Thoughts on a mentorship program

Living in the age of Constant Deadlines every reporter knows that a 24 hour news cycle is a long time, let alone a week or a month. A year seems like an eternity.

Standard journalism has become the intellectual fastfood of the modern lifestyle. Like a wellknown fastfood chain it gives you a superficial saturation – the here-and-now quick fix – but in the longer run it’s empty calories providing you only with the absolute minimum to stay alive.

BFC launched the mentorship program in order to facilitate a different kind of journalism – the journalistic equivalent to slow food if you will. Because we believe in stories well told, stories that provided more background or offered a different view. Stories that would engage an audience not despite being slow but maybe even because they were slow.

Anton Ligaarden was one of our mentées and with equal measures of no hurry, an uncanny talent for getting close, a keen eye for The Great Story and a dash of (very) low key Norwegian humor, he landed himself a nomination in the Norwegian POY for ‘Best Video’ this year.

‘Grandpa’s Grand Prix’ is the story of a young man (Anton) trying a last time to get to know his Grand Dad before it’s too late. And as the story unfolds road movie style it becomes a beautiful story of generations meeting and a quest to complete one last veteran car Grand Prix in an old bus.

As Anton puts it: “The program helped me raise several of my stories to a higher level”. That said Anton also put a finger to the raw nerve of the program, being an online program only: “Sometimes I felt it challenging having a long distance mentorship program. […] Sometimes it’s just easier to meet face to face.”

Jacob Zocherman is a different kind of photographer. Having worked in conflict areas from Ukraine through CAR to Yemen, Mali and Afghanistan his stories were entirely different and posed a different challenge altogether exactly because they had the character of ‘Breaking News’.

Being a traditional still photographer Jacob entered the program because he experienced first hand the rising demand for video segments from his clients amongst the news outlets and NGO’s in Africa: “The most important thing I learned from the program is that nothing in a web documentary is there by coincidence. The Intro, the Middle, the Climax, the Ending. And then, if reality on the ground changes, I adapt the pieces in the production”.

“Today when I look back at my first moving piece [in 2013], I feel like an adult looking back on teenage years.”

Photo: Jacob Zocherman

When you work long enough with the same subject matter, you tend to rely on proven methods and as always at one point things just start becoming… un-interesting. Having a mentorship program for us ment that we constantly were forced to think about the Why’s and What if’s of how we tell our stories in the process of telling the mentée’s story better. One of the best things of the program seen from our side as mentors, has been the back-and-forth deliberations when you go deep into somebody else’s vision. The inspiration you get from tapping into your mentées brain and watch their vision unfold is a unique experience and a very rewarding such. But in the end these stories were not our stories. We were simply the one’s pushing recognisable talent further out of their comfort zone, hopefully causing at least a slight change of taste in the otherwise stale menu that is Big Media’s version of online storytelling today.