By Kayode Ketefe
This writer had the great privilege of being invited as a panelist in one of the four sessions of an unforgettable seminar for journalists which held in Lagos last week Thursday, February 20, 2104.
The seminar, organised by an online professional discussion group, Everything Jounalism, (founded and moderated by the respectable media guru Mr. Taiwo Obe) and an adjunct to EJ, called Journalism Clinic. The event, sponsored by United Bank for Africa, turned out to be one of the best continuing education programmes for journalists that have ever taken place in Nigeria!
The seminar drew seasoned journalists, media information technicians, media scholars and other participants across the length and breadth of Nigeria with the crème la crème of media practitioners comprising managing directors, editors and other media avatars in attendance.
The roll call of the attendees included the former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and Managing Director of the Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, the Managing Directors of Complete Sports Communications, (Publisher of Complete Sports newspaper) Mr. Mumuni Alao and the Managing Directors of Thisday newspaper, Mr. Eniola Bello.
Also in attendance were accomplished media professionals like the superb columnist and former daily editor of Thisday newspaper, Mr. Simon Kolawole; the Senior Manager, Strategic Development of the National Mirror newspaper, Mr. Kayode Balogun Jnr; a veteran writer of “jailed-for-life” fame, Mr. Kunle Ajibade; the Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Lagos State, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan and a former President of the Civil Liberties Organisation, lawyer, and respected social-commentator, Mrs. Ayo Obe.
The publisher/founder of the three leading online newspapers in Nigeria, viz, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi (Premium Times); Mr. Dotun Oladipo (Eagles online) and Mr. Omoyele Sowore (Sahara Reporters) were not only in attendance but also provided some enriching perspectives on the discussions.
The theme of this forum was not the usual topics like the problem of corruption as evinced in Brown envelopism, nor the hazards of journalism profession like susceptibilities to predatory elements or associated perils of daily night closure, neither is it issue of insurance for journalists.
It was something rather creative, timely, self-empowering and enlightening – the theme was “Functional Social Networking for Nigerian journalists” This was delimitated into four sub-themes put in the form of thought-provoking interrogatives, which were “Social media: Does One platform suit all?; What does it profit us?; What can you teach me about social media? and Ethics: Why it matters in social networking? All these interrogatives were well-answered as the free flow of discourse between panelists and audience fostered maximum understanding.
The intent of the summit was to enhance the capacity of journalists to maximally use the social media for news gathering, building online communities and engaging with their audiences. But in addition, most of the sessions also featured speakers who provided tips on how journalists could make legitimate money for themselves by creative use of online platforms to provide needed service for others, especially through advertisements.
Ethical ways and methods of inviting traffic to one’s blogospheres were also discussed while perspectives on making Nigerian journalists relevant in the scheme of things in this social media civilisation were also given.
This writer has never attended any single media event that was so rich and empowering like this event and the organisers really have to be commended for putting things together on such an ambitious scale.
Since 1859 when “Iwe Irohin” blazed the trail of journalism in Nigeria down to the present era, some sort of odious stigma has continued to haunt journalistic profession, albeit with varying intensity.
The inferiorisation of the profession stems from bland stereotyping which fuels unwarranted generalisation and the perception that every practitioners came to journalism as a last resort when no other “higher options” was viable.
A number of factors, including those universally acknowledged challenges and others that mirror the peculiarities of our socio-economic clime, have collectively combined to hamper the practice of journalism in the country.
These range from the problems of owing journalists multiple arrears of salaries (which is still a painful reality in some Nigerian media houses) poor condition of services, infiltration of bad characters into the profession and incontestable presence of media business men masquerading as professionals.
But if the kind of summit I attended last week takes place regularly, it is obvious within that a short time the perception of journalism in Nigeria would change because journalism itself would change.
The practitioners would be more-empowered with enhanced capacity; they would be more technically-savvy and be complete professionals; they would be able to employ their creative energies to earn decent and legitimate pay that would lift them above the present poverty line and thus imbues the profession with more respectability.
It is therefore for this reason I am joining my voice to the already vociferous voices of the organisers of this event and other stakeholders in the media industry to call for corporate sponsors to institute and contribute to media endowment fund in Nigeria. Empowering Nigerian journalists is empowering the nations, for the media is the watchdog of cherished ideals like constitutionalism, rule of law, legality, transparency, due process, et al.
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