Hauwa Gambo: Good riddance to Jon Gambrell (Y! FrontPage)

by Hauwa Gambo

Jon Gambrell YNaija

Unfortunately, because the AP has earned its credibility over many decades and become so important to us, it was easy to see hubris as courage, and to hold as a gold standard for our journalism a man who would struggle for column space in his own media.

On March 21, the rumour mill was on overdrive. The immortal Chinua Achebe had just passed.

Twitter and Facebook were aflame for a frenzied hour. Then suddenly, the reality began to dawn – media with access to family and associates had confirmed it, led by Sahara Reporters, Premium Times and this platform: as the now tiresome cliché goes, yes, the iroko had fallen.

But as Nigerians sought to come to terms with the now confirmed news – what did we get from a man called Jon Gambrell, chief correspondent for the Associated Press? A self-satisfied tweet that the AP had not confirmed the news, and the implication that it was still a rumour.

In one gratuitous statement, this over-confident scamp had dismissed the hard work that Nigerian media had done to confirm and crosscheck.

Even worse, but not surprisingly, a motley crowd of follow-followers had turned his solo to chorus. And when it later was confirmed that his tweet was unnecessary, and he had only been late to the party, there were no apologies.

Since when did news in Nigeria become less so unless a foreign news chief imperially put a stamp on it? And how could this one man do this so casually, and with no consequence, even verbal slaps on the wrist? Ah, easy question, but I will take my time on this.

Ours is a country infatuated with foreign journalists, and for good reason. Buffeted by years of military rule, and the consequent weakening of our media’s capacity, we found ourselves turning to foreign sources for respite, and to make our case to the world against our own leaders.

The foreign media gained a lot of credibility in those times.

Even after democracy returned, its corrupt nature resulted in a lack of belief in our institutions, of which our media is one prominent. Politicians losing advantage or seeking advantage have also found it easy to blame for being bought, and since poverty in the media has also made it susceptible to misconduct, standards and quality have become low.

The result? International media continue to ‘save us’.

That is how we ended up with a malaise like Jon Gambrell – symptom of an ailment that, even though hundreds of my peers and colleagues will disagree with me, was not good for Nigeria.

Jon’s tweet wasn’t an isolated error. Despite saccharine protestations to the contrary, this was a man who actively treated our country with disdain and citizens with contempt.

Of particular vexation, he referred to Nigeria’s media with scorn, disregarding its many challenges and ignoring (perhaps ignorant of) the condition and evolution of his own country’s media at this same point in its history.

In continually putting down our hardscrabble journalists who do great things under harsh conditions, it was convenient to forget that, from the Boston bombings to the Kim Kadarshian baby, America’s media – including the AP – also falls many times to the temptation of speed before accuracy.

In addition, the AP under Jon became sloppy and predictable – not careful to give its stories balance, peddling social media chatter as fact, choosing populism over restraint.

To make matters worse, this man injected himself into the story in so many ways that were borderline unethical especially for a news wire, relishing the attention, even tagging all sorts of undesirable activities with the hashtag #Nigeria – something no bureau chief would do in Egypt, or South Africa, or London.

Unfortunately, because the AP has earned its credibility over many decades and become so important to us, it was easy to see hubris as courage, and to hold as a gold standard for our journalism a man who would struggle for column space in his own media.

And sadly, because our government is a public relations mess, having no credibility with its publics, and unable to conduct itself with honor and dignity, it’s justified protests against the AP were ignored by reasonable people.

Then, because the opposition found its interests served by a Nigeria-bashing Jon, it ignored the fact that the encouraging condescension towards one’s country will not change when their party gains power.

Even worse, the young people who are the most effective drivers of social media and popular culture and therefore our country’s last stand, seeing a man and an institution supposedly fighting our cause embraced him uncritically, the best of them even seduced by retweets from him and the appearance of community with an ‘oyinbo’ journalist – a temporal satisfaction that ultimately is illusion.

Sadly, those who rightly chose to challenge him publicly mostly fell to exaggeration. Of course, Jon was no CIA agent, and no agent of the
opposition – he was just a power-drunk writer who could get away with it.

One who would surely thrive in a nation infatuated with anything foreign; whose president will give unusual privileges to any ‘oyinbo’ journalist that he finds, even exclusive interviews with the insignificant Chinese CCTV, that credible local media like Channels TV have yet to land.

In fact, it is because of people like this, situations like this, that I am so angry about the state of our nation, and the failures of our government.

It is because we don’t yet have a country to be proud of, a government that we can believe in, and a media that has the capacity to seize the narrative, that our story is told and forged by people of no character.

Nigeria desperately needs to get better – so that people like Jon can be given the middle finger, and then told to go to hell.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (25)

  1. And the discussion shifted from Jon’s reporting style to How Hauwa hates Jon.

    Granted that some words were quite heavy and I dare say uncalled for, Jon had it coming! He has been beside himself regarding reporting Nigeria. In as much as one may admit quite frankly that there hasn’t been much of good news coming out of Nigeria in a while, but such dismall regard for news that has been authenticated was uncalled for.

    And to think he didn’t see it worth his while to offer an appology.

  2. Wait first. So Jon Gambrell reported negative news about Nigeria. How many of them were untrue? What did you want him to report? “President Jonathan promises improved power by end of 2011…no, 2012…Er, 2013.”
    And then to talk of news reporting itself. How many news stations report positive news first, anywhere in the world? (I’m not talking about government mouthpieces like NTA and the like). Even these wonderful Nigerian journalists, how many of them go out of their way to chase positive stories within Nigeria and publish those on the front pages (again I’m not talking about those PR jobs they are paid for). I was a journalist in a Nigerian newspaper for 8 years and one of the reasons I left was because I was tired of working with so many people for who integrity was a changeable position. I didn’t want to be compromised any more than I had already been.

    As someone else mentioned, the story about 31 children killed by Boko Haram…till tomorrow we’ve not seen a newspaper publish a single name of any of those children. Not a picture, nothing. And the day after it happened, STV news read word for word the Al Jazeera news report on the issue, including interviews of one father of the victim, without even bothering to credit Al Jazeera! That’s your beloved Nigerian media at its best.
    And this crap about Hauwa being criticized because she is a black woman; seriously? Where do you think we are? America? Most of the people who read this website ARE black.
    If you’re going to criticize a fellow journalist for not doing their job well, the least you could do is do YOURS well by actually using examples. You made several allegations against and only backed one with an example. That’s not a sign of someone who’s great at what they do. You sound as self-righteous as you accused him of being.

  3. Finally! Some one had the guts to say what needed to be said for so long. Hauwa, kudos to you! I was happy to see the back of the Gambrell fellow as he went on his next assignment to Egypt. Let him go and talk about Egypt the way he has been doing in Nigeria and see what happens to him. As for those deluded Nigerians supporting him, no matter how much you do so you will still be nothing but a Black bastard to the White man; Keep supporting him and his condescending ways. He will never do the same to you. Hauwa well done. Thanks for saying it as it is.

  4. Trying to understand what this self righteous rant was all about and couldn’t lay a finger on any. Was the man wrong to say, hold on till the news was confirmed? How many times did people like Hauwa Gambo actually murder Chinua Achebe on the social media before he actually died. Its people like you that also have your fingers at the ready waiting to announce mandela’s!

    This is just misdirected anger and a cheap low blow at a man who wouldn’t even care less what you are or represent. Jon Gambrell is a name on twitter that I follow. Who the hell are you?

  5. I followed Jon for a while on twitter and had to unfollow him at a point cos I got irritated. Its okay to enthusiastically report news about Nigeria but when it was only negative news about the country that excited him, I knew he had a problem. I could not help but notice his condescending attitude towards Nigeria and our local journalists. I admit there needs to be better news reporting in Nigeria and our journalists need to step up their game. My take is that Jon’s unamiable attitude (whatever informed it) interfered with his reporting.

  6. Wy are people so ignorant? I saw that child Iyin tweet this same thing. Have you done a single Google of the figures? Because China’s population is 1.8bn that means 1.8 people watch it?
    This is the kind of ignorance that passes for commentary these days.

  7. Gambrell, like many of us, is a little delusional.
    It does not help that he makes and drinks his own Kool-Aid as he retells the worst of us.
    But he gets away with it because the competition isn’t exactly the cream of the crop – yes, YNaija I am looking at you.

  8. Hauwa Gambo! You just professed your undying love for Jon Gambrell… Obviously, there’s more to this your rant! LOL!!! You’ve not stated the real reason for this your hate-propelled article… And did I say you’re just a faceless coward??? Ok, I just said it… LOL!!!

  9. The writer was just venting a deep and personal anger towards Mr. Gambrel without putting forward any concrete evidence of his “misdoings” save for one really poor one at the start of the article.

    Whatever Mr. Gambrel’s sins were, more effort should have been made to research them before pouring venom all over the internet. It is likely symptom of our inept media and journalists maybe. I guess the writer is a media person and maybe this is the reason for the anger. My advice? Take a chill pill. Do better work and it will speak for you.

  10. Jon Gambrell hates Nigeria with a passion. Unfortunately, many of his follow were too infatuated with his white skin to take note. For all those defending him, please note that if as a journalist you do in Jon’s country (US) what he was doing in Nigeria you’ll be treated like Edward Snowden – public enemy.

  11. I love this piece! Though, some words and terms I will not condone as far as journalism is concerned but Jon had it coming! The dude just isn’t professional……and hates Nigeria!

  12. Well said! Very accurate article. Well done Hauwa

  13. Am I surprised at the responses above? Not in the least bit. The victim mentality and the continuous self-flagellation that we have chosen to engage in as Nigerians are in tune with such perspectives as I have seen above.

    It is always better for us to “replicate the things he did right, and chiding our local media for poor research and poor articles” and not look at the peculiarities of the Nigerian journalism trade and its challenges.

    Of course Hauwa is just a bitter conspiracy theorist who we should all ignore. After all what can a black woman obviously know in comparison to a popular white male journalist who works for such a BIG media house like the AP?

    1. As a black woman myself, there’s something tragic and condescending about the fact that you’ve reduced the criticisms with her rant to her race and her gender, the latter of which I was not familiar with when I wrote the comment. I don’t even follow this site regularly, so the identity of the writer is wildly irrelevant to me.

      I will say this, your second paragraph is my problem with Nigerians. The hand-wringing and the whining, ‘oh but our environemnt’, and the blaming of others.

      Passion goes a long way in any trade. Like someone mentioned on Twitter, a school was recently attacked in the north, several children killed and info was scant. Why? I read all the papers every day and the story was barely mentioned from Monday. How peculiar could our situation be that no one was doing the requisite follow-up on that story? How do we not know the identities of those poor, slain children?

      When are we going to stop making excuses? Nigeria isn’t the only country with challenges. Every country has unique challenges Traditional media is taking a hit all over the world, journalists are getting laid off and newspaper houses are shutting down. Do you know what people are doing? They’re looking for a solution, they’re looking for new ways, they’re exploring the use of social media and the internet.

      What are we doing? We’re attacking international press. What will that solve? Why do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot? Why aren’t we asking ourselves how to stop putting ourselves in the line of criticism?

      Recognizing one’s own faults is not self-flagellation, it’s how
      people improve. I don’t believe in the Nigerian mentality of praising someone for ‘trying’. How will we get better if we don’t lay out our faults on the table and analyze them?

      Say all you want about Jon (I don’t care about him one way or the other), but there’s no smoke without fire. All this article does is make us look petty and bitter in the face of external criticism.

      1. That is the trick Jon played on many Nigerians…believing that his ‘external’ criticisms were the holy grail. Unfortunately, we were blinded by our slave mentality not to see the lack of objectivity and outright disgust he had for Nigeria. There’s no country without its faults, but let a foreigner criticise the the US or the UK to the point of affecting their ‘national interest’ and see what it really means to be petty.

    2. Oooooh! That you can decend so low…..and base this issue on gender and race is? You should first of all, tender an apology to all women and to all black women! …..and for the record, you are not half of our black, proud women!

  14. Ooo dear. The Chinese CCTV serves about 1.5billion people and you called it “insignificant”? Take a chill pill.

  15. You’re bitter Madam Hauwa…. While Jon’s rare excesses can be forgiven due to his plenty accurate news reporting this article suggests the author has an ax to grind with the subject, Jon, even calling him names. Really unprofessional.

  16. Jon Gambrell is obviously the source of our problems. Infact, he should be ‘maced’. We all need to hate him and AP for Nigeria to get better. Then, he can be ‘given the middle finger, and then told to go to hell’. Hauwa Gambo just discovered the source of our problems.

    Kudos!!!

    1. I love this bit of sarcasm

  17. Wait, so you’re upset because our media is a mess, and someone else came from outside to do something better?

    Typical Nigeria attitude, and the reason we continue to be an embarrassment. Instead of trying to replicate the things he did right, and chiding our local media for poor research and poor articles (remember that local media sources completely lifted his stories on several occasions) you’re here ranting and complaining and putting down the man for doing his job and daring to have an unflattering opinion.

    Newsflash: If our local media wasn’t bad, he wouldn’t have a reason to criticize it.

    Get over yourself. If you are a journalist, look inwards. People don’t look down on Nigeria because we’re good at things and they just HATE us, people look down on us, including our own people, because we continue to celebrate mediocrity and pat ourselves on the back for doing the bare minimum.

    1. You tool the words right out of my mouth. Cheers

    2. That’s all folks. A has said it all

    3. Oh don’t be silly. Or obtuse, the specific example the writer used shows clearly that Jon was misguided (which is a disgrace considering Achebe indeed lives in theAP’s Aerica) and the local media you pompously decry with no cogent examples got it very right. Don’t be silly.

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