Mass communication is an exciting profession with various branches, one of which is journalism. Be it print, broadcast or online journalism, this branch of the profession is regarded as rugged, intriguing and tasking. The focus here is on students of Mass Communication, Communication Arts, Media and Journalism or any other title used to represent communication education departments in Nigeria. Studies have shown that women dominate journalism schools while men dominate the newsrooms. Despite this skewed gender representation in journalism practice, students wouldn’t mind taking up the profession with the right encouragement and teaching.The field of journalism is evolving, with the digital landscape making it more adventurous and accommodating for even those not trained in the profession to come in.
This branch of communication provides for practitioners an atmosphere with the drive to grow, learn, question, adapt, expand, travel and tell other people’s stories. May be that’s why most graduates of Mass Communication somehow find themselves practicing it before switching to other professions.
However, there are truths and realities about journalism profession in Nigeria that students wouldn’t want to hear before considering whether or not to take it up after school. Even journalists already practising in the field wouldn’t want to hear some of these facts. Here’s a list of 10 things Mass communication students and some practising journalists wouldn’t want to hear about journalism practice in Nigeria.
1. Journalism is humanitarian.
If you’re going into journalism to become a millionaire you might be making a big mistake. At the initial stages it’s more humanitarian than money-spinning venture for the field reporter. This is until you get to the level of becoming a media owner, that’s when you are likely to start making much money. But the salary of an average journalist especial in Nigeria is nothing to write home about. You can ask practicing journalists this question if you doubt it. So to enjoy this work you have to get on board with a humanitarian heart, that is, your job is basically to serve the society as a watch dog, not really to make money.
2. Salary is poor
What most media houses pay journalists is not commensurate with the tasking and sometimes hazardous nature of the job. To be blunt about this, the salary paid by its media houses in Nigeria is pathetic when compared with most other jobs in the country. This is what you’ll almost never hear in the classroom. The amount paid cannot just be mentioned here but bear in mind that you might not be getting any fat pay when you get employed by most media houses in the country.
3. No job security
You can get sacked the next second for writing a story your boss sees as inimical to a ‘friendly’ organization or individual. By ‘friendly’ we mean companies that give advert to your media house. You can even be sacked for annoying a politician close to owner of the media house you work for.
4. Irregular salary
Even the poor salary is not paid regularly. You can find media houses owing staff salaries for months ranging from three to twelve. Some Journalists get frustrated out of the profession because of poor or irregular salary. Some others survive on unethical practices.
5. You might have to survive on brown envelopes
This is the most unfortunately realistic aspect of journalism practice in Nigeria. This is so, partly due to the poor and irregular salary situation bedevilling the profession, including the societal value system which glorifies wealth acquired through illicit means, putting journalists under pressure to measure up with trends. Brown envelope is a term used to refer to gratifications given to journalists by news sources, to influence the content of a story in favour of the source. It is mostly given as an outright or subtle bribe though some journalists argue that it is not a bribe because it doesn’t influence the content of their stories even after they must have accepted it.
Most journalists make ends meet by accepting brown envelopes. That’s how they survive. Note that some media houses in Nigeria don’t even pay salary at all. This means they believe your ID card as a journalist should feed you. This is an open license to unethical practices.
6. Lack of incentives
A journalist working for a media house in the Western world can practically relocate to another country to investigate a story. The trip is definitely sponsored by the media house sending the reporter. In Nigeria you are expected to investigate stories with your money. Very few media houses give you transport or hotel allowance to investigate stories. Media houses struggling to pay poor salaries are not ready to hear that you have a cutting-edge story you would like to investigate if sponsored. You’re to sponsor yourself and get to the root of an interesting investigative piece if you really want to make a name for yourself.
7. It’s really hazardous
Journalism generally is a hazardous profession whether you’re practicing in Nigeria or other parts of the world. However, the chances that you can get killed, detained, abducted, or assaulted is high in some countries more than others. Unfortunately, Nigeria is one of such countries, especially due to the numerous cases of violence and terror attacks in volatile parts of the country.
8. No respect for rank
Now this is a bit difficult to explain but let’s see what we can do. Some professions like law, medicine or lecturing give you something to look up to. On your first day at work you can say in the next 20 years I’ll be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a consultant surgeon or a Professor, respectively. In journalism if you don’t end up a media owner there’s almost nothing to fall back on, even if you become an editor (and becoming a media owner is not what you get by climbing the professional ladder). When you get sacked after getting to the rank of editor you might not get respect from your younger colleagues in the field whom it is possible were still in school when you had become editor-in-chief. Those in the field understand this point very well.
9. It’s a man’s job
Journalism in every part of the world is seen as a man’s job, and truly it’s dominated by men. But the worrisome thing about the case of Nigeria is that there are cultural stereotypes that make it difficult for women to freely excel in the profession. One major stereotype is that a succesful female journalist must have slept her way to the top. Otherwise how was she able to follow-up personalities, especially politicians to get cutting-edge interviews? After all, a responsible woman is not supposed to stay up late nights chasing stories or waiting for ambush interviews when she should be at jome taking care of her husband and children. This is a terrible stereotype women, especiall married women face in the profession. You can ask veteran female journalists the discrimation, stereotypes and partial stigma they’ve had to put up with on the job, including from colleagues. You’ll be shocked at what they’ll tell you.
10. It’s an all-comers profession
Anyone can wake up anytime and become a journalist without undergoing any form of training. This is more so in this era of citizen journalism where anyone who owns a smart phone is a reporter. Somenone gets a smart phone, ends up having a news platform or blog and beguns to writes stories of all kinds not minding whether the newsgathering or presentation process is ethical. Professionalism is relegated to the background or completely jettisoned by gate-crashers most if whom do not bother to take basic jounalism courses to get acquainted with the professional environment.
Now let’s wrap this up by saying that you shouldn’t let these 10 points mentioned here discourage you in anyway from becoming a jounalist or striving to excel in it. Journalism is truly an evolving profession with a lot of space for creativity and exciting adventures.