Let me begin by thanking the Planning Committee of ANEC 2019 for giving me the privilege of sharing my thoughts with my colleagues on this topical issue. No prizes for guessing why I was given this responsibility.
For one, I serve as the chief servant at the country’s premier journalism training Institute.
For another, I belong to a select group of journalists who have practised in the print and the electronic media. I also had a stint in public relations. These facts, I am sure must have qualified me for this assignment.
The theme of this year’s conference: A Distressed Media: Impact on Government, Governance Society, is very apt. And I dare say, your choice of the keynote speaker, underlines the seriousness you attach to the topic.
Mr. Gbenga Adefaye is a sound professional in the true sense of the world. In looking at this topic, I will draw my examples largely from the print media, for obvious reasons propose this outline:
- How important is the Press?
- What people say about the Press?
- Impact of the Press in the society
- Journalism Education
- Opportunities in the media
- Shrinking opportunities and the disruption of the social media
- Summary and conclusion.
How important is The Press?
To answer this very important question, let us look at the provisions of the First Amendment of the American constitution:
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
And to reinforce how important the press is to the survival of any society, Thomas Jefferson, diplomat, philosopher, architect, lawyer and the third President of the United States of America declared:
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
What they say about the Press
There are only two forces that can carry light to all corners of the globe…the heavens and the Associated Press down here.”- Mark Twain
“In America, the President reigns for four years and journalism governs forever and ever.” – Oscar Wilde
“Freedom of expression-in particular freedom of the press guarantees popular participation, the decisions and actions of government and popular participation is the essence of democracy.” – Corazon Aquino
“The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press.” – Ida B. Wells
“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” – George Orwell
Examples of The Media’s Impact
As many media houses continue to find it difficult to make ends meet, the result is that the critical reporting that will hold leaders to account is lacking, thus the budget, security votes, local governments are not being examined.
However, thanks to brave organization and come critical journalists, public officers are still being held to account.
Here are some remarkable stories;
The Salisu Buhari Scandal
Buhari was a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was forced to resign from office in 1999 after he was exposed by The News Magazine to have forged his certificate from the University of Toronto. He was also accused of falsifying his age. He was convicted for the certificate forgery and sentenced to two years in prison with an option of fine. Section 65(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria disqualifies anyone below the age of 30 from running for membership of the House of Representatives. The News claimed the speaker was born in 1970 and not 1963 as he claimed.
The Kemi Adeosun Saga
The Premium Times’ investigation showed that the former Finance Minister forged an exemption certificate to avoid participating in the country’s mandatory one-year youth service scheme by fresh graduates. She had to resign
It might be difficult to actually pinpoint when the proverbial rain started beating the Nigerian media.
But by 2012, it was visible even to the blind that the Nigerian print media were in the Intensive Care Unit, gasping for breath.
Circulation figures, which media executives often hid in the Strong Room, far away from prying eyes had collapsed, with the combined total circulation figures of all dailies less than half a million copies, according to credible sources.
Advertising revenue which had been the main source of income for the newspapers was then coming in trickles. And no thanks to the new media, newspaper contents were now being offered free to everyone with access to smart and not-so-smart phones.
It didn’t require even an amateur prophet to predict that unless newspaper managers embraced a new business model, their business would be in jeopardy; and that if journalists didn’t respond appropriately to the digital disruptions in the industry, many of them might become experts in a profession that no longer exists!
If there are disruptions in the media industry, then the classroom cannot be immune. Journalism teachers, too, must as they say, up their game and ensure that their students are being kept abreast of the current changes in the media world.
But if the truth must be told, it is not only journalism education that needs to be reviewed but also many of the courses offered in our tertiary institutions. For, disruptions have become a feature of every aspect of existence.
A former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Bamiro put the concern this way: “Most of the programmes in the universities are irrelevant to the needs in the socio-economic space of our nation. University leaders have failed to update themselves on new methods to meaningfully transmit knowledge.”
WHY IS JOURNALISM EDUCATION IMPORTANT?
Because journalists are the only group of professionals mandated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to monitor governance and hold public office holders accountable to the people (section 22).
The reason for this, I suspect, is that if the unexpected happens and there arises an incestuous relationship between the three arms of government: executive, legislature and the judiciary, the media, as the voice of the people, will save the country.
STUDYING MASS COMMUNICATION
There are at least 67 universities in the country offering courses in Mass communication, while 41 polytechnics, including the Nigerian Institute of Journalism offer courses in journalism leading to the award of the Higher National Diploma.
Students of these institutions go on between three months and one year industrial attachments to gain practical industry experience.
THE CURRICULUM OBJECTIVES (Polytechnics)
The HND Mass Communication programme in the country’s polytechnics is intended to produce effective and efficient technologists with adequate practical and professional skills necessary for employment and job creation in the various areas of Mass Communication industry such as newspapers, magazines, Radio, Television, Film and Video, News media, Public Relations, Advertising, News Agency, Government and corporate information services.
THE CURRICULUM OBJECTIVES (Universities)
To produce quality graduates who can function effectively in various media professions, especially journalism, broadcasting (both radio and television), advertising, public relations, book publishing, film and cinematography.
JOURNALISM COURSES OFFERED IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
Broadly these are the course offered:
Introduction to Mass Communication; Introduction to Broadcasting; Introduction to entrepreneurship; English for Mass media; Principles of Public Relations; Principles of Advertising; Fundamentals of marketing; newspaper and magazine production; photojournalism; Investigative and Interpretative Reporting; Mass media and society; Mass communication laws; International Relations; Conflict Reporting; Multimedia and online journalism communication theories; research project and media management
Are these curricula adequate in today’s world?
To answer this, let’s take refuge in Alvin Toffler’s immortal words:
“THE ILLITERATE OF THE 21ST CENTURY WILL NOT BE THOSE WHO CANNOT READ AND WRITE BUT THOSE WHO CANNOT LEARN, UNLEARN AND RELEARN.”
I think in the light of technological disruptions in the world, journalism teachers have to learn, unlearn and relearn.
WHAT’S NIJ DOING IN THAT REGARD?
We have updated our curriculum to respond to new challenges. Apart from strengthening the teaching of multimedia and online courses, we have introduced new courses like Fact-checking; Data journalism and Broadcast Presentation; Public Procurement Act; Budget process, to mention a few.
In our media law, we now teach Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as contained in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution.
Also, we have reduced the contact hours on some courses which bear no relevance to the journalism of today.
Besides having professionals in the industry on our faculty, we encourage our lecturers to spend between four to six weeks in the communication industry during the long vacation.
The aim, of course, is to consummate the marriage between the town and the gown.
Opportunities in the Print Media
In spite of the loss of jobs in the media industry, especially with the traditional media, opportunities still abound in the industry for good reporters with modern skills in the various beats, correspondents, copy editors, columnists, members of editorial boards and editors.
Opportunities in the Electronic Media
There are about 27 radio stations in Abuja; more than 30 in Lagos and about 20 in Port Harcourt.
With each of the 36 states of the federation having a television station, it is safe to conclude that there are over a hundred TV stations in Nigeria.
So, opportunities are there for On-Air Personalities (OAPs), producers, Researchers, Reporters, Bulletin Editors, Cameramen (and Women), video-editors, Studio assistants, Graphic artists, etc.
Opportunities in Integrated Marketing Communication
There are openings for media planners, media buyers, account managers, production executive, copywriters, protocol officers, who have updated their skills in the digital space.
Opportunities in the Private Sector
Graduates of mass communication are still being employed as Public Relations Officers, Protocol officers, Publications officers, Information officers, etc.
Opportunities in Government
Perhaps this is the ambition of many journalists today.
Regrettably, many of today’s practising journalists see serving in government as the hallmark of their success.
Most, if not all the Governors of the states have Chief Press Secretaries; Special advisers on media; Senior Special Assistant on media; Special Assistant on electronic media and Special assistant on print media. And each of these officials also has assistants.
Shrinking Opportunities and the Disruption of the Social Media
In spite of what I may describe as the external threat to the media industry which I have highlighted, the newspapers too, by the way some of them still operate, maybe unconsciously helping to shrink their opportunities for growth.
It is amazing that in this day of real-time news, some newspapers still go to press late. If this happens, it automatically means they will distribute the papers late. It then means that readers and advertisers will get the paper late or may not get it at all.
Today’s editor has not shed the habits of the past. He still resumes at his desk in the afternoon, when he should be there at 8 am! He is not only an editor but also a manager.
When today’s editor resumes in the afternoon, he would have lost valuable time which ought to have been spent providing editorial direction and leadership. Today’s reporters still file in their stories late and give lame excuses for such. That, as we all know, is the beginning of late production.
Because it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace with a rapidly growing news circle, today’s newspapers are unable to do serious follow-ups to even stories that they break.
Then, investigative stories are few and far between. We seem to think that a story is investigative only when it exposes corruption.
No! A simple story of a collapsed can be investigative.
The effect of all these is that, sooner or later, the newspaper will be unable to perform its core function and this will affect its survival. Of course, opportunities for employment will shrink.
Sadly, newspapers are slow or afraid to respond to these challenges. Let me ask a few questions: When last did we go to a bank? When last did any of us here buy a newspaper or a magazine? When last did we take the traditional taxi?
In my time, we travelled to our various secondary schools to check our WAEC result. How is it done today? In the past, JAMB results took almost two months before they were released. Today, they are released in 48 hours.
Newspapers publish book reviews but readers can read the whole book online
If all the sectors of the society have experienced and profited from the digital revolution, why do we think our profession will be different?
The newspapers’ first reaction to the emergence of the new media was either to be dismissive or to treat them as a fad that will soon go away.
What some newspapers simply did was to first produce the print edition, then simply transfer everything online.
Journalism is changing but we are not really ready to change.
So, what is to be done? We must begin to think of how our media will have a strong digital presence.
The economics of the newspaper business today does not support the way newspapers are operating today: multiple printing presses; a fleet of circulation vans, etc.
The Platforms: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram now control the distribution channels, thus putting the newspaper business, for instance, in jeopardy.
Perhaps more importantly, the readers have now been empowered to not only write, edit but also to share the news, thus effectively dislodging the newspapers. Newspapers should now see themselves as content providers which should be distributing their contents on all platforms. This will multiply their streams of income, help them to retain their readers and remain competitive.
EXPANDING THE OPPORTUNITIES
To remain in business, the media should effectively board the digital train. The newspapers, for example, should begin to do this by stop treating their online editions as poor cousins of the print edition.
In the interim, they should start adopting a policy of digital-first by appointing a senior editor, who is digital savvy as its online editor. The editor, who must have a proper newsroom, should be one who commands the respect of his colleagues and one who has the authority to call any erring reporter or line editor to order.
All reporters will be instructed to report to him the way they report to the daily editor. As soon as news breaks, the reporters must send the story, the still photograph and the video to the online editor.
Welcome to the world of convergence!
The online editor, will tweet the story, post it on the paper’s website and post same immediately on the paper’s Facebook page. The editor of the print version will take over and direct the reporters.
In the long run, there will be a radical restructuring of the newsroom to respond effectively to current realities.
Journalists who are trainable must undergo digital training and those who are untrainable or who are too stuck in the past will be encouraged to jump.
In 2017, I was part of a select group of journalists who toured newsrooms in America. We were in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Enquirer, to mention a few.
In almost all the newsrooms, the titles of the newsroom editors have changed. They now have titles like Chief Product Officer; Director of Innovation; Head, Audience Engagement; Director of Strategy and Data Analyst.
This innovation has greatly helped The New York Times, so much so that its digital subscription is growing in leaps and bounds. Perhaps more surprising is that, instead of retrenching staff as is the trend in many newspapers all over the world, it increased the number of its journalists. To drive its change process, it hired Mark Thompson, a former CEO of the BBC. Thompson, a broadcast journalist, has changed the face of The New York Times.
I haven’t seen a Nigerian media taking such a radical step to respond to the crisis at hand.
As of Wednesday, November 27, 2019, ALEXA.COM, the renowned website that rates sites based on how frequently readers visit websites, lists the top websites in Nigeria as follows:
- 1 Google;
- 2 Betnaija.com;
- 3 YouTube;
- 4 Yahoo.com;
- 5 Facebook;
- 6 Nairaland.com;
- 7 Jumia.com;
- 8 Wikipedia.org;
- 9 Dailypost.com;
- 10 Punchng.com.
Advertisers have gone online. Today’s advertiser follows the numbers.
SEEKING THE NEW FRONTIERS OF OPPORTUNITIES
Since it is obvious that print run and advertisements are no longer paying the bills, newspapers are advised to FastTrack their boarding the digital train.
It is a fact that the demography is in favour of the youthful population; a group that doesn’t buy newspapers. The older population, too, rather than buy prefer to read the newspapers free online.
So, the media should devise programmes and stories that will attract young people.
Therefore, the media should also to add value to their online diet and advertise their products on Google.
Also, the media should consider forming partnerships with Facebook and Google so as to enhance its Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
The media could also consider partnering with one or two telephone companies so that when consumers buy their phones, they see the media’s APP automatically. There is a lot of money online. Advertisers, for example, pay different rates for adverts on the desktop, and on laptops and phones.
The fear is real but I am of the opinion that if newspapers, for example, do the right thing by reinventing themselves, they will not die.
First, newspaper managers have to adopt a new business model. Crowdfunding is one. Raypower tried it when it was faced with the prospect of being taken over by receiver managers
Newspaper managers may have to appeal to the public and public-spirited individuals to see newspapers as part of a community project which they must support by subscription and donations.
Two, publishers have to rethink the idea of national newspapers with offices all over the country like political parties and focus attention on regional and city newspapers.
Three, the reader wants improved content. The newspaper must appeal to a broad interest group. It should be attractive to readers and the reporters should explore new ways of telling stories.
Can the media elevate environmental journalism, for example? We have river pollution, urban flooding; plastic pollution; air pollution; and natural disasters.
If reporters pitch these stories showing its importance to the reader and the country, by explaining the state of environmental degradation and what that means for the future, that would draw readers and command attention. Not a few Nigerians in the 90s tuned in daily to listen to newspaper review on OGBC. Why? Because of the unique way its anchor, the late Peter Okoduwa handled the review.
The newspaper should go back to the time-tested values of the profession: professionalism; fidelity to ethics and good use of language.
Newspapers should invest in training and be brave to take some radical steps like cutting pagination and removing some sections completely.
Publishers should explore the possibility of diluting ownership so that new investors can be brought on board, thus injecting new funds into the newspaper business.
Do newspapers bear the same cost? Are they in the same location? So, why should they have a uniform cover price?
Media organizations can begin to invest in organizing conferences and publishing special publications to mark landmark events.
This will add to their streams of income and held them to expand opportunities for employment.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Opportunities are shrinking in almost every profession. There are job losses in the banks; job losses in the manufacturing sector; even the civil service is not spared of the digital hurricane.
The thing to do, in my view, is to reinvent journalism practice and the curricula.
Even politicians who specialize in rigging elections will tell you that they have reinvented the process!
We need a new multimedia newsroom. A newsroom with digital walls to show live statistics and an innovation desk to experiment across all platforms and introduce new products. And of course, reporters who will tell stories differently asking the right questions: Who is the heroine? Who is the victim?
If these are done, opportunities in the media, rather than shrink, will expand!
I THANK YOU FOR LISTENING!
- Donica Mensing (2010). Journalism Studies, Volume 11, Issue 4.
- Jennifer Alejandro (2010). Journalism in the age of Social Media. Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism.
- (2014). National Diploma & Higher National Diploma in Mass Communication
This paper titled “Journalism Education and Shrinking Opportunities” was presented by Gbemiga Ogunleye, FNGE, Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos during the 15th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) at The International Conference Centre Sokoto: November 27 – December 1, 2019.