Do Nigerian Print Journalists Know It Is Christmas?
Mr. Victor Ifijeh, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Nation newspaper, while delivering a lecture titled, ‘Survival of the Print Media in the Digital Age’, during the book presentation event and 60th birthday of the Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, held on the main campus of the institute in Ogba, Lagos last year strongly warned that the print media faces a possible death due to the devastating impact of the Internet.
He said, “These are trying times for print journalists the world over. Our beloved industry is facing unprecedented challenges. Publications are gasping for breath. The future looks uncertain. We are told that the end of what we labour daily to produce is near. They hinged their prediction on technological advancement – the impact of the Internet.”
Acknowledging the benefits of the Internet to the modern society, he stated, “In our field, information is now readily available. Its dissemination is now easier. With your smartphone, you can access whatever that you need free-of-charge. You are also bombarded with a deluge of information – free and timely.”
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, it will not be out of place to say that the warning could not have come from any other Journalist in the profession that is glibly referred to as “Fourth Estate of The Realm” than from Ifijeh who has unarguably paid his dues in the profession having traversed all editorial departments that characterize a typical media organization. Aptly put, he is on a vantage pedestal to understand that something is really wrong in the profession. After all, an African proverb has it that “What the elders see while sitting, the young ones standing on their toes won’t see.” In a similar vein, another African proverb says, “Ask those who are ahead about a buffalo.” There is no denying the fact that Ifijeh might have being asked about his views on the state of things in the profession at the event, to which he offered his view as recalled in the foregoing.
Some years back, as a Cub Reporter, I read an opinion article in the Punch newspaper. The article titled ‘Bailout for Debtor media Houses?’ and written by Idowu Sowunmi, listed the names of media houses that at the time owed workers’ salaries from 4 months to 18 whole months. Without doubting the foregoing facts which Journalists are still facing even till the moment of typing this piece, one cannot but ruminate on how a Journalist that has not been paid salaries for as much as 18 months will be professionally and ethically indisposed in the course of duties, and will more often than not not being in the right frame of mind to cover news events. Even if they are not paid in other uneventful months, so to say, are they not entitled to their salaries in December; which is invariably the month Christmas is celebrated, for them to know that there is Christmas? How have unpaid Journalists been surviving for close to a year? You may have been tempted to ask. Some “shameless ones” survive by going a-borrowing, and ‘marketing’ since the regularity of the ‘brown envelope’ is seemingly irregular and meagre.
In a similar vein, one has being severally queried in disbelief by relations and friends in other sectors of the economy. They are wont to ask, “Instead of disturbing everybody, can’t you look for job outside the media sector?”
Despite the lingering problem of low and unpaid salaries that the sector is characterized with, and relentless assaults by some arrogant and “short fused” leaders, the journalism profession has remained attractive to both the initiated and uninitiated. For the umpteenth times, I had pinch myself and ask if I am truly in the right profession.
A brother that I am in the Christendom with once admonished me, in the bid to dissuade me from the profession, with the scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that says, "Everything is permissible for me," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me," but I will not be mastered by anything. Interpretatively put, “It is permissible to be in any profession, but not all professions are beneficial. All profession is permissible to work in, but I will not be mastered to any. Simply put, it is the height of ignorance on the part of anyone to be subjected to somewhat slavery in a profession that is not beneficial. However, in as much as I was thankful to his advice, I held on to the word of wisdom that was proverbially offered by Rutherford Hayes that says, “The bold enterprises are the successful ones. Take counsel of hopes rather than of fears to win in this business.” I held on to the foregoing words of Hayes as an African proverb has it that the world that awaits us in the future is bigger than the one we are presently experiencing.
It would be recalled that the then Minister of Information, Late Dora Akunyili in 2010 while speaking at the opening of the new headquarters of the Punch Newspaper in the pointed out that many media organizations in Nigeria owed their Journalists several months’ salaries. She said there could be no freedom without money. "A hungry man is an angry man. A hungry journalist is a dangerous person," she said. "You cannot expect a hungry journalist to shun blackmail or to be fair in the presentation of facts, he is dangerous to democracy."
It is quite implausible that this nexus in the life of a Journalist has come again. Christmas is just hours away as at the time of writing this piece. Christmas celebration has been overtaking them by each passing year so much that Christmas Eve (popularly called Watch Night) is spent in the newsroom writing and editing stories even as worship in Churches morphed into an immediate response to human need. The experience has no doubt for the umpteenth times remained imbedded in their collective memory that rather than look forward to Christmas they become overwhelmed by anxiety as they don’t know how to get the wherewithal to join Nigerians in other sectors to celebrate the annual event with their families and friends. To those of us in the Christendom, it is a moment that I think encapsulates the heart of Christ’s gospel. If life’s harsh realities can find us wherever we are (and they do as been experienced in the field of journalism), then the gospel (the Good News) should equally better find us there, too and spiritualize our lives.
Personally, it is against the backdrop of the foregoing view that at the celebration of each Christmas Eve I return to the words of Matthew’s Gospel, detailing when life’s harsh reality, borne by politics, overtook Jesus, Mary and Joseph along with a lot of other holy families. For no sooner had the “wise men” arrived, “opening their treasure chests” than an angel shows up in Joseph’s dreams with a first century dose of reality that begins in words we all understand: “Get up.” In this context, the command “Get up” has embolden my faith that man that is down would one day, surely “Get up”.
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.” To this writer, the question, “Do Nigerian Journalists Know It Is Christmas?” which is invariably the title of this piece, remains a question which only business mogul in the media sector of the economy can answer.