qualified, to whom they pay miserable wages (if they ever really pay at the end of the month). The race to the sensational information is also a challenge we must deal with.

Which coverage holds the best memories of your career and why?
I would definitely say the 2002 World Cup in Asia. It was my second coverage after France 98. And here Senegal qualified. I lived unforgettable moments in South Korea and Japan. Especially with the great performance of "Teranga Lions" of Senegal.

What lessons have you learned throughout your career and from who?
Humility, rigour in the treatment of information and the love of a job well done. That’s what I learned from my mentors in my early years. I was monitored by great brothers with exceptional quality in journalism. These lessons and others I’ve learned throughout my career are what I have tried to transmit as much as possible to young journalists who I meet along the way.

The profession is constantly changing. What is the current situation in your country?
In Senegal, there is a very large number of newspapers, radios, TV channels and websites. Which may not be a bad thing, except for the fact that quality does not always follow. It tends more toward zero than infinity. The newspapers are not exercising rigour in their production. Radio and TV stations pay too much for populism. The cultural programs for teenagers have disappeared from the audiovisual landscape in favor of wrestling, music and dance. And websites often prefer gossip and other mores, rather than real information.

AIPS created the AIPS Sport Media Awards in 2018. How could such a prize help the next generation of sports journalists?
The creation of the AIPS Sport Media Awards should normally push journalists, young or old, to try to improve their work. Because, we are never finished learning. To postulate for such an award supposes that something good has been produced. And the final winner is the recognition of a good job. And just taking part in it means having enough self-confidence. And that’s not a bad thing.

Let's talk about evolution. What format do you prefer to inform you?
I do not spit on anything. I grab everything from which I can get informed and which can bring me something new.

Of all the roles you’ve had in media, which was your favourite and why?
I loved them all. My dream was to become a journalist. By the grace of God, I have become one. This job, I have always considered it a pleasure and never a chore! From the first to the last day of my career at Le Soleil, I always came to work almost whistling. Because, I had the chance to make my passion my job. I was a simple reporter for 13 years, and I never complained. I was always on the job, happy to go. And when I became the chief of the sports department, I continued loving my job as much as I did on my first day.

What advice would you give to a younger generation of sports journalists?
I would advise them to keep seeking excellency. I would advise them to put all their whole heart into what they are doing, even if it’s writing the smallest piece of breaking news. As a reporter, they should never consider themselves more intelligent than their readers, listeners or viewers.


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