The practice of journalism in the modern era Nigeria is no longer an all comers affair. Tertiary education combined with adequate professional training, as well as continuous skills acquisition is the hallmark of a modern-day journalist. To succeed in the practice of journalism, a 21st century practitioner has no choice but to keep abreast of information technologies that have encroached and impacted on traditional journalism practice. This is not only advisable, it is imperative for the journalist’s continued survival and relevance in an industry where the world no longer waits for the news print or radio/TV to break the news. The world relies more, these days, on the "new media" to provide on-the-go, real-time information on the latest happenings around the world.
The foregoing represents the dominant message highlighted by the resource persons at the third edition of the Cable News Network (CNN)/MultiChoice Media Workshop held on Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Amuwo-Odofin, Festac, Lagos. The objective of the two-day media workshop was to equip journalists who ply their trade in Nigeria with skills necessary for them to excel in an age of technological advancement.
Experts who facilitated the workshop included: Dr Isah Momoh, Senior Lecturer, School of Media and Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos; Messrs Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe, former Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, respectively, of The Sun Newspapers; Mr Debo Adesina, Editor, The Guardian Newspapers; Mr Richard Ikiebe, Senior Fellow and Director, Centre for Leadership in Journalism, School of Media and Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos; Mr Ikechukwu Amaechi, member of the panel of judges, CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards and Editor, Daily Independent Newspapers; Mr Mayo Okunola, General Manager, DStv Mobile West Africa/GOtv Nigeria, and Mr Steve Ayorinde, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, National Mirror Newspapers.
These professionals agreed that gone are the days when journalists can stay in their comfort zone and not feel threatened by the advent of new technologies or their by-product, citizen or ‘accidental’ journalists. They felt though people have come to see journalism as an all comers affair and that it is commonplace to find people with the least qualification or training pushed by the prevailing economic circumstances parade themselves as media practitioners, they submitted that a well trained journalist will still survive despite all odds.
Journalists at the workshop were encouraged to up their game no matter the environment they find themselves, better their understanding and the usage of the English language, get familiar with new media, and become more proficient in their usage. It is only then they can be confident that they will survive in the industry.
The workshop raised many questions as to the personality of a journalist, what his tools of trade are, what trends affect the smooth delivery of his reports and what training is considered effective to the successful demonstration of his knowledge and expertise in the age of rapid technological advancement. CNN and MultiChoice – co-sponsor of the annual African Journalist of the Year Awards – hoped that by this exercise Nigerian journalists would take their pride of place in the continent. The last Nigerian journalist to win the overall award of CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year is Shola Osunkeye, now of The Sun Newspapers, and that was in 2006, the workshop observed.
John Ugbe, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, in a goodwill message delivered to the journalists on his behalf by MultiChoice’s Head of Marketing, Mr Akin Salu, said: “The workshop is another major MultiChoice’s corporate social responsibility initiative anchored on the company’s attachment to the media and as a corporate player in the media landscape. The knowledge-based training is a rallying point for gainful interaction. By this, we seek to improve the quality of journalism practice in Nigeria, the quality of entries from Nigeria to the annual CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards, to encourage Nigerian journalists to take their pride of place among practitioners in the continent and become reference points, and to raise a crop of new leaders for a smooth transfer of knowledge and leadership from one generation to another.” He urged the journalists to take advantage of the training to know more about the impact of technology on the global practice of journalism and be ready to adapt to changing trends in their field.
Capping all the presentations, Steve Ayorinde, advised today’s practitioner to be a mojo – meaning mobile journalist. According to Mr Ayorinde, the modern-day journalist is one who is conversant with the latest technological innovations in the industry and has equipped himself with these technologies such that he is prepared at any point to be an ‘all-in-all’ whenever he is on assignments. He posited that technology has made it possible for the reporter to break the news faster than it used to be. Armed with a digital video/voice recorder, a digital camera, a tablet computer or a smartphone, the reporter is no doubt one that combines many roles, which include: writing his report, editing it, illustrating it with a good photograph, and in a few cases, the reporter also plans his pages, before giving the material to his editor. He observed that the Internet Age has demystified news gathering and dissemination, led to the emergence of online and citizen journalism, blogging, etc., consequently rewriting the rules of modern communication, rapidly replacing old media as the dominant source of information, and challenging the funding sources of old media. He strongly believed that it is unlikely for the traditional media to die in spite of the increasingly critical role of new media.
Dr Isah Momoh of the Pan-African University dwelt on the new media as award-winning tools through financial journalism. Momoh charged the journalists to always look for the ‘finance’ in every news situation. “Financial journalism is not reporting finance; it is finding finance in every situation including our lives. African journalists must be able to compare Africa to the rest of the world, financially.” He linked the relationship between new media and financial journalism to Pat Utomi’s theory of progress, which simply translates to “investing a tidy sum of one’s income to fund knowledge acquisition”. He encouraged journalists to master the new media because the new media reinforce the old media and the more of it known and used, the better for the successful practice of journalism.
Dimgba Igwe examined “the portrait of a twenty-first century journalist”. He described him as a knowledge worker, stating that a knowledge-worker will always succeed no matter the odds. Knowledge, he said, stems from a distillation of information. Igwe told the journalists that the media business is moving from platform to content; he urged them not to resist change which technologies have brought to bear on their trade in order to become successful. He advised modern-day media practitioners to study marketing and always apply three unique selling principles (USPs) to all they do. These USPs are: unique story angles, quality of reporting, and unique literary style. “Have a rich intellectual depth, humour or style, develop ability to capture report in total terms and deliver in total quality, use good picture to add colour and drama to powerful prose. Always ask one last question during interviews, as great interviews will always deliver great stories that would be exclusive. Be brief and have informed perspective to whatever you write. Master the tools of the trade, be passionate about being a reporter, as only the paranoid succeed,” Igwe counselled.
Debo Adesina voted for a meticulous journalist whose growth is a product of training. He examined the topic, “Preparing for a career in journalism and news reporting”. According to Adesina, growth comes from building on talents. The modern-day journalist must have good retentive memory, good ability to take notes and must only use tapes for precision. He must exploit the richness of the English language and must always have a goal since a goal is a dream with a deadline. He counselled that poor remuneration must not be an excuse for failing to excel if one is passionate enough as a journalist.
In his lecture, Richard Ikiebe submitted that a fundamental objective of a news organization is to ensure that everyone knows its mission, purpose and core value. He said media leadership in Nigeria must re-evolve, as the issue of leadership is a major challenge in the profession. The media have the power to cause change but they often do not exercise this power, he observed. “Other media organisations are changing their societies, why not in Nigeria?” He urged the crop of journalists at the training to lead the vanguard for a new leadership for the trade so that journalism, in the long run, can give leadership to the nation on important issues.
Mayo Okunola’s topic was on “the impact of new technologies on the media landscape”. He acknowledged the disruptive nature of technologies but averred that technology gives the journalist an opportunity to brand himself. Okunola charged the trainees to always ask themselves what their core strength and ability are, what they want people to know them for based on their interest and passion. They can then use technologies to aid in the achievement of their dreams. He said in the world of technology, innovation is the mainstay.
Mike Awoyinfa took the journalists through his career in journalism, which he said was propelled by his passion for feature writing. He described feature writing as an integral part of journalism, which is teachable and learnable. To help upcoming journalists, he has co-authored a book on the subject-matter with his partner, Dimgba Igwe. To Awoyinfa, a feature story is any human angle story, the best of which are fused with paradox, suspense, ironies, contradictions, emotion, etc. “A feature story must be moving, should excite, should be very compelling, generating a ‘whao’ effect.” He submitted that feature writing and news are like twins, and no matter what feature one is writing, there must be news element in it. Awoyinfa urged the journalists to be ‘crazy’ and be more adventurous in their quest for newsworthy stories.
Ikechukwu Amaechi gave the workshop tips on how to write award-winning stories and what the judges look for in the thousands of entries that are submitted every year. He also spoke on “interview techniques in journalism: making the best use of news sources”. He advised that under no circumstance should a journalist divulge the identity of his news source, especially if he agrees with the source on the issue of anonymity.
Head of Corporate Communications, MultiChoice Nigeria, Mr Segun Fayose, thanked the resource persons and the participants at this year’s workshop. He expressed confidence that the knowledge impacted at the workshop will go a long way in redefining the practice of journalism in Nigeria, benefit the participants greatly and impact the society at large.