“The job of a journalist is to hold people in power responsible; to hold a mirror to society,” Kadaria Ahmed’s words warmed the audience into a truly riveting, educational and entertaining July edition of Thursday Talks. This edition was tagged Journalists and Social Change, moderated by Fisayo Soyombo, featuring two other distinguished journalists and editors; Simon Kolawole (publisher of the Cable) and Kadaria Ahmed (Nigerian journalist and media entrepreneur).
The conversation kicked off with a pointed question, grilling the guests on why journalists should be concerned with social change. Ahmed quickly piped that the more dysfunctional a system is, the more there’s a need for proper, intentional journalism; to which Kolawole agreed vehemently. He noted that journalists are here to make a difference; adding that “We (journalists) are not just agents of social change, we facilitate social change.”
Furthermore, Kolawole also added that gone was the era of relative independence of the press, as the desperate need for finance, sourced from those who run the economy, is insistently influencing editorial content. The moderator proactively asked, “how can we get back to the era of independence?”
In response to his statements, Kolowale declared that boundaries need to placed by news agencies, spelling it out clearly to companies that there’s a difference between adverts and editorial content. While they might get a fair hearing, advertisers should not be allowed to influence editorial content. Ahmed also added to this line of statements; highlighting the importance of news agencies having multiple sources of income. She said that trust is currency in the current era of fake news and that over time if you build trust with the public by providing quality, unbiased news, they would support you.
The topics of journalism and activism and the fine line that demarcate the two was broached during the one-hour conversation. Kolawole pointed out that journalists should make an impact, but the journalist only provides the raw data and activists have the responsibility to take it up. He emphasises that there is a difference between opinion writing and news writing and journalist should avoid injecting personal opinion, which he poses characterises activism. Kolawale said while he might occasionally partake in activism, he chooses to stick with the standards of journalism.
“I drive, but you can’t say I’m a driver”, he added.
Ahmed took a sightly varied stance, saying distinction between the two is difficult, and that as a journalist there has to be a fire in you and that fire is what she considers activism.
“So, how does Nigeria solve her standards problem in journalism?”; Soyombo asked. Both guests piqued that there is a need for self-regulation, and more incentives and money should be spent on the training of these journalists. The moderator pointed out that there’s also the towering issue of pay; the pay for journalists in Nigeria is not high and as such qualified people for the profession search for other endeavours.
The discussion closed off by entertaining questions from the audience. A particular question asked the guests if journalists should be critical of other journalists. Both media professionals agreed that everyone should be held accountable, but the approach is what is essential; highlighting that it was better to give constructive criticism.
You can watch the full conversation below:
The July edition of the Thursday Talks, confronted the critical issues while providing entertaining conversation. It ended in high spirits as both guests thanked the moderator, Soyombo, on his excellent journalistic work.
Thursday Talks, a monthly conversation which holds on the last Thursday of every month with thought leaders, change agents and active citizens aimed at driving conversations around the demand for good governance driven by active citizenship.
It is an initiative of Enough is Enough (EiE Nigeria), The Future Project (TFP) as well as BudgIT and is proudly supported by YNaija, the internet newspaper for smart young Nigerians, focused on the issues and ideas that matter for an evolving generation.
Toluwanimi Onakoya is a spirited writer, creative and videographer. Her biggest drive is to connect with people and depict tales using various forms of media.
Toluwanimi is available on Instagram and Twitter @nimi_onaks