Media Tribune #7, Mamadou Koume, the voice of experience in Senegal
Mamadou Koumé says there is nothing more rewarding than to be a reporter.
by Diacounda Sene
Completing four decades of work as a professional means that there are no further secrets to unlock. Mamadou Koumé is one of those gifted people.
The former president of the National Sports Press Association of Senegal has completed the journey step by step: reporter, chief of the sports desk, director of a publication, director of a news agency and now professor in the most prestigious school of journalism in Senegal.
Now in his sixties, Koumé is a source of inspiration for young professionals and a respected man whose voice counts in the Senegalese media landscape.
-What do you like most about sports journalism?
-It's the passion of writing for the public. It's collecting, processing and disseminating information. To be a sports journalist means that you must first love sport and then practise it. Then there are many new things that you discover in the daily work. It is the contact with the main characters of the sports around the world, the meetings, the trips. I think it's an interesting job that allows you to get around and meet a lot of people. It's a living profession and you have to be enthusiastic to do it. Here are things that I think are important for practising sport journalism.
-What are the biggest challenges of the profession today?
-The challenge of the press, in my opinion, is digital. The arrival of digital has changed the game in this business. In journalism we say that information is a perishable commodity and has become more perishable with digital. When I started this job 40 years ago, we reported on the events the next day. But today with the mobile phones and other tools, the dissemination of information is instantaneous. Even the writers can do live if they have a website. If you are working for written press you have to adapt to that. The other thing that I consider as a challenge is the language. Today, English dominates the world. If, as a journalist you do not speak English, you have problems. So for us, francophones, we have to start speaking English.
-What is the coverage that you’ve enjoyed the most and why?
-I covered a lot of competitions in my career. But covering the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the 2000 Olympics in Sidney, for the journalist that I am, were great moments. For African journalists, being present in a World Cup or the Olympic Games is something new, because we are living and working in rather difficult conditions. The press does not have enough resources and it is a privilege for Africans to cover such big events. I also followed at the beginning of my career the men's national basketball team in the continental championships and covered a dozen African Nations Championship. These are memories I’ll keep for ever.
"The AIPS Sport Media Awards is a great initiative, and I appreciate that it is open to all languages," Koumé says.
-What lessons have you learned throughout your career? From whom?
-If I have learned a lesson in this business is that it is necessary to remain humble and work hard on a daily basis. When we in Africa see other journalists from Western countries that have more resources than us, we must also see that they work a lot and often more than us. These are things we need to copy.
-The profession is constantly changing. What is the current situation in your country?
-Here too many things are changing. When I started 40 years ago, there were maybe a dozen of journalists working in the sport sections. Today in this country without exaggerating there are more than 300 people working in the sport press, all media combined. This can give an idea of the situation in an overall way.
-What do you think about the creation of the AIPS Sport Media Awards?
-In my opinion it is a good thing. Rewarding people for the work they do is encouraging excellence and emulation. So it's an initiative which deserve to be saluted. I also appreciate the opening of the competition to all languages. There are Francophone, Anglophone, Hispanic, Arabic journalists and all should be rewarded on the basis of articles written in their national language. So this is a great initiative that we are looking forward to.
-Of all the positions you have worked in the press, what was your favourite?-I have been in the highest position in this in media such as news agency director, responsible of a sports magazine. But I think that for the one who follows the sport, the most rewarding position is probably the position of reporter. You are in contact with the actors and this is a position where you thrive the most.
-What format do you prefer for your information?
-I use to get information from all media in general. Naturally I have a soft spot. As a writer I prefer the newspaper. Here in Senegal there are about twenty dailies including two newspapers dedicated to sport that I buy every day. Beyond that, I have my smartphone and I browse all sports information websites. We can no longer practise this profession without knowing what it's being said on radio, television or the digital world.
-Have you ever been victim of fake news in your career?
-I will say no, because I have always wanted to verify the information, to cross-check it before publication. Which means that I have never been a victim. But there are the facts and the comments. People may not share my point of view and this is perfectly normal. Today we are living in a period with lots of fake news. Journalists must be careful and apply the basic rules, the fundamentals of verification. It is better to give late information than to give false information. It was a viaticum for me in my career.
-What advice would you give to young people starting out in this profession?
-I will first say that if you come to journalism to look for money, it is better to go for something else. It's a job that requires passion, love for the sport, it takes a lot of enthusiasm too. These are the tips that I will give to someone who wants to do this job
Media tribune is presented by AIPS Sport Media Awards, a bridge to the future of sport journalism. Divided in 6 main categories, the Awards are a celebration of the best sport storytellers from around the world. Submissions for professionals are free and open until September 17, 2018. Find more and submit your work in www.aipsawards.com