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Media entrepreneur wants young people to Shine

WINNING: Joanna Abeyie

THE LACK of black faces working in the British media is a well-known fact.

An aspiring young journalist saw an opportunity to make a positive difference and seized it. At just 22-years-old, Joanna Abeyie established Shine Media – a social enterprise providing journalism training and opportunities for ethnic minorities while carving a career for herself as a successful writer.

Her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 2011, she won a GUBA (Ghana UK-based Achievement) Award for Best Print Journalist, beating veteran journalists like The Guardian’s Afua Hirsch and Eva Simpson who writes for The Times. Abeyie, now 25, tells Claudia Andrews what motivates her.

How did winning the GUBA Award for Best Print Journalist impact your life?

Winning the award gave me great exposure within the Ghanaian community. I was able to secure some great contacts and I have had a number of fantastic opportunities since. T

he GUBA award also served as an inspiration to my students and demonstrated that hard work never goes unnoticed.

Why did you decide to go into journalism?

From a young age, I enjoyed reading magazines and had a passion for music and celebrities. During my A-levels I had to start thinking about my future career and, with the help of my careers’ advisor, I settled on journalism.

I was advised to find work experience so, at the age of 16, I got a chance to work at Now magazine and had a brilliant time. It was a combination of administration work, press conferences and conducting interviews.

From then, I realised I wanted to work for a magazine and went on to do a lot of work experience and freelance work which has led me to where I am now.

What inspired you to set up Shine Media?

I was a founding member of an organisation called Elevation Networks, a student-led initiative working with various companies to give talented, under-represented youths an opportunity to work for successful companies. I was the media coordinator and I wanted to focus on something with the media industry.

When I started there, I already had a vision for Shine in my mind. I noticed very early while doing work experience that there were very few ethnic minorities. I put that down to it being a lack of information and a lack of opportunities to network.

I wanted to create something to engage young people and help them break into the media industry. I was only 22 when I started Shine Media in the hope of creating an organisation that offered mentoring, work experience and networking opportunities. Shine was born because I saw the need to offer ethnic minorities the opportunities I had enjoyed in order to increase representation.

What does Shine Media do differently to other social enterprises?

Shine is very hands-on. For instance, I saw the need to engage ethnic minority youth in the Olympics so I set up a 9-week training programme giving 21 students the opportunity to learn about print and online journalism.

They were trained by exceptional journalists like Harrison Hepburn from the BBC, with support from ITN and The Guardian newspaper. We spend time outside of the classroom, helping trainees fill out application forms, we run assessment days and hold workshops to ensure they’re prepared for job interviews.

What exciting things can we expect from Shine in the coming months?

We have a university tour, an award ceremony and we are also in the process of changing up our business model. We are on the verge of a great partnership for 2013.

AMBITIOUS: Abeyie wants to make Shine Media a major player in journalism training

Where do you expect to see yourself in the next five to ten years?

I won’t stop until Shine is one of the largest training organisations for ethnic minorities. We will be training journalists from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds with the skills and expertise they can take to work.

I believe Shine Media will eventually start up an online magazine. I also hope that radio and television stations will recruit a number of diverse people which mirrors the multiculturalism of London

If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?

One thing I hoped I was aware of earlier is how influential you can be if you believe in yourself. Although you shouldn’t be arrogant, I think you should always be aware of what you can offer and make sure the companies you work with realise your hard work.

I really see the hard work Shine Media does and it means more to me than just a passion.

What tips would you give to aspiring journalists?

Excellence should always be at the top of your priority list and everything should be done with absolute passion. Also, determination, humility, gratitude, training and working smarter will help you get there.

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