TV journalist urges neutral reporting

Documentary journalist Jenny Kleeman detailed the qualities needed to succeed as a reporter when she addressed journalism students at the University of Westminster.

Jenny Kleeman believes in honesty.

“If I ever feel afraid, I think that I am about to tell something extraordinary,” she told students.

She presented the documentary ‘The Unwanted” that she produced for Channel 4’s Unreported World and tells the story of illegal immigrants who are trying to make their way into the EU.

“Maximising your opportunities” would be the key words, she said. “In journalism you have to be lucky, but you have to make your own luck too,” Kleeman said about the business.

Suggestions for journalists

The reporter urged journalists to be “as neutral as possible”.

She also said that investigative journalists have to be incredibly honest with people all the time.

Sometimes, people may turn out to be nice and willing to talk when you are not expecting it. But still, one had to be patient to go beyond what you’ve prepared to do, Kleeman advised students.

In terms of emotional attachment, she pointed out that as much as you want to help people, you cannot get involved. That might sound depressing, but in fact it will make you a better journalist, she said.

“If I see a reporter getting involved, I always feel that they are using the story to promote themselves,” the documentary reporter said. “I am very careful to save crying for when I am back at the hotel.”

Other experiences

“If you are making a film in a foreign country, being unlucky is a horrible, incredibly painful experience,” Kleeman said about failures in her work.

Kleeman admitted that she is not a ‘war reporter’. She prefers to have something unfold in the film, and war reporting is ‘relatively straightforward’.

Besides, she does not want to work in hostile environments. Somalia and certain parts of Afghanistan are on her list of places where she would not want to go.

“Reporters have to be outgoing and a bit of a show-off,” Kleeman said.

See videos of the interview with Jenny Kleeman here.

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