Visual investigative reporters share the challenges they face on the ground.

By Andiswa Ngenyane

The power of broadcast or visual investigations came under the spotlight on the fourth day of the GIJC17 at Wits University. Ugandan reporter Solomon Serwanjja joined Sreenivasan Jain, an Indian journalist with NDTV India and Karin Mattison, a Swedish journalist.

“No pictures or video, no story,” said Serwanjja. He explained that audiences understand better when they see something.

Jain said that visuals are among the best ways for reporters, who investigative crime, government schemes, sexual violence and conflict to show their audiences the realities of life. The panelists talked about the power of documentaries to inform the public about important issues, but added that there are many challenges in getting regular people to participate.

Jain, who says that he wasn’t planning on being a journalist, told the audience about a recent investigation that he worked on that showed the impact of visual storytelling.

Jain’s team exposed dangerous working conditions in building construction in India. They revealed that despite working at significant heights, workers were not required to wear safety helmets or protective gear. The documentary resulted in the Indian government clamping down on safety on construction sites.

The reason for the television documentary was to simplify all this for the government because visuals are easy to understand and interpret, Jain said. “The documentary succeeded in saving lives,” he added. Mattison explained how doing these documentaries is not just to build a career but to also help people.

Serwanjia gave the audience tips on how to shoot in difficult areas like government installations, for example airports like the use of secret cameras. Serwanjja closed by saying “television is to pictures, you write to pictures and you might have a good story but without visuals it’s not a story.”

PHOTO: Karin Mattison explains why she chose to go with television investigations. Photo: McKenna Peariso.