With at least four decades in the media business, Media Trainer and Consultant Taiwo Obe has witnessed the sparkling era of journalism in Nigeria, and its progressive slump to near irrelevance.
The Journalist as Evangelist
“What I see these days is not what it should be,” he said while welcoming delegates to the 1st Media Leaders Summit, hosted in mid-September by The Journalism Clinic, which he founded in 2012 to reverse the slide. And having “done journalism for 41 years, I told myself that what I need to do at this stage is to become an evangelist for journalism to get its groove back.”
And from 2014 to date, the Clinic has facilitated periodic trainings for different groups of journalists across Nigeria, schooling them in current trends in media practice, including mobile journalism and digital storytelling techniques.
But there was a clog in the wheel. “Each time we hold trainings for people in the lower cadres in the newsrooms, they tell us: ‘The editors will not allow us to do this’, ‘the editor wants it this way’ and so on,” he noted.
The Summit is his most recent effort to address that dilemma, to speak directly to the decision makers in the newsrooms. It brought under one roof chief executives, editors-in-chief, editors and directors of print, broadcast, online and community media, and a select group of other media stakeholders.
“We need our media to thrive,” Obe stressed, moving around the room as he did. “It’s the reason we are all locked up here for two whole days. We must take important decisions that we can take away so that we can thrive. If we leave this place, and weeks and months after, we are still doing things as we were doing before, we would not have achieved our objectives for this summit.”
And so the delegates settled in to learn and digest what it would take to re-shape “Nigeria’s media industry for relevance and revenue — in the digital age.”
The Summit’s keynote speaker and lead resource person was Juan Senor, President of the Innovation Media Consulting Group and a former Visiting Fellow of the Oxford University.
“He has directed projects all over the world helping news organisations to re-invent their products and stay relevant with shifting audiences,” a brief citation of him reads. “He has worked and advised hundreds of media companies on every continent. [And] he serves on the Advisory Board of several media companies around the world.”
The delegates were, without a doubt, in great company. Senor, who spoke on the theme: “Good Journalism, The Beginning and the End”, didn’t mince words: he told his listeners that an analogue mindset, approach or newsroom workflow won’t cut it in the digital age. And newsroom integration, he added, has become the name of the game.
“There is so much money to be made in digital publishing,” he emphasised at some point during his presentations, which was split into three different sessions. “You are not making it. You need to have a digital paid strategy.”
And by the end of the Summit, a lot of transformational learning had taken place. And out of it came a 10-point Action Plan, recommended for adoption by the Nigerian news media industry, which is as follows
1. Although digital technology has disrupted the news media business, the principles and purpose of journalism remain largely the same.
2. Good journalism is the surest path to sustainable business survival and profitability. Therefore, news media operations must strive to produce and deliver content that their audiences and consumers must be willing to pay for.
3. Advertising must not remain the sole source of revenue for the media. Media houses must build their brands such that they can leverage them to generate revenue from sources such as events, festivals, book publishing, merchandising, licensing, affiliate marketing and club membership.
4. There cannot be digital journalism without the reconfiguration of newsrooms to enhance workflow.
5. News operations’ websites – and not third-party platforms – must be the primary destinations for their audiences and communities because the money is where the article is viewed, watched and touched. Platforms must not be allowed to make money off the operators’ talents and initiatives.
6. After the news breaks, the media must continue to develop the story through various techniques made possible by the internet and digital technology to provide answers to questions the consumers want answers to, such as the why, the how and what next.
7. The old ways of buying media space has changed as media buyers now deploy data and scientific methods to decide where to place their clients’ ads. Therefore, media owners must collectively work towards providing sales and marketing information which are measurable and verifiable.
8. There’s a need for tertiary institutions offering journalism and mass communication courses to review their curriculum to meet the demands of the digital era.
9. Media organisations must imbibe sound Corporate Governance principles and ensure that their staff are promptly and adequately remunerated.
10. Journalism must not only be a mirror but also a healer of the society. Media organisations must therefore regularly drive issues of public concern and significant social impact through campaigns or crusade. Examples of the issues worth crusades are:
- How the media should aid credible elections
- What can be done to reduce infant mortality
- How to save indigenous languages from extinction
- How Nigerian oceans can be made safe
- How to make Nigerian security agencies work for, and not against Nigerians.