...Redifining Journalism for Development

The Sweep with Hassan Hassan: When will the change agent change?


There are few proud professions I know. Perhaps because I know this better. Journalism is the most sought bride among professions in terms of prestige. And it is the proudest. Journalism’s pride lies in how its signees know and perform its arts, crafts, or science – because it is everything of the three. It is the only profession practised even in hell.
How journalism works does not lie in the books of journalism or the broader mass communication body of models and theories. Not at all times in same way, at least. It is a humanity – a social science method of inquiry and accounting and reporting, because it trades on humans; a craft because it needs creativity; and a science because it needs some measurements of words and systematic arrival at conclusions.
Journalism manifests in the most tangible: it impacts on lives; forms, shapes and changes attitudes and behaviours of members of a family, group, community, society or nation. It does so most remarkably with the magic of the word – printed, spoken or signalled. If you want to measure how journalism performs, assess the level of media exposure and information of people where it is practised.
In Nigeria, journalism is both misunderstood and abused. There is inertia of minding this nobility of journalism even among those who proclaim its tenets like there is dearth of adequate methods and skills in the training centres in Nigeria. Many mass communication and journalism centres in our numerous institutions turn out thousands of graduates every year. But that has not manifested into perfecting the ways of practice.
In the current circumstances, journalism is the popular interest’s own pillar. It is a public trust, a human instrument of changing human misfortunes into fortunes for the poor, the needy and the unprivileged. In the campaign of change, journalism is the change agent, the mobiliser, the advocate. In the war on corruption it is the searchlight on the accused, the suspect, the guilty and it is the first judge on the fate of culprits.
How do we know it is the advocate on the war on corruption? It is rooted in the books, the theories and models of practise. It is journalism that told and educated the people about the menace of corruption. It called it all the evils. But why, now that the campaign against the fight is indirectly or directly championed by journalism, the media or call them the press? Why is the press so antagonistic about this government?
How? That is what many journalists asked me whenever I raised the issue. I am not ready to answer anyone. I can only ask the public to be the judges on the matter. We have found no reason different from the very reasons the corrupt hates PMB. Why is this so?
Because corruption is a great source of income for the media and journalists, instituted by journalists themselves and utilised by government. So how can the corrupt or the beneficiary support a war against themselves? No way. But when the laws are changed and enforced, everyone will.
And even when the media itself tries to scuttle the campaign for changing the rules by changing the subject each time something serious about corruption is raised, they will not last this will stop. And soon. Trust me.
This and other factors make it difficult for the aspiring journalist to fully appreciate the demands of the profession and requirements of the job. Many persons come into the profession without knowing the stakes, or the challenges. That also depends on where they study, to what level and who taught them. No one theory, not all the theories tell you how to get out of a security or legal situation when you are entangles. You need everything it takes but only from your own mind only.
Anybody thinks they can study mass communication and appear on television or just publish anything in the press. The huge demands of this unique profession descend on them in the course of practice, and instead of humbling themselves out of the mess; they force themselves on practice, against the principles, ethics and laws. And they are unapolegitic.
For the outsider and the potential member, journalism presents an image of prestige, a glamour that persons want to take in life. Unknown to them, that image is not in the name of the profession but inherent in its doctrine and how members carry the doctrine into practice.
No one makes a decent living and honour by just being a journalist in name. A good name in journalism is earned by how one does the job according to the established laws and ethics.
In Nigeria, journalism is governed by series of provisions in the Constitution, Acts of the National Assembly and a 15-point Nigeria Union of Journalists Code of Ethics. All the laws and ethics demand that the journalist upholds the truth; respects the Constitution and rights/privacy of others; obtain information legitimately, try to be objective, factual and be accurate. Empirical evidence shows many have not kept their professional promise.
Because of the general political economy of the nation and the poverty of media organisations, it has been difficult to professionalise journalism in Nigeria. But that is no excuse to the disservice it is subjected to. Anyone who cannot practise according to professional standards must leave for other jobs. They cannot carry the burden of abuse on their heads for no benefit of their own and the profession.
Democracy has never thrived anywhere in the world without a democratic media. The American and European systems are sustained by the strength of their media systems which determine who to be president, prime minister or Member of Parliament. In Nigeria it is the opposite. The media is either silent or is muzzled to support the most unlikely office bidder.
Nigeria’s democracy since 1999 has not ensured the democratisation of the mass media in Nigeria. Even with the liberalisation of the media since 1992, there are still more government media outfits than private media organisations; more stations in the urban, main cities than rural areas, or less developed states.
The spatial distribution remains skewed and nothing now points to a good future. And licensing is selectively issued to the favoured and not to anyone seeking to establish media organisations of their own.
Again, the media regulatory mechanisms still lie in the old, undemocratic structures and Decrees turned Acts, subjecting the mass media to frequent influence of the executive arm of government and legislation bias of legislators. Officials also interpret the laws in ways that suit them.
Government is also unwilling to fund its media or liberalise policy on private practice to allow for freedom of journalists to practice or easy import and production materials. The stamp on the AIT in 2003 for reporting the Bellview plane crash first and the hanging Freedom of Information awaiting passage by the National Assembly are a couple of examples.
Government and private owners are just not interested in funding the media or giving them and journalists the required freedom to perform. The more the media and journalists remain poor and unable to do their work, the better for politicians and government executives and legislators.
People will not be properly informed and will lack adequate information to make informed or critical opinions about them. This further encourages corruption and looting and impedes the flow of justice.
Perhaps it is also because the media, public and private are also largely, hopeless. The AIT show of shame during the campaign and the current conspiracy of silence on the campaign against the peoples’ government, hate speech and undermine of the war against corruption makes the no promise from the industry, now full of hopeless, self actualised individuals.
Perhaps it is also because some private media owners are also not democratic, have ulterior personal or sectional interest and greedy because they do not pay workers good salary and never on time. Many still owe logs of salaries and allowances. At least in this case, the public media are better in a number of ways.
This also put a culture of dogma among journalists in practice, many of whom become mere errands of the powerful and megaphone of strong interests. And they receive token for that. For all the service to their masters and disservice to the profession, erring journalists have not removed the poverty in them.
It has not occurred to them either whether something is wrong with them. Ignorance about the wrongs is more dangerous than even the wrongs themselves. And it is this ignorance that eats deep into the professional fabrics of the profession.
Those who study mass communication or journalism and abhor Nigerian journalists’ way of life as poor, dirty and womanisers, would look for the more lucrative branches of mass communication like advertising or public relations jobs in, say, oil companies.
Those practising have taken the responsibility of messing themselves and the profession by abusing the profession’s creed of Public Trust and social responsibility. No proud incomer can afford that, except the hopeless and the looser.
Bad journalists work like there is no other profession or any other thing for them to do, like they are going to die if they are sacked for speaking the truth. They work to just earn a living and not serve the public. ​
They tell a lot of lies and hide a lot of truth in the process, thereby directly and indirectly covering the mess of politicians and government agents. They work on the old trite parable: “if you can’t beat them, join them”, which is supposed to have been given a descent burial long ago.
Forget it. The new parable is “if you can’t beat them, you leave them.” In life, anything that becomes too common is dangerous and you must avoid. Nigerians have claimed virtually every other right of theirs rightly or wrongly, except one: the right to be different. We have got big guts to have our style but have not shown that style in developing personal job principles to make us unique.
There is every chance and opportunity now than ever that if you are sacked on principle, you will make a good name and be a celebrity of your own, something your long years of service in the profession has not given you. But there are better opportunities to work in other areas in the field you have not thought of, areas like information/communication/public relations consultant.
You must not ruin your life and tarnish the professional image by living on meagre salary and collecting brown envelopes that hardly keep you beyond a day; you cannot be sinning by cheating the public in working in a government media. You were not created to only work there when you specialise to work in different aspects of mass communication.
Any time you find a crisis of principle on the job, your food is bound to finish in that place. Go. Explore other areas or possibilities. Any time you feel too much attached to a place for no popular but personal reason usually due to personal weakness, you leave for another place. You are better off there. Always remember that your best is outside the limitations of your faculty.


But there is more than just working for government or someone.
Journalism is not a profession of servitude even if the education system in Nigeria trains for servitude. It is the most enterprising profession I know, because it works on ideas that cost you nothing.
Ideas are your mind’s treasures that you can die with if you do not explore them. Journalism is a self reliant venture, a self do enterprise, except you do not want to put your mind to work, or except your mind does not work. And that is difficult to believe.
Yes, all humans cannot be the same, equal in intellect, character and input. But every human was created for a good reason, with some measure of intellect to keep them afloat the challenging waters of the world.
They have to explore its potentials or if you are poorly educated for the certificate, with deep mental inertia to think and produce ideas for independent stories as a freelance. Freelancing is the journalistic opportunity to work from home.
You think a story idea, confirm your facts and write a story many media organizations are willing to buy, because the media anywhere are always suffering from storydrought. In Nigeria that is truer because there are more media organizations with less capable hands to feed them with good stories, or there are more mass communication graduates who cannot make good freelancing.
Freelancers are sometimes called copy writers because they do not only write news or feature stories. They also write advertisement or image management copies for advertising agencies and public relations companies. You can also write speeches for politicians who do not have official writers yet. Or corporate executives who are keen to make marketing through their appearances and what they say in public.
Now more media outfits are springing up, many more are in the process. There are more other companies – local, national and multinational which will require your services in different areas. They will keep multiplying as long as democracy lasts and it has to if we must keep relevance in the world.
When they take off, they will need the services of any good mind, anyone with zeal to work. There is no definition and no limits to what you can do for them. Opportunities are unlimited.
Forget the idea that you must know somebody before you can land a job in journalism. That doesn’t work. Not for the aspiring journalist. Just think of what you can do; what you can produce from your mind and present in words, pictures or voice. This is a writing business. If you can’t write and well, you are damned.
Haven’t you changed yet? I mean as a Nigerian. When will you? Things are changing fast. Trust the PMB change mission. The grassroots have accepted it fully. If you don’t, you are at your own peril. Patronage for dogma is no more. It is, it will be a time of merit, merit and merit.
As journalism hopeful or as journalist, you need to change first and quick because tour job is to change others. Can you give what you don’t have? No. Many of the notions we held/are holding will not matter in five years from now.
No one hires any one to announce, to write or to edit only anymore. Journalism is today multitasked, based on multimedia operated. You report, write, edit, share and announce your story all alone.
At broadcast time, the story is also on the webpage or social media page of your organisation and many others. If you want to succeed get through the process. If you are deep-seated, change, adapt and transform.
Enrol as a journalist today with the challenges of telling the truth in your own style and in many different ways. And work hard. You will not regret it if you are good. But do not forget to bring your heart and mind with you. Your heart for the job and your mind for yourself.

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