FFK: Beyond Anger And Indignation By Wale Fatade - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Thursday, August 27, 2020

FFK: Beyond Anger And Indignation By Wale Fatade

It’s heart-warming reading the fulminations, diatribe and tirade against our former aviation minister. Very well deserved, no doubt. For someone who often reminds us of his pedigree and ancestry in ways that speak more of medieval Europe and the old Oyo Empire, it was nice to see him stewing in his own juice. The Yoruba expression Bibi’re o se fówo ra – sorry if your Yoruba is not deep enough to understand that – it loses its essence and meaning if rendered in another language, captures my sentiments on what happened. Nothing more to add. 

Many commentators have addressed the incident and I enjoy the anger of journalists more than other citizens. It kindled a fire in me that probably, just probably, there might still be hope left for the profession I fought my father nearly three decades ago to be part of. Two colleagues, Charles Okogene and Niran Adedokun, have written about what I think should be our reactions as journalists to the unfortunate incident. This intervention is also a more detailed reaction to my response on Pelu Awofeso’s take on the issue on twitter. Okogene in many posts on Facebook and Adedokun in his weekly column in Punch newspaper, touched on what should be our major concerns if we are going to take journalism out of the coma it is presently in Nigeria. 

I proposed three interventions: Pay journalists living wages, break all incestuous relationships with politicians, and demarcate journalism from public relations.  

The assault of journalists on their profession today damage the profession more than the diatribe of an expired politician. We must pay journalists living wages, that’s the first issue. Many in the newsrooms earn what cannot take them home, remember that ASUU sticker of the early 1990s? And while lecturers somehow got the pay that can at least take them away from their offices, journalists are still struggling. Nothing demoralises more than terrible pay, Nigerian journalists deserve more than we earn today. Apart from those working with international organisations, the pay is not worth being called that. That’s why journalists spend more time chasing money than stories, that’s why they will rather “kill” stories than publish it and that’s why advertising materials end up running as features or news analysis. Low pay brings low self-esteem and we saw that on display in Calabar. What our colleague penned as his own side of the story contains stuff I never read until then, why has he not reported such? Pathetically, others sat down without a whimper, one was even remonstrating with him. You can safely guess why they kept quiet. Let’s not talk about what goes on outside the headquarters.  

There are many incestuous relationships between journalists and the people we report, especially politicians. Sometimes you wonder whether politicians are the only ones in Nigeria as they are the only people we report mostly. But they are the one whose pockets, filled with our commonwealth, are deep enough to meet our needs. Some publishers are the worst, headlines and stories are changed routinely to reflect the owners’ wishes than factual reportage. A publisher presently serves as ‘media consultant’ to a regulatory financial institution and will go to any length to stop critical stories on the institution across the media landscape. Of course, such can never be published in his medium. A former governor once boasted to me and other journalists, “I don’t need you people at all, I can dictate tomorrow’s headline right from my phone.” It was a gathering of senior journalists and I should be among the most junior there that day, nobody said a word. Journalists routinely drop politicians’ names and call them “friends” without bothering about conflict of interest. How many times have politicians, state and federal governments, parastatals and agencies sponsored our conferences and conventions across all cadres? From beat associations to our union and the editors’ body, we see nothing wrong in accepting such. Often, you hear stuff like “is he paying from his pocket?” “It’s our share of the national cake” among other inanities.

Finally, we must separate our conjoined twins: journalism and public relations. Too many folks in the newsroom unashamedly parade themselves as “media consultants” and even have complimentary cards proclaiming them so. You can’t wear the two hats together at the same time. Both are distinct professions and occupy different places in mass communication. We must take them to the surgical room early if we still want to salvage what remains of our profession. The demarcation must be clear: you’re either a journalist or a PR person. 

We can continue pretending as if things are normal, we can see how far we have gone in the sewer and nowhere is this more reflected than our revenue base. It’s shrinking and will shrink further. If we don’t allow journalism to breathe better, the next verbal assault is around the corner.  

Note: This is not a post supporting the Calabar show of shame, not at all. 

Wale Fatade Writes Lagos

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