Campus journalism has been a reproductive stream for mainstream journalism in Nigeria, and Press Club MAPOLY has proven to be a force in this respect. EFOSA TAIWO writes on how the club has been able to sustain this for decades.
Every Thursday, a group of young student journalists at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) converge on the Old Mass Communication building for the weekly meeting of the Press Club MAPOLY (PCM).
They don’t only discuss news reports about issues in the campus environment, but also bring in practising journalists to train members and offer them tips on the nitty-gritty of journalism and media, by extension.
These would-be journalists are taught on on-the-field journalism, advertising, public relations experiences and issues – emerging forms of journalism, podcasting, copywriting, career etiquette – that are primed to enhance their skills and competencies as regards media, as such, when they end up practising outside the shores of the campus, they practise from a place of value and not a place of voidness.
“I joined PCM during the first week of resumption at MAPOLY in 2008. Olalekan Yinusa (who was in ND II), my cousin, introduced me to the club and I joined the first meeting of the 2008/2009 academic session. I cannot totally put into words all the benefits that PCM offered me,” said a former PCM Editor, Lukmon Oloyede.
With over ten years of experience and growth as a communications specialist, he presently works as a brand management expert for a Lagos-based consumer finance company. Today, Oloyede hinged his success story on the experiences he gained from PCM.
“The practical learnings that PCM offered after class lectures gave me the confidence needed to report for a tier-one national newspaper – the Guardian Newspaper – as a freelance writer for 6 years and a full-time reporter for foremost brand and marketing publication, BrandiQ. Today, that experience led to my career path in media relations/media buying now Marketing and Brand Management,” he noted.
Down memory lane
Founded around 1992 and still living as the only registered campus press outfit in the 42-year-old polytechnic, the student-run PCM owes its prestige to excellence and professionalism over the years which is evident in the graduates who have gone to be practising journalists and media professionals who are advancing careers and growth in the Nigerian media space.
In almost every media organisation you pull over today, it is either they have had one ex-PCM member work with them or they have one currently contributing excellence to what they do.
Oloyede is one of the household names in the Nigerian media circle PCM has produced from its about 50-100-person membership strength every session. Among numerous others are Femi Adefowokan of The Nation, Daud Olatunji and Leke Baiyewu of The Punch, Ifedayo Ogunyemi of the Nigerian Tribune, Olasunkanmi Akinlotan of Premium Times, Charles Segun Adegbite formerly of The Sun, Olalekan Yinusa of Sweet FM, Mistura Salami of Lagos Traffic Radio and Norah Laura of Sweet FM among numerous others.
When they were still greenhorns with only ambitions to flaunt, Press Club MAPOLY gave them wings upon which they fly today. Just like it did to Akeem Salami, Ganiyu Olowu, Femi Peters, Nuraen Bakenne, Michael Jacob and others who push their brands towards profitability using public relations and advertising. These professionals are, in turn, invited and asked to share their field experiences with present students.
With an emphasis on practice in media training as against the acquisition of theoretical abilities alone, PCM seeks to be a platform for media practice and exposure for students in MAPOLY. The in-house training and external exposure of members that the club prioritises help to equip members with contemporary and essential media skills that make them competent wherever they find themselves just like its annual campus journalism summit which metamorphosed into the Ogun State Campus Journalism Summits (OCJS) where contemporary journalism issues are dissected.
The annual media tour to national, regional and private media organisations also constantly bridges the gap between what is taught in the class, at meetings and what is obtainable on the field. Some of these symbiotic partnerships with media organisations have continued to lead to internship placements for some members where they get hands-on training job placements.
“Press Club MAPOLY has granted us unsolicited exposure to firsthand training on the intricacies of journalism,” Jeffrey Ikolo, a current member of the association remarked.
Abdulrazaq Fatoki says he will always include PCM – a club that has given him so much value – in his CV. “In Press Club, I have got training, and it has also made me understand that competence is not measured by age nor exposure but passion and commitment one puts into skills. I am really enjoying my membership with the club and Press Club MAPOLY will go down in my CV as a value.”
For the incumbent editor of the club, Kowiyat Adepoju who needed a platform for her many ideas, PCM offered an amplifier. She says “Press Club MAPOLY has given a voice to my being voiceless, and also provided a platform to hone my skills and contribute my own quota to the society.”
Laurels in the bag
It is not far-fetched that PCM has continued to sweep home regional and national awards. It won the Best Campus Press Outfit in Nigeria at the Campus Journalism Awards (CJA) for two straight years – 2018 and 2019 – and emerged the first runner-up in the same category in 2021 while producing the highest number of finalists: three at the awards ceremony in Abuja. It also won the Campus Press of the Year award at the 2021 Ogun State Campus Journalism Summit. These feats are no thanks to the thought-provoking weekly editorial pieces, news and features written and edited by members and published on the club’s notice boards and blog.
While PCM was coasting home in club-based categories, its members also won laurels in the person-based categories at the CJA. Oluwatobi Odeyinka won the Feature Writer category in 2018, Kafilat Taiwo won Gender Equality Reporter in 2019, the same category was awarded to Fasilat Oluwuyi in 2021, Hassan Abdulsalam won the Sports Writer category in 2021 while others made the shortlists over the years. Members of the club have continued to hold elective and appointive positions at the national and regional levels of the National Union of Campus Journalism (NUCJ) and the National Association of Nigerian Campus Editor’s (NANCE) since inception.
Friction in the wheels
As impressive as this process is to the mind, PCM has not had a smooth campus journalism practice. This is due to several confrontations members have had with the school management on “offensive” editorial contents that held the management accountable.
In early 2017, a certain head of department threatened the then PCM President, Ogunyemi over a news report written by a member about the mass failure in the department of accountancy which the HOD said ‘puts the school in bad light.’
Recounting the experience, Ogunyemi said: “The HOD castigated me in all the classes he attended and taught during the period. My sources in those classes called to inform me and this went on for weeks. He even queried me in front of my class members about why I failed to pull down the report on the PCM blog as he requested.
“I guessed some people in management eventually impressed on him to let me go because he had threatened to fail me and got my student details during our first meeting.”
Another clog is the lack of adequate funds to carry out the club’s proposed projects. This impedes PCM’s plans just like almost every other campus press outfit. The association is presently funded by membership dues (paid annually), weekly donations from members, hard copy sales and adverts in its annual magazine, FACT. It is now hoping to generate more income in online adverts when the blog is upgraded to a proper news website.
There also appears to be a disproportion in the composition of members as about 95% of PCM membership is drawn from one department alone – mass communication. This has limited the coverage of events happening in other departments. Concerted efforts have offered a ray of hope to change this narrative. This culminated in the recent inauguration of Abdulrasheed Olamide from the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering as the president of the club in late 2021.
While he made history as the first president of the club who is not a mass communication student in nearly 30 years of the club’s existence, it is hoped that other students from other departments who have an interest in media would be able to disabuse their minds of the misconception of Press Club being only for communication students and take up the gauntlet to join the club to learn and improve media skills. This is the club’s ultimate goal: having members from the nooks and crannies of the school. All that’s required to join the club is flair and interest in journalism and valid proof of studentship.
…a home for all
Oloyede further urged all categories of students on campus on the need to leverage the advantages that PCM offers, adding that whoever intends to impact the environment needs to hone their writing/journalism skills and build self-confidence, an area that Press Club MAPOLY has proven track record in.
“PCM is a platform for students who care about their immediate environment – the campus – and want to make a change without joining any of the political groups. It is a club for young leaders who are focused, dedicated and morally upright,” Oloyede said. “Build self-confidence, improve academic performances and be role models to many others.”
Nurudeen Salako, an erstwhile president of the club added to this, saying “beyond mentorship, PCM sharpened the leadership skills in me. I held and served in different leadership positions within the local chapter and zonal level of the national campus journalism body. Not to forget the awards and recognitions it has given to me.”
As of today, Press Club MAPOLY has a working relationship with the Ogun State branches of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and a host of media firms in Abeokuta, Ogun State and Lagos State.