CONFUSION OF A JOURNALIST
As media professionals, we are always saddled with the responsibility of talking about the serious issues affecting the populace, what are their sufferings? What are they clamouring for? What is happening with politics and the likes? For a media professional from the developing world, the responsibility is a bit more arduous because you are required to use your reportage to bring your society out of every fibre of suffering by talking about it and bringing its attention to the right authorities. The military era is a very good example where the Nigerian media were at the forefront of the struggle until Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. The Nigerian media didn’t relent even after democracy, Santas Tsegyu and John Dogara wrote in the African Review Journal in 2016 that “immediately after the Abdulsalami Abubakar led government instituted the transition programme that ushered in a new democratic government, the media swung into action by creating awareness on the electoral process. Massive voter education was carried out by the media to enlighten Nigerians on the need to participate in the electoral process”. In a recent development, the Buhari-led administration recently announced a ranching policy to tackle the issue of open grazing that has caused violence among the Fulanis who are indigenous herders and communities where they graze but with the outcry from Nigerians using the various media platforms, the government decided to put a hold on the policy.
Of course this works some of the time, government would act swiftly when something that threatens to embarrass or drag their name in the mud is published by the media but for majority of the issues, especially human rights issues, it is the same things the veterans have been discussing 20 years ago that young broadcasters and reporters are still talking about. In a 1984 documentary produced by the Nigerian Television Authority and the BBC, The World About Us Onyeka Onwenu fully encompass the Nigerian issues looking at corruption and its effects on our economy “corruption was both blatant and pervasive… in the midst of a declining oil economy, individuals made millions even billions safely tucked away in foreign banks”. The documentary comprehensively talked about the various issues which are still what I discuss on broadcast programmes 35 years after.
Let’s take a look at some of the Nigerian issues like insecurity, kidnapping in the South, Banditry and terrorism in the North. On an individual level, these stories can be very depressing and sad even for the gatekeeper who is meant to discuss these issues. Day in, day out the sum total of the Nigerian issue all boils down to the same thing. When we look at issues in all sectors, the education, health, security, economy etc., one thing is certain, either some people really do not know their job, or they know but aren’t doing their job, then no one to hold them accountable for not doing their job or the government is completely clueless as to how to even tackle the issue or the measures put in place to tackle the issue is being sabotaged.
Markham Heid in a 2018 article quoted a Davey’s Research “negative TV news is a significant mood-changer, and the mods it tends to produce are sadness and anxiety. Studies also showed that this change in mood exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to news stories being broadcast”. With the rate of crises in Nigeria today, reported cases of depression have risen in the last ten years due to sadness, anxiety that can sometimes be associated with what is rampant in the media.
It is however easier for me to be carried away by talking about the Nigerian issue but that is not the focus here. I recently walked up to my boss that July 30th is marked the World Friendship Day and I would like to do a special on this day to celebrate Friendship and talk about Friendship. She asked me how that is relevant, why is it important and continued by saying we need to discuss the serious issues affecting the country and society at large, “there are more important issues” she said. We have been discussing the important issues, we’ll invite an analyst into the studio and have him talk about the aviation industry which in some cases he isn’t even a part of and those working there have all declined to speak with the press because they cannot come on national television to talk about their incompetency. So he talks about the measures that needs to be taken, the problems and somehow we really think that in the long line of people in authority, they do not know what needs to be done to and we hope that they will take the analyst’s advice and do the right thing.
As a broadcast journalist, I have doubted myself and what I care about. Constantly caught in between what I want to do or the kind of stories I want to tell and the kind of stories I am told qualifies me as a journalist. I figured that reporting the problem is good but what is better is taking a positive outlook on issues, I want to give people information rather on how to live their lives better health wise, emotionally, physically, career wise and desist from talking about ‘the serious stuff’. Information that can be of use to them, that is within their power to transform their lives positively instead of focusing on the negative stories. Things like friendship might not be the burning issue but it matters because we spend most of our time socializing and bonding with people and friends are a part and parcel of life and we need information on how to navigate this part of our social life that can sometimes be challenging.