By Ori Martins
ThIs morning, my vendor brought the daily newspapers to me. The collection had both local and national tabloids. I browsed through and selected two national and one local newspapers.
What I have been beholding in some of the local publications is very frightening. It is a beautiful sore – very unacceptable and highly condemnable. In all, it is horrifying.
Today’s was unbearable. Look at this: Group cautions Mbakwe to STAY CLEAR of Obowo politics. It was the banner headline.
You can understand here that the publisher, the editors and even the reporter that wrote the story cannot differentiate between STAY CLEAR and STEER CLEAR. This is embarrassing. It is the height of professional masturbation and a clear case of industry rascality.
The other day, another unpardonable blunder was: Let FG settle ASUU INSTALMENTALLY. On that, I put a call to the publisher to educate him on the tragedy.
He told me off and asked to face my worries. He dramatically and sensationally repeated Sir Shina Peter’s hit bash when he also committed such a disaster. The publisher indolently insisted thus “Grammar no be success. Grammar no be my language”. I was dumfounded.
This unprofessional behaviour and lack of adherence to industry standards and practices are regrettably replete in almost all the local newspapers in Imo, Rivers, Ogun, Oyo, Akwa Ibom states and Abuja.
By local newspapers, I am referring to community based publications and Imo State is currently the headquarters of community newspaper production in Nigeria. There are about 17 WELL ESTABLISHED local newspapers in Imo.
When my generation was growing up, both in the primary and secondary schools, our parents and guardians encouraged us to read newspapers as well as listen to radio for a better knowledge of the English Language. We did and today we are better for it.
However, you cannot place today’s local newspapers on the table in the dinning for your children to read. The concord agreement is injurious, the technical accuracy is killing while the registers are out of this world! In Imo, the only exception is National Newsbreak Newspaper.
My question is, at what stage or point does a journalist qualifies to be a practicing publisher? What are the experiences required for an intending journalist or investor to be accepted as a publisher?
Let it be made clear that there are three types of publishers to wit: A sitting/practicing publisher and a non sitting/practicing publisher. The third is publisher by proxy – the situation where nobody really knows who is the real publisher. For an example, the now defunct New Age newspaper. Its publisher remained a matter of guess work.
The Iconic Zik of Africa was a sitting publisher and his chain of newspapers came out fantastic because was trained as a journalist. The legendary MKO Abiola was never a journalist but he employed the best brains in the industry to run his Concord Group and it was superb. The enterprising Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu is not a journalist yet he established the Champion newspapers, employed some of the best hands and the newspapers were coming out sweet.
Both THISDAY and Vanguard newspapers are published by two of the best journalists Nigeria has ever produced – Nduka Obaigbena The Duke and Elder Sam Amuka Pelu. They are both sitting publishers and you can see their respective wonderful contributions to the growth and development of Nigeria’s print journalism.
On the other hand, the due of Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu are not journalists. They are the publishers of the high flying Daily Sun and The Nation newspapers – they hired experienced journalists to interpret their respective dreams.
Why is it difficult for our local newspapers to employ journalists with experience to supervise the production of their newspapers, to avoid this embarrassing blunders?
And, where does NUJ play a role in this matter? That is, you cannot practice as a lawyer in the country unless you attend the Nigeria Law School and then called to bar. In the same application, COREN certifies whoever claims to be an engineer just as the Nigerian Medical and Dental Association has the ultimate rights to confirm who practices as a medical doctor.
In this regard, who or which professional journalism body, does the clearing or accreditation job for the Fourth Estate of the Realm? When this is established, it will go a long towards the eradication of virtually all the maladies we are currently witnessing today in the industry.
I still remember vividly that it was Comrade Samuel Komalafe who submitted that every publisher must deposit a certain amount of money with the NDIC as security for workers’ salaries. ThIs is to ensure that journalists are not left to loiter in the streets, begging and genuflecting before all manner of persons.
The national leadership of NUJ must come up with an idea on how to solve some of these lingering issues.