Journalism is a tasking profession in Nigeria as in other parts of the world. This requires that upcoming Nigerian journalists, especially students in mass communication, media studies and journalism schools understand what it means to excel in the media business in Nigeria apart from theories acquired in the classroom. The best way to acquire such knowledge is experientially as offered by veterans in the Nigerian journalism and media profession.
One man aptly qualified to offer this invaluable knowledge to upcoming Nigerian journalists is Simon Kolawole, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Cable Newspapers, publishers of The Cable, which is one of Nigeria’s leading online newspapers. Kolawole was once the Editor of ThisDay newspapers and has vast experience in journalism practice in Nigeria. While speaking to Mass Communication students in a workshop, he gave very important clues on how upcoming practicing and student journalists could get ready for journalism practice in a digital age.
“One, you must possess all the necessary knowledge to be able to operate in the social media space. Whatever Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used for, you must learn all the tricks of the trade so that you can take professionalism there. You have a duty as communicators to educate, to entertain and to inform the general public. What will mark you out in the commotion out there is the professionalism you bring to bear,” he said.
“Two, the digital media industry requires skill sets that you must have. You must be able to tell your stories in a multimedia format. You must be able to handle the camera very well, to take good pictures and make good videos. You must understand the visualisation of stories. You should be able to use graphs to communicate complicated figures and simplify story telling. With all these skills at your disposal, you will enter the profession with an added advantage above the pretenders. Otherwise, you will find yourself locked outside from your profession by those who should never have been inside in the first place.
“Three, you must carve a niche for yourself. Nigeria is filled with many journalists who are not subject-matter experts. You must be intellectually rich in the history and intricacies of the field you have chosen to play in.”
Kolawole also condemned what he described as unprofessional activities of those who call themselves citizen journalist. He said it was “most uncharitable” for anyone to just buy a smart phone and start writing whatever he or she likes and get classified as a journalist.
“They do not understand what it means to balance a story, they do not have access to news subjects to confirm whether or not a story is true, and they don’t even understand the laws of libel and the overall role of the mass media in the society,” he said.
“They write whatever they like under the umbrella of being citizen journalists and we all get abused together over the ‘falling standards of journalism in Nigeria’. To be sure, I do not want to suggest that the newspapers that are run by professionals are perfect, but at least they are answerable to processes and laws. Many of the websites that run libelous and fake stories do not even have a contact address. They do not answer to anybody.”
Kolawole’s advice is very essential for any young reporter or student journalist who wants to excel in the profession.