By Ammar Muhammad
In the words of Tony Harcup, journalism is a form of communication based on asking and answering the questions who? What? Where? When? Why? And how? In brief, there are called the 5W’s & H of Journalism. Journalism is a form of cartography; it creates a map for citizens to navigate society, and the map should be reliable.
I write this with dismay due to how journalism in Nigeria is abused. Journalism plays a social role that goes beyond the production of commodities to sell in the market place. Journalism informs society about itself and makes public that which would otherwise be private. A lecturer of Mass communication, Muhammad S. Rabi’u stated that; journalist prods and pries for a living. They are called prying eyes because they try to obtain private facts about subjects and actors on the stage of life because they try to discover insightful and revealing information. Journalists are also the society’s memory; and what they gather and record will help write the history.
Large number of people is attracted by the fact that journalism remains an occupation that protects the interest of the truthful and rightful ones. While some argue that journalism is a tool that distracts people from the truth, distort facts; corrupt the mindset of their audience. Whatever how you view journalism through the prism of life, one fact is; journalism matters. If did not matter why the contradicting views on journalism? If it did not matter, why would there be so many laws restricting how journalist can do their jobs? Why would government and opposition spend much time and resources trying to win the media? Why many journalists around the world pay with their lives? Obviously this shows why journalism matters. In this case, the prospect of dying should not discourage any aspiring journalist. Whatever your career, will there be life without shortcomings or problems? As a journalist, you have a chance to paint your picture. If today were your last day on earth, what would people remember you for? Life is not about how much you saved, but how well you served. What is most fulfilling in life is to live an exemplary life of integrity.
Some journalists and their media houses today override the ethical issues in journalism for monetary gain. I know there must be a conflict between the management, marketing, advert and editorial board of every media house. Most a times, the editorial board encompasses professional journalists, they were been taught about what is journalism, they practice it more than a decade, so, they are in the right position to abide by the journalism ethics which includes shunning bias, ego, emotion among others. In today’s journalism in Nigeria, I am befuddled on why many media practitioners turn a blind on the ethics guiding their job? Why? A question that has more than an answer due to personal experiences they have. Many journalists have story to tell regarding this case.
I will choose only newspapers in citing examples. For instance, Vanguard newspaper, due to ownership of the media, they resort to all reportage of tarnishing the image of the North and Muslims at large. Why? The ownership of the paper even if they didn’t tell, their reports show how they hate anything about the North and Muslims. Likewise Daily Trust newspaper their type of reports shows who owns the paper. I know, sometimes the staff works without the interference of the managements, despite this clear reason, Daily Trust newspaper report on Shiites members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria activities, shows level of hatred towards them. If you can sit down and analyze the paper, you may end up understanding that despite been seen as a national daily, it looks more like a regional paper serving the interest of the north like that of Vanguard newspaper serving the interest of the South.
Leadership Newspaper, on the other hand hate anything about former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo may be this occurred due to personal issues of the owner of the paper with the Obasanjo led administration. It was on record that the ownership of the paper fought tirelessly to protect the interest of the North during the Obasanjo administration. To come back to Tribune, The Nation, you find out the same story with different dimension, these two newspapers protect anything Yoruba, why? Due to ownership of the companies.
The most credible and objective online media I see today in Nigeria, is Premium Times. They have their own flaws, but their error is minor when compare to others. Their kind of reportage to groups, individual, organization is largely objective. The Cable online newspaper is trying in some aspects while Daily Nigerian shows level of competence but they also have level of biases and emotions in many of their reports, especially when you’re a person that reads only headline, they will confuse you with their headline, when you read them closely you find out my assertions.
Everyone be it individual or organization, has his or her own aim and objectives in founding media house, be it radio, television, newspaper, and magazine, but we should have to keep at our mind; journalism informs society, and what we should inform them it supposed to be purely truth not protecting the interest of individual, groups, society or ideology even if the aforesaid deviate from the truth. We need to follow the ethics of journalism. It is high time to redefine how journalism practices in Nigeria. As the fourth realm of power, journalism plays a vital role in informing the society. A journalist needs to protect his dignity. You have more integrity than that of who sell his right (the truth) at a price that cannot buy him a peanut, even if it can buy you a mansion. Self-esteem in journalism is very important, with this you can become a fearless journalist. The society and people of conscience will always rally around you when the need arises.
In journalism, it is first obligation is to tell the truth, no matter what. Journalism loyalty is to citizens. Its essence is a discipline of verification; its practitioners must maintain and independence from those they cover. It must serve as an independent monitor of power, focusing the search light on the executive, legislature, and the judiciary or the nobility, the clergy and the commoners. It must also provide a forum for public criticism; it must also strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. And it must keep the news comprehensive and in proportion. And its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience, and citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.
Journalist is a watchdog of the society. In archaeology, it is believed that in obtaining oral information with the view of reconstruction of a particular society, we must evaluate whatever comes our way through our informants to avoid distortion of history. Because we believe oral information contains inconsistency due to loss of memory, politicization of history, facts, exaggeration among others. Besides, this kind of information it was (is) transmitted through the words of mouth. So, in transmitting such information anything can happen. So, in this case, there’s need or it is important journalist to borrow archaeological steps to verify information, double check fact to avoid misleading your audience. Many a times, media houses mislead their audience due to hurry in other to sees them as ‘we are the ones break the news.’ Yes to break the news is a good idea, but reporting nothing but the truth is what makes media platform to be respected. There is something in journalism called ‘Development stories.’ When you were left away in breaking the news, go deep into the story and come up with some hitherto unknown on the same issues, and publish it. Remember, journalists are the mirror of the society; and what they record will help write the history of today in the future. Journalism has deep effect on the society. These effects found at many levels and in all aspects of society; political, social, economic, and so on. Journalism determines not only how we see ourselves within a large environment but it also determines how we share that environment with other people.
The profession is exciting, demanding, tiring, exhilarating, and ultimately fulfilling to many people. Our society needs credible and objective media to trust. We need to rise up above seeing journalism as a business venture, rather an avenue to make the society better.
Muhammad wrote from Abuja.