Media ethics and quest for journalism survival
• Don decries eroding values of profession
Journalism has continued to face challenges due to many disruptions that pose threats to the survival of traditional media. Apart from breaching media ethics, a lot of other factors have hampered objective journalism practice in the country.The Fourth Estate of the realm is expectedly a socially responsible and development-oriented media that adopts a conflict-sensitive reporting approach, as it’s driven by professionalism and ethical standards.
A free press is essential for an enduring democratic culture and peaceful society, but most often than not, there are some forms of pressure and threats capable of hampering its practice. Among the factors are poor or no conditions of service, as it’s been argued that the journalists in Nigeria are the worst paid in the world, and in some organisations, they are not paid at all.
With this, the journalist is not able to ply his trade in an environment of truth as his loyalty is certainly not to the media house he represents but to the people in the field whose generosity enables him to survive economically. There is no way such a reporter will take the types of risks necessary for journalistic integrity when he knows that doing so would compromise his sources of income.
It has been argued that most of the media houses in the country are not representatives of any real business other than the shorter-term political ends of the proprietors. It is for this reason that the cemetery of media enterprise is littered with the graves of dead newspaper houses, many of which were left to perish after serving their short-term purposes.
Last week, a panel comprising Mrs. Bisi Deji-Folutile, immediate past Editor, Saturday Punch; Mr. Kabir Garba, Assistant Editor, The Guardian on Saturday; Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin, Executive Director, Media Career Development Network and Hajia Sekinah Temitope Lawal, Online Editor, Smartviews Magazine and immediate past Chairperson, National Association of Women Journalists, Lagos State Chapter, sat to discuss topical issues in journalism.
According to them, journalism is at a crisis point of coherence due to too many disruptions and government and media must collaborate to deliver what is best for society.The programme, which was organised by the Department of Journalism, School of Media Communications, Lagos State University, had in attendance President, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, Prof. Lai Oso; Dean, Lagos State University School of Communication, Prof. Rotimi Williams Olatunji; Head, Journalism Department, Dr. Jide Jimoh; Dr. Ganiyat Tijani-Adenle and hundreds of students.
Dr. Alao urged the media to ultimately serve the interest of masses irrespective of who was involved, adding, “if the government and media share the same common goal for society, they will find a level-playing ground in their duty discharge.”For Deji-Folutile, it is impossible for the media and the government to have a cordial relationship, as the media strives to hold government accountable.
Garba, on the other hand, stressed that conflict was part of life, but there should be some elements of collaboration between the government and the media.Speaking on the issue of remuneration and welfare packages, Otufodunrin pointed out that the issue was not peculiar to journalists but that it was an indicator of the current economic situation in the country.
He said, “the major problem in the media is poor conditions of service as most media outfits do not have retirement or exit plans for journalists. This issue must be taken seriously, as it would automatically take care of issues of ethics.”Lawal, however, stressed the need to put in place systems that could work. She added, “I don’t expect the media and government to be in cordial relationship as it would only impede media functions.”
She urged all to obtain voters’ cards as the starting point to getting “a working system to enforce laws that would make a better society.”
On how Nigeria could breed journalists that would be objective in practice, Garba advised the media industry to have a good regulatory body that would enforce better welfare for journalists.
Aloa further advised the students of journalism to learn multiple skills that would help them in the future, saying, “journalism in Nigeria is not the highest paid job. You need to be sure of your sacrifice, adopt the spirit of entrepreneurship.”
Deji-Folutile lamented, “it is highly irresponsible of any employer not to pay employees. On the new media threat to the survival of print media, she said it was huge, as the Internet is not being controlled and fake news was on the rise. She called on the real media under the Nigerian Guild of Editors and other bodies to identify the fake bloggers.
For Otufodunrin, the real journalists are not passionate about the work, which has given the bloggers some leverage. “The journalists also need to be in the bloggers space,” he added.
Garba said fake news attracts attention but journalists must abide by the ethics of the profession by reporting accurately. He said, “what we are selling is content. Hence, if we write compelling contents, new media would not be a problem.”
Earlier, Jimoh said the scale of disruption in the media was high, hence the need for constant engagement with stakeholders. Also, Olatunji said the media issues, if not properly tackled would become major problem. Adding, “We need to identify, analyse and manage these issues.”
Meanwhile, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Prof. Danjuma Gambo, has decried the eroding values of journalism profession. Gambo also reiterated the relevance of values in dealing with leadership selection and followership at individual and institutional conducts of journalists and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He raised the alarm recently at a triennial delegates conference of NUJ, Borno State Council, while delivering a paper entitled: ‘The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ): Leadership, Professional Security and the Relevance of Values.’ He said journalism was a universal profession built on specific values, principles, standards and practices that could not be wished away.
He lamented the significant deviation from global professional frameworks, which has led to incessant deterioration in the organisational and practice of the profession. He, however, noted that the challenges rest with the quality, attitude and conduct of leaders and members of the NUJ.
“The NUJ, at national and state levels, has established structures for enforcement of its ethics, but its members, deliberately or out of ignorance, actively engage in various forms of violation with impunity.“While this is ongoing, the union leadership looks on helplessly. The ethics committee of the union seems also to have lost its relevance.
“In many states, members are left without any significant professional and job security. It is common for media managers, reporters and editors to be removed or replaced without any form of protest by the NUJ.”He commended the resilience of journalists of various media practicing in the state; despite threats of Boko Haram insurgency that has lasted for a decade.