New book chronicles media practitioners’ experiences

textbooksIn a bid to preserve the experiences and the know-how of media leaders for the benefit of the younger ones, media scholar, Richard Ikiebe, of the school of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, has edited a four-volume book Nigerian Media Leaders: Voices Beyond the Newsroom. Ikiebe undertook the work to fill the gap in the study of Nigerian journalism since the pioneering work of Alfred Omu’s Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1880-1937, which was published in 1978.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, ahead of the formal presentation of the book, scheduled for Eko Hotel and Suits, Lagos, on September 22, Ikiebe gave insight on why he wrote the book and what he intends to achieve with it.

According to him, the book records the contributions, challenges and exploits of Nigerian media leaders in the last 75 years, and features interviews with more than 80 media leaders across print, broadcast and the academia. He restated the importance of capturing and keeping these records to help younger journalists avoid making the same mistakes. Although his focus seems to be on the older journalists, Ikiebe said, “It’s actually a mixture, but they have the experience; they know something that is useful to us and if we don’t go and interrogate them, we will never have our hands on that knowledge”.

Ikiebe’s research is also in collaboration with the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University. According to him, the book covers various themes of media leadership and management, circulation and distribution, readership, changing media landscape, media and military, as well as the effects of social media and changing demographic patterns.

While speaking on why journalists don’t keep record of their experiences, Ikiebe reiterated that journalists are trained to work on deadlines, and that the job does not afford them the opportunity to do so, adding, “they are never really able to think of the future in a long term way; and once the job is done, they are happy with themselves. Whereas for me, as a journalist coming into the academia, I know and realise that there is so much that we can do, need to do to preserve knowledge otherwise we lose something that is collective”.

He advised that just as history is very important in shaping a nation, so does the media record, and lamented that Nigeria does not keep record of the past, and calls for change. “For people like Dele Giwa, the only thing we can do is to reconstruct his era and talk to people who knew him, look at his writing but it is not the same as talking to him,” he noted.

Ikiebe further advised journalists to write more, beyond the news and analysis. “They should write about the nation; they should be more interested in producing information that will serve the nation and the profession,” he said.

He also shed light on how the newsroom operates, and on editors as dictators, and said the newsroom is governed by deadline, and as such news is a perishable commodity. He noted, “Unfortunately, news is now, and the internet has taken the deadline out of our hand. The average journalist is like somebody on the tread mill all the time, and just has to keep running”.

It is his expectation that the book would be an inspiration for the nation, source of education for the younger journalists, and that a lot of universities are able to get their hands on the four volumes, though the last two volumes are not out yet. “The third volume is going to be devoted to journalism teachers and the fourth volume is still in this way. We are really looking for opportunities to get it into the universities so that young journalists would be able to see how somebody like Aderonike, Dele Momoh practiced; these are all journalists who have shared their experiences in these books”.

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