Broadcast journalist and media trainer Ify Onyegbule has advised aspiring broadcasters to prioritise knowledge over anything else, if they hope to succeed in the profession.
“Broadcasting is not about a good voice, a good face or a killer body,” she said in an interview with Owerri-based broadcaster JayCee, hosted as an InstagramLive chat on 27 May. “It’s about being an all-rounder. I often hear young people say ‘I want to be a presenter’. But presenting is just one aspect of journalism. There are different aspects: there is reporting, there is script writing, there is production, and all of that.”
She added that anyone who decides that all they want to do is be on air or sit behind a microphone or behind the camera, is making a mistake.
“These days no-one wants to pick you as just a presenter; employers want to see other skills that you can offer,” Onyegbule said. “Whatever you choose to describe yourself, it is the content that matters. So if you are a presenter you must come to the job with knowledge. And I always encourage young broadcasters to be grounded, to find mentors who can help them hone their skills. That way, they get to learn the ropes faster.”
Sharing a bit of her background, Ms Onyegbule said belongs to the old school of broadcasters. “I was groomed in Radio Nigeria. That’s where I cut my teeth. That’s where I honed my skills. And that’s the best thing that happened to me, because it helped me position myself on the job.”
Taking the audience a bit further into her past, she revealed that as a young girl growing up in Lagos, her dad contributed, albeit unwittingly, to her being a broadcaster.
“My father wanted me to become a lawyer. He encouraged me to read the newspapers; he made us watch the Network News on the NTA at 9pm,” she explained. “My father sometimes would not watch. He will leave us to it and ask us to tell him what transpired, who read the news and the stories. I didn’t know he was trying to help me open my brain. He also made me listen to the news on radio. Even up till today, I always like to listen to the radio everywhere I go.”
Looking back to those times, Ms Onyegbule said It’s amazing what the human mind can assimilate when stretched reasonably.
“But so many of us don’t task our brains enough; we are satisfied with ephemeral stuff and make noise on air in the name of broadcasting. I didn’t jump into broadcasting, like I know many do. You need to know what you’re jumping into so you’re sure it’s not hot oil. At age 15, I knew what I wanted to become.”
And she noted that besides knowledge and mentorship, passion is key.
“What do you want to do? What’s your passion? What wakes you up in the morning? What are you in love with?” she asked, adding: “The truth is you can’t love the job and not be good at it. That’s why people who gate-crash the system are not able to deliver. You need to have that thing about you. Keep banging on the door and you’ll get there.
“Journalism is a job that you have to constantly get trained for. I talk. I know how to talk. I know how to present my case, as it is; but I know when to talk and when not to talk, and I try as much as possible to make it work for me in the course of my job.”
Pushing the all-rounder argument further, Ms Onyegbule mentioned that she was one herself. “I can produce, I can write, I can report, I can direct, I can edit (audio and video) and I learned all of these in the course of the job.”
To all young and upcoming broadcasters, she said: “There are presenters and there are presenters. There is sports presenting and music presenting, for example both of which require unique approaches. Always there is a brand that every broadcaster will try to portray: what is that brand you’re trying to push? You can’t make it as a presenter if you don’t know exactly who you are.”
May 27 was Mrs Onyegbule’s birthday as well and 2020 marked her 20th anniversary as a broadcaster, a career that has seen her work in 12 radio and TV stations. She used the opportunity to present the highly anticipated new book, titled: “How Did We Get Here? 25 Mistakes That Radio Presenters Must Avoid”.