Over the last decade, public analyst and social commentators have registered divergent views on the scorecard of Nigerian journalists who hop from the newsroom to the boardroom. Everyone acknowledge that they are the finest reporters, editors-in-chief, opinion influencers, thought leaders, and columnists of our time—bright, intelligent, resourceful and eloquent with the pen. They are universally acknowledged as a good servant of the people in this role. In the larger context, they are the Segun Adeniyi’s, Reuben Abati’s and Femi Adesina’s of this nation.
Most people are too quick to highlight the dramatic narratives of these hitherto hard-noose media critics that ‘blindly’ defend the same government when appointed as media aide. Segun Adeniyi of ThisDay, Dr. Reuben Abati of TheGuaudian have suffered vitriolic attacks from the public. Currently, the public is on high alert as the Editor-in-chief of The Sun Newspapers, Femi Adesina has received the nod of President Muhammadu Buhari to navigate the pesky task of managing his image in the media space.
In a bid to underscore the reasons that these media officials have either failed to deliver in the fundamental duties or played to the gallery, I have itemized some socio-economic undercurrents which should help moderate our far-flung expectations. We must begin to realize that they can never operate in isolation from the government and their environment.
- They lack the requisite education necessary to transit smoothly from the newsroom to boardroom
When people criticize journalists who take up tasks such as Chief Press Secretary, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the like, they fail to realize that these reporters and editors have transited from the newsroom to boardroom as (managing directors) without the concomitant management education. This is a century that knowledge governs. It is indeed a hard and incontrovertible fact that communication drives controls and stirs public conduct. Communication has even become a strategic tool for piloting the affairs of government. However, it must be said that merely carving a niche for oneself as a newspapers columnist, editor and the like do not necessarily make one skilled in deploying the right communication to manage image and respond strategically in times of crises. It is often said that one cannot give what one does not have. Hence, journalists must become adept in deploying the right communication which is strategic component of government’s survival in the 21st century.
- They must defend the Government; so, let them do their job
It is obvious that the timeless axiom that he who pays the piper dictates the tune still holds sways even in government operations. Hence, Presidents and other political office holders expect their journalist employee to always watch their tracks and clear their official ‘mess’. A good case in point was an incident when Mrs. Patience Jonathan, reportedly expressed disappointment in Abati’s inability to defend her and her husband from media attacks. Did I hear you scream ‘There is God o!’ Even when it is misplaced, it is expected that Journalists working for government must be willing to bell the cat at all times.
- Poor capitalization shaped by corporate mismanagement
We have to be brutally frank with ourselves; the major challenge of journalists who become media handlers or technocrats for government also stems from poor capitalization shaped by corporate mismanagement. In today’s era of information overload and concomitant digitalization, it is almost difficult to run a complex industry such as the media by intuition. The current media industry is now shaped by digital journalism (globalization); forces that members of the old set-up don’t seem understand, and unfortunately our universities that should be centres of innovation and change management are insufferably deficient on all fronts. Hence, media technocrats who lack the necessary know-how of emerging social media platforms are compelled to either shape up or ship out of global media developments.
- They don’t get scholarship offer for media upgrade
Most Nigerian journalists depend on the goodwill of brand owners, marketing communication agencies for survival. Until the Nigeria government and other media organizations build capacities by lending themselves to human capital developmental projects in media practice and management, journalists would continue to lag behind in their mental capacities to serve the society well. Except for a third world continent like Africa and indeed, a country like Nigeria, the rest of the world equips journalists with scholarship programmes. How many media organizations send their senior management staff to Business Schools? Most media practitioners either are self – sponsored or depend on being sponsored by global, regional and donor nations for programmes in media management. Until and unless we take human development, not only in the Media but in all spheres seriously, our journalists would continue to under-perform when moved from the newsroom to the boardroom.
- The sit-tight syndrome is rife
The sit-tight syndrome is an African phenomenon. And expectedly so; the trickling effect of staying hooked to a media-related positions because of the largesse and power that is tied to it make our journalists not to know when to take a dignified walk. Unlike what is seen in other foreign media climes where media advisers resign their appointment as soon as the government decisions become despicable, Nigerian media aids blindly defend the inactions of their ‘bosses’.
Abiodun Obisesan leads the Media Department at Mediacraft Associates Limited. An avid media forecaster and analyst, he welcomes opportunities to share his deep and unique insights on the Nigerian media landscape