At Soyinka lecture, media professionals advocate re-invention, quality content
Participants at the 15th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series have stressed the need for media professionals to continue evolving, and speaking truth to power.
With the theme, ‘Building a resilient media and democracy’, the participants also insisted that quality journalism convinces; adding there is need to protect editorial integrity and still generate funds.
Moderated by the West Africa correspondent of Deutsche Welle Africa, Amaka Okoye, other speakers at the webinar include, MD/ CEO City 105.1, Adedoja Allen; Editor Business Day, Tayo Fagbule; Operation Lead, Big Cabal Media, Anita Eboigbe; Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Balarabe Ilelah, who was represented by the Zonal Director, Raphael Akpan; CEO Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Motunrayo Alaka, and Director Media Programme Sub-Saharan Africa, Kornrad Adenauer Foundation, Christoph Plate.
In his speech, Fagbule noted that the journey of making people part with their money, especially in a country like Nigeria, is a marathon.
Sharing his experience, he said: “We run subscription model. We saw a huge surge during COVID-19. People were at home. They needed to know what was happening. But when things stated getting normalised and the economy, it slowed down.”
He raised the need to practice quality journalism, raise the bar and pay attention to the audience. In paying attention to audience, he harped on the need to use data.
In her speech, Allen argued digital media are changing the world of media. To her, digitisation of media poses challenges to the nation’s democracy.
On his part, Akpan said NBC is developing capacity of broadcasters. Ahead of 2023 General elections, he revealed trainings were conducted for broadcasters.
He said: “We engage broadcasters and draw attention to what they need to do in order to protect the audience. The audience need quality content and the Broadcasting Code guides the broadcaster in providing quality content. It is put together by stakeholders.”
He, however, said the Commission frowns at programmes that would prompt violence or obscenity, especially during family belt.
Similarly, Plate noted there are a lot of similarities when it comes to the challenges and issues that are faced in Europe and Africa.
He disclosed, “I have been working in European newsrooms and I’m surprised how many similarities we do have. The economic challenges in newsrooms on the African continent might be much dire, but issues of gender, tribal affiliations and religion are also very much alive in Europe when it comes to moderating newsrooms.”
Speaking further, he suggested the need for old time publishers that would defend their newsroom.
“They also defend the newsrooms against the book keepers, who says good journalism costs too much money. We need grey haired publishers who would defend the need to be resilient as journalists, who will take quite a bit of their budget and invest it into the training of journalists and sending journalists on training abroad.”
To make publishing houses and media enterprise more resilient, he counseled the need to diversify, by starting for example public lectures to invite listeners, followers and generate some income by offering research facilities to big companies.
Advising media representatives, he stressed the need to do some soul searching and self-reflection—“why are we in crisis? How can we improve the quality and how do we, as serious media, produce good quality news and that will set ourselves apart from the junk journalism that is also out there?
“There is a big danger that too many accusations are being brought forward against the digitisation of advertisement, state repression and advertisers reducing their budgets. All that is true. But it should not stop us from critically analysing whether our journalism is good enough.”
Insisting it is also important to carry members of staff along, he said a business model that has worked is to engage Africans in diaspora.
He said, “they are home sick and always eager to know what is happening back home.”
In her view, Eboigbe observed in Nigeria, one thing “we have not built properly is symbiotic relationship between the people, democratic stakeholders and the media. A lot of work must be done at the grassroots level.
“We need to build a media culture where people see democracy as everyday thing, where people need to see a relationship with the media, their government and the people they have elected as an everyday thing, rather than the events that we often have to make it to be.”
She advised, “You don’t own the audience and there is need to constantly check in on your audience. Tastes are changing, you must change along.”
In her opening remarks, CEO WSCIJ, Motunrayo Alaka, said the event is held yearly to commemorate Prof. Wole Soyinka’s birthday.
To her, the question is, are we doing enough to confront the digital challenges? Are we strong enough to continue to be ethical while we do our social work? Are we doing businesses that are thriving while we serve humanity? As journalists, do we go to the field to get stories and get it in the most professional and sustainable manner?
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.