I will like to commend the Standing Committee of the Guild for coming up with this workshop as the latest step in their continued quest to deepen journalism and business education. The theme is well conceived; it is topical and important to the good health of our dear profession, Journalism.
Journalism as the business of gathering information, processing it into news, and serving it as a product in a social construct began in 1859 at Abeokuta, present day Ogun state, which is just a journey of two hours of road travel to Lagos, today. The next set of papers beginning with The Anglo-African in 1863, The Lagos Times and Gold Advertiser in 1880 came out of Lagos. The honour for the first daily newspaper also belongs to Lagos with the birth of the Lagos Daily News in 1925. In both cases, Nigerian journalism was before the Nigerian state came to be. So, it can be said that Nigerian journalism is older than Nigeria and, therefore, demands more respect than she is given in some quarters.
From its missionary thrust of inculcating in the people of Abeokuta a hunger for the written word, and sharing general intelligence on their immediate community and environs, Nigerian journalism has grown as a tool to oil social conversation, agitate for social and political causes, rouse people to action, service business and political interests, as well as earn an income.
From the rudimentary era of stone setting to the mechanical composing machine, the rotary press, Linotype and today’s digital model, our print journalism has travelled a long road. Corresponding progress was also made with the electronic media. Digitalization of the media speaks to the new playground for an old business. Journalism is still about good storytelling, fact-checking. It extols lucid writing, requires continuous investment in the investigative skills of our journalists, and requires deeper grounding in the ethical demands of our business.
Whilst the essence of journalism as content development and distribution remains the same, the platforms through which the developed content is disseminated change with advances in technology and needs of the audiences. From the analogue mode of presenting media content in a package processed by appointed gatekeepers, the digitalization of journalism addresses new opportunities that digital platforms provide.
To begin with, the Internet as the information superhighway provides a revolutionary speed of developing and delivering information to larger audiences. The user-friendliness of the platforms through access to interactivity, use of multimedia, and hypertextuality opens up new directions for audience engagement and patronage. The cheaper production cost has opened up new usage, which is well utilized by social platforms.
The growing penetration of digital journalism in the wake of rising costs of analogue publishing and the changing demographics of media usage dictate that media owners and managers need a better and deeper understanding of the business if they are to record greater impact and sustainable progress. We must ask and answer the questions:
How do we use the digital environment to improve the quality of journalism? How do we use it to promote good corporate governance? Can we retain analogue managers in a digital environment?
What can we learn from citizen journalists, bloggers to improve the reach of our individual platforms? How do we widen the appeal of our content? How do we master the business opportunities available online for media sustainability? How do we get the audience to pay more for our work?
How do we restructure our editorial operations to cope adequately with the challenges of digital publishing? Is the old division between the church and the state to be maintained? In other words, can we continue to promote the division between the editorial and business divisions of media operations? Or put another way, how best can we ensure greater market share without sacrificing editorial integrity?
How do we promote more trust and separate our work from the antics of scaremongers and hate peddlers? How do we train the next generation of leaders to blend technical competence with needed market sensitivity, whilst appreciating the need to always put the people first? How do we promote greater transparency in our organisations to engender greater public trust?
What provisions should be made for regulating the media environment? The power of media reach afforded by the ubiquity of the internet recommends that operators cannot run away from reasonable control. The earlier we agree on it, the better for the health of the industry.
I do not pretend to have all the answers but I reckon some of those questions and more will be raised and addressed more robustly by the presenters we have lined up today: Mr. Emeka Izeze, Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, Dr. Tony Onyima, and Dr. Pius Onobhayedo.
I have no doubt, however, that there will be need for better and relevant training, more audience research, and more astute business management with proper structures.
I join you all in looking forward to what promises to be a robust outing in the next few days.
The President of the Guild, The Governor of Lagos State, Fellows and Members of the Guild, Distinguished participants, I thank you for the honour given me to share some thoughts and observations with you.