Journalism vs. 'Brown Envelopes'
“Somebody was telling me recently about a reporter from The Guardian who went to interview Professor Itse Sagay, one of Nigeria’s foremost constitutional lawyers who just turned 70. When he was leaving, he was given some token, but the journalist refused to take it and the Professor got angry and insisted that he must take it. ‘If I want a favour, I don’t have to talk to you,’ Sagay was quoted as saying. ‘I can talk to your boss. I know your MD and I know your editor. So, if I give you money, it is not because I need a favour from you.’ The Professor also reminded him that it was even rude for him to reject something from someone that is old enough to be his father.”
Dilemma. The question, according to Otufodunrin, is: where do you draw the line? He answers: “If a journalist is given something as token of appreciation, it would be alright if he doesn’t have control over the story. But where the opposite is the case, it is quite unethical.”
An editor who would not want his name mentioned because of “the sensitive nature of the subject,” concurs: “It is not likely the whole thing will disappear. What we need to do is to see how we can moralise over what people should take and what they should not take. Or when to take and when not to take it.”
Whichever way we look at it, the battle to destroy the monster of corruption in Nigerian media seems, to me, a long drawn one. And like Nosa Igiebor hinted in his interview, it would involve a heavy arsenal and a coalition of forces. For instance, the media in Nigeria needs the kind of revolution that former President Olusegun Obasanjo engendered through his bank consolidation policy. Under the policy, the population of banks doing business in the country was deliberately shrunken and the share capital pegged at N25 billion for greater efficiency.
Of course, there was an initial uproar as some critical stakeholders raised hell, but the government stood its ground and the operators had no other choice but to comply. That induced mergers and acquisitions. It also encouraged banks to tap more into their areas of comparative strength. While it is difficult to force media houses to merge, it behooves media proprietors to begin to liberalise their operations in such a way that would encourage investors. They could work towards mergers. Or they could shrink their coverage to areas of comparative strength.
More importantly, media houses should begin to work towards becoming media companies, like THE NATION of Kenya. They must aspire to becoming conglomerates with a proliferation of products that could cut across print to electronic and broadcast media, and expanding to book publishing, events management and marketing, public relations and brand promotions, to mention just a few. This would create multiple streams of income for the company, ensure optimum utilisation of staff, and guarantee handsome rewards to the stakeholders, of which the journalists are a prominent and critical component.
|Shola Oshunkeye - African Journalism in a Culture of Brown Envelopes.pdf||1.69 MB|