Simon Kolawole: Meet Nigeria’s Most Influential Online Journalist

Simon Kolawole

When you talk about the mass media in Nigeria, especially the print media, certain names come up as brands that have shaped modern print journalism in the country. One of such person with remarkable integrity and professionalism in the face of challenges in the field is Simon Kolawe. His profile will inspire anyone to strive to the top not just in journalism but any career.

Who is Simon Kolawole?

Simon Kolawole was born in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria, but moved to Mopa, in Present day Kogi State, Nigeria to live with his grandmother after the demise of his father in a road accident in 1976. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Cable Newspaper Limited, and Publisher of TheCable, Nigeria’s Independent online newspaper. Kolawole is a Nigerian journalist, public speaker and media entrepreneur and in 2012, the World Economic Forum named him one of the young Global leaders as recognition of his record of professional accomplishments and commitment to the society.

Education

Kolawole moved to Lagos, Nigeria, in 1989 to study Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. He won the Chevening Scholarship to study for a master’s degree in Governance and Development at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK in 2005/2006 academic year. In 2010, he was selected as one of the governance for Development Fellows at the school of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Career

His journey into Journalism was inspired by Veteran journalist, Dele Giwa, who was killed in the line of duty. Prior to setting up TheCable Kolawole worked at Encomium Magazine, Complete football, This week, Tempo, ThisDay. He was staff writer at complete football in 1993, senior correspondent TheNews/TEMPO 1994-1995, features writer, later sports editor, Today’s News Today 1995-96; assistant editor, City People 1996-97, assistant Editor, This Day 1997, features editor This Day, 1998-1999; deputy editor, Financial Standard 1999-2001; editor, TheWeek Magazine, 2001-2002 Saturday editor, This Day 2002-2005; managing editor, This Day 2006-2007, editor and associate director, This Day 2007-2012. In 2008, Kolawole published a comprehensive ThisDay oil report, titled “Nigeria and other Oil-producing countries: A comparative Study”. His other works have been cited in the journal of Asian and African Social Science and Humanities, and in many other academic works.

In 2007, he was appointed editor of This Day, regarded as Nigeria’s most influential newspaper. He edited the paper for five years, before he resigned in 2012. He has taken leadership courses at Yale University and Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a young Global Leader of World Economic Forum. Kolawole was very influential in Nigeria while on the staff of ThisDay newspaper where he authored one of the most widely read columns in the country, SimonKolawoleLive. He views as a columnist which he shared on his back page column in the newsppaer set and shifted agenda at various levels and sectors of the country.

Controversial resignation from Thisday Newspaper

Kolawole’s exit from ThisDay newspaper was shrouded in controversy, or so reports suggested. He reportedly resigned from Thisday newspaper in 2012 after he was spontaneously removed as Editor of the newspaper and reassigned to Editorial Director.

It was gathered that Mr. Obaigbena, publisher of the newspaper, had in June 2010 appointed Mr. Kolawole for a fresh three-year tenure which was supposed to expire in June 2013. Premium Times reports that the THISDAY publisher denied knowledge of that appointment, saying Mr. Kolawole’s tenure had since expired.

After his removal was announced, the editor turned in his resignation telling colleagues he could not accept to be so shabbily treated after serving the newspaper diligently for about 10 years.

The publisher of the paper on Sunday told PREMIUM TIMES that he had accepted Mr. Kolawole resignation in good fate. “He is free to pursue other interests. There is no quarrel, there is no problem,” Mr. Obaigbena said. And as the paper’s publisher advised, Mr. Kolawole told his associates he would go on to pursue other interests.

“This is to officially inform you that I have resigned my appointment with THISDAY to pursue my other interests,” Mr. Kolawole said in a text message he sent to friends and associates. “I will however continue to write my Sunday column and serve on the newspaper’s editorial board on a part time basis.”

This controversy did not affect Kolawole’s creative journalistic instincts in any way as he moved on to establish one of the leading online news platforms in Nigeria, The Cable.

CEO of The Cable Newspapers

Kolawole is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of one of the leading independent online newspapers in Nigeria, The Cable. If you understand the journalism industry in Nigeria you will notice that the atmosphere is already saturated with very serious, widely read publications both on and offline. But that did not deter Kolawole in anyway who knew he had all it takes to exist at the top of the industry. He sat back and decided to nurture a huge dream which he began to unfold while on the staff of ThisDay newspaper. That was the idea of establishing the Cable Newspaper Limited, publishers of The Cable, now one of the leading independent online newspapers in Nigeria.

Cable Newspaper Ltd was established on November 29, 2011 “to deliver knowledge-driven journalism in the pursuit of Nigeria’s progress”. The Cable.ng was launched on April 29, 2014 with a view to becoming the most respected online newspaper out of Africa. The newspaper is not far from that as it is also occupying a commanding position in Nigeria’s online journalism landscape.

Remarkable Feat

According to Daily Trust, Kolawole, at 29 became the youngest editor of a national newspaper in Nigeria. By 2007, when he was appointed the editor and associate director of This Day, he was also the youngest Nigerian to have ever achieved such a feat. He is also a member at two non-profit organizations for development in Nigeria; Leap Africa and Rise Networks.

Saving the Profession from Citizen Journalism: His Hard Views

Simon Kolawole believes that upcoming journalists have a lot to do to save the profession from those he describes as quacks using the social media to destroy the profession. He says such persons claim to be citizen journalists, a concept he describes as “dubious” and represents nothing like journalism. He shared his view on this issue while speaking to communication students in a workshop, as reported by Premium Times. He warned that journalism graduates could soon be playing second fiddle to quacks who had invaded the news media as a result of digital revolution.

Delivering the 10th Doyin Mahmoud Annual Lecture at the department of mass communication, University of Ilorin, Kolawole said end users of news are increasingly depending on the social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, for information.

“This would ordinarily not be a problem if the news being offered on these platforms conforms to professional standards. It would also not be a thing of concern if the average reader can see through the flaws, some of which are deliberately planted to spread fake news,” he said.

In his lecture titled “The Future of Journalism”, the former editor of THISDAY said there is a serious struggle between professional journalism and the “dubious” concept called citizen journalism “which is no journalism”.

“If care is not taken, the future of journalism will be dominated by quacks and the professionals will become outsiders. This is already happening and creating a serious crisis of confidence in the news media,” he said.

“Anybody with access to a smart phone and data now fancies himself or herself as a journalist. They go on websites and the social media to mine information and begin to reproduce. Before you know what is happening, they tell you they are ‘citizen journalists’ and begin to do damage to journalism.

“Let me be clear, though: I am of the view that you don’t have to study journalism to be a journalist. Some of the most respected journalists in Nigeria today did not study journalism or mass communication. However, there are two ways of learning: either in school or on the job… Anyone who has spent between one year and three years in a newsroom under a good editor will learn the important things about journalism.”

Kolawole further added it is “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.”

 

These views might not go down well with numerous bloggers and so-called citizen journalists scattered around Nigeria and beyond but that is Simon Kolawole for you. He never hides his feelings on any issue no matter who is involved. Kolawole, indeed, is a brand that has contributed immensely in sharing modern journalism in Nigeria.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

He is a Senior Lecturer in a Nigerian University.

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