‘People shouldn’t go into depression because they cannot make ends meet’
Media titan and publisher of Genevieve Magazine Betty Irabor recently turned 60 and a colloquim was held in her honour, which had all the biggest names in the media world present. TOBI AWODIPE caught up with the celebrant and she revealed how she battled depression, the issue of integrity in journalism and more
What milestone are you celebrating today? (Laughing) I am being celebrated by my own constituency. I am not a politician but I do have a constituency
What is your constituency?
The media, they are hosting me today and I feel very privileged that they find me worthy of being celebrated at 60. I have been here for a long time and I thank God for attaining this age of wisdom, the diamond age, and I feel the only way to go now is up, I am not coming down the hill anytime soon, I am ascending and I feel grateful. We are here to talk about our integrity because at the helm of everything we do, integrity matters and most times, media owners expect integrity from their staff and you have to make sure that they are empowered enough to be able to show that. Integrity is called for in everything that we do, so we just want to talk about why we have a lot of run-away media and calumny in the media.
There have been several accusations that the media have deviated from their laid-down role of following the news without bias. What is your opinion?
Because people want traction these days, they break news without even crosschecking facts because they want to be the first to break the news. After they’ve done this and they find that it is not true, then they start retracting after the damage has already been done.
An instance was the rumoured death of our President, it was like a wildfire and I am glad traditional media didn’t break that news. I am not saying that we haven’t made such fiasco in the past, some quarters said Zik was dead even long before he died. The thing is, it is with a lot of temerity and boldness that it is being done now, people just do what they like and I think the time has come for us to talk about integrity.
I kind of feel pained that traditional media gets information and facts from social media now; they wait for the bloggers and online news media and are later forced to do a retraction. I don’t think people should be allowed to publish inaccuracies especially things that can lead to chaos in the society. So, I think we need to display a measure of integrity in the way we carry our news. We need to crosscheck our facts, reduce this over-sensationalism just because we want to sell our papers or because we want traction.
You always say, “Whenever you wake up is your morning.” At 60, what is your message to other media professionals?
I think people overrate aging, if God blesses you with good health, there is nothing to stop you. It is when you are incapacitated that you cannot do what you are supposed to do. Age is not sickness, but I do work hard to maintain my physique, I swim, go to the gym and watch what I eat.
For women in the media, if you want to be taken seriously, when you go to interview people you have to be presentable. Dress as you want to be addressed, and I am happy that journalists are dressing very well these days compared to the past. Dressing badly reduces our self-esteem and people’s perception of us. In essence, be presentable, let people respect you and train yourself.
You are 60 and looking fabulous, what is your secret?
I have a skin care regime and this was because I was ill for about seven years. I suffered from depression and it affected my skin greatly. I have learnt over the years that if you want your body to wok for you and take you to the age that God destined for you, you need to work that body. It is not about being slim, whatever body you are in, love it and take care of it. Also find a beauty product that works for you but sleep, let go of bitterness, drink a lot of water, take care of yourself, stay away from toxic people.
Don’t think, “I am no good, by this age I should have achieved this and that.” Where I am now, I don’t have any regrets.
You said that you battled depression, what would you tell people going through that now?
The way we approach issues will determine our survival. The Lord never promised us a rosy garden all through. So many things can lead to depression. In my case it came with chronic insomnia, I wasn’t able to sleep and when you don’t sleep your body cannot regenerate. This led to seven years of depression. Don’t internalize what is going on around you because worrying is not going to change the fact that it is there. Recession is a global phenomenon right now, so does it mean that everybody should be depressed? No.
But whatever you do, make sure that you are earning money, cut down on unnecessary expenses. I think as women we tend to think we have to have everything; we have to have new clothes, new hair because it is the trend. I will give an example on cutting down. I used to have my lashes done for N18, 000 that would last for like six weeks and after a while, I told myself no and cut that away. I started making conscious efforts to start saving. People shouldn’t go into depression because they cannot afford to make ends meet, it is a challenge, yes, but don’t allow yourself to go into depression because of that.
Think positive, do things that make you happy, stay with people that you love, look at everyday as a new beginning and a new opportunity to do what you didn’t complete yesterday. It is easier said than done, because a lot of people are going through depression and people say to them, “power up”, they can’t help it. If you feel you are not in a good place talk to someone, seek help and seek therapy so that you don’t get to a stage where you become suicidal.
What would you tell women who want to venture into journalism?
You have to be very passionate about it, continue to empower yourself. If, for instance, there is a promotion pending and you want it, go and acquire more skills. Be creative, don’t follow the norms, step outside the box, think differently and remember the Internet is your friend. Learn a lot; get a mentor, someone who is going to take you through the ropes. Set goals for yourself and how to achieve them and, most importantly, remember that integrity counts.