Last week Friday, I was at the home-welcoming party organised by MultiChoice Nigeria for the five Nigerian contingents/nominees at the 2015 African Journalist Awards in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a get-together dinner with veteran journalists in the country and a chance to review the state of journalism in Nigeria, discuss the problems that need solving, and appreciate us, the contingents, for “making the country proud.” The event held at The Regent hotel in Ikeja and had in attendance all the five Nigerian nominees (out of which four won in their categories) Wálé Ẹmósù (Tribune), Ibanga Isine (Premium Times), Fẹ́mi Asu (Punch), Arukaino Umokoro (Punch) and yours truly. Also present were editors of The New Telegraph (Yẹmí Àjàyí), The Nation (Festus Eriye), Business Day (Philip Isakpa), The Guardian (Martins Ọlọ́jà), The Punch (Martin Ayankọ́lá), and other journalists and friends.
Speaking first after necessary introductions by the MC, Mr. Jenkins Alumona, the MD of MultiChoice Mr. John Ugbe spoke of the dedication of his company to the sustenance of good journalistic practice in Nigeria. He spoke particularly of his new-found fascination with what is called the sub-desk in media houses where news stories are doubly and triply vetted by dedicated editors before publication, as a way of ensuring quality of the feature in terms of grammar and facts. Responding to the charge, each of the editors present spoke to their experience with the sub-desk and how important it was in making them into the kind of writers they became. They also spoke of the unfortunate disappearance of the desk in today’s media houses because editors no longer want to spend money to maintain it or because journalists don’t find the work done there as “juicy” or exciting. The consensus, however, seemed to be that something drastic needs to be done to get the quality of writing in Nigerian newspaper up to global standard.
As a blogger with no allegiance to any particular editor-in-chief but myself and self-selected critical (but competent) friends, the discussion intrigued me and I said so. The idea, thrown up by the Multichoice MD, of organising an annual workshop for all nominees for the CNN/Multichoice Awards, before the awards, as a way of contributing to the development of the journalistic practice in the country is a good one and should be applauded. I agree that it will lead to increased competence by all concerned. It will also add a bigger purpose to the annual event that is mostly celebratory. Something else that will greatly help – which I should probably have brought up when I had the chance on Friday – is an annual training of Nigerian journalists on plagiarism, how to avoid it and how to operate by global best practices regarding fair use of other people’s intellectual materials. I’ve been a victim of plagiarism by print media organisations a few times, as have many of my friends. It’s not something that should continue.
When responses were allowed, one of us, Ibanga Isine, challenged the editors present to also get off their butts. Rather than point fingers at what’s going wrong in the practice, they should also get out into the field and file reports like everyone else like they used to before they became content as title holders of “editor” positions. It is a sentiment I wholeheartedly support. The benefit I have, as a blogger, is the opportunity to be a reporter and an editor at the same time. Most media houses today have editors who do neither editing nor reporting, but merely sit down and earn heavy pay and a title that opens doors for them with no added benefit for the newspaper or the profession. In all, it was a warm and stimulating evening sharing ideas and listening to the veterans of the profession interact at close quarters.
After all the talk, we settled down for a nice dinner, after which the MD of Multichoice presented us with a free DSTV Explora decoder set with free three months subscription. That was nice. I’ve never been a cable person, but I’m now about to give it a try. I thank them.
(Photo credit: Multichoice)