By Anote Ajeluorou
UNLIKE the western world where newspapers or other media organs freely support or endorse particular candidates in an election, in Nigeria it’s still difficult. This is because of the complex diversity that defines the country, and serves as a constraint on the media.
However, what obtains in the media in the country is bias for or against certain candidates, even as partisanship is frowned at. These were some of the views editor of The Guardian, Mr. Martins Oloja expressed when he delivered a talk yesterday to students of Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Oga, Lagos.
According to Oloja, “We just had the worst election reports in our history. It was all about complaints, as there were no issues in the campaigns. Some of the newspapers or radio and TV stations are owned by politicians. Soon enough you will not find them anymore. No newspapers could endorse any candidate. What we had was bias. Our diversity is a problem. In the U.S. and the U.K., newspapers openly endorse candidates they feel lean towards certain ideals that they also promote. But that is not the case here”.
Apart from charging the students to read Nigeria’s constitution, Oloja also tasked them to read books about Nigeria and travel widely so they could be better equipped to understand her complex diversity that often poses a challenge to some journalists.
“Nigeria is much more than the three tribes of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo, or the new addition, Ijaw, which are the oppressors,” Oloja said. “Reporters need to know these things because we’re covering a complex diversity. In order that our reporting does not cause problems, we need to understand this complex diversity. You need to have knowledge of the people you cover. So, when you get to a place, you need to study the culture on ground. NIJ needs to incorporate culture in its curriculum. Our culture is very complex. Journalists need to be deep to discern the tangible things. Journalists need to travel round the country to know it”.
Former editor of the Premier newspaper in Abuja stressed the need for the trainee journalists to pay particular attention to the use of English language. He quoted a popular English language writer, SMO Aka, who said of English, “If English isn’t a passport to heaven, it’s a passport to heavenly places” such as journalism, employment etc.
According to Oloja, “In journalism you should take your grammar lessons very seriously. It’s the global language of business. If you’re a broadcaster or copywriter, what will put people off is poor grammar, which is what pains me so much even at The Guardian because I can’t see everything. So, use English as used by the native speakers. The power that you wield is in the power to control the use of English language”.
He also stressed the power of reading widely as a helpful tool to a journalist’s work, adding that a leader in journalism is necessarily a reader of good books. The Guardian editor also encouraged the students to move to the new media, as was now the trend, saying, “We’re moving from traditional media to digital journalism and we must be comprehensive. This is where citizen journalism is. For us to be part of the new world we must reform; we must do the right thing. We must embrace digital journalism to be able to work online. This is the new world”.
Oloja also enjoined the students to embrace research and data analysis as bedrock of the sort of journalism that could make impact. He said, “Any report that is based on research and measurable data is likely to have more impact. You need to use data or analysis to do measurable stories and nobody ever forgets their impact. But if you do not read, you cannot report or write well, and there must be impact.
“It’s a serious matter in journalism. People don’t like to read. People are too lazy to read. For us to excel as journalists, we must read. But what do you read? Certainly, it should not The Richest Man in Babylon or motivational books. You need to read deep”.
Earlier, Provost, Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye said the institute had embraced the spirit of change sweeping through the country and that bringing an expert to speak to the students was designed to bridge the gap between the classroom and the newsroom.
Other principal officers of the institution in attendance were Deputy Provost, Mr. Jide Johnson, Senior Librarian, Mobuogwu Lilian, Senior Assistant Registrar (Students Affairs), Mrs. Patricia Kalesanwo, Instructor, PR/Advertising and Mr. Jack Amaso.