STAKEHOLDERS have recommended solutions to media policies, technology innovation, and sustainability challenges.
They made the recommendation at the Amplify In-Depth Media Conference organised by the media coalitions, which includes The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, (The ICIR), The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), on Friday, December 8, in Abuja.
The two-day conference has participants comprising veteran, young, and student journalists and Mass Communication lecturers nationwide.
In his keynote address at the event titled “From Attention to Intimacy: Journalism in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” Premium Times founder Dapo Olorunyomi urged Nigerian media to investigate how independent journalism affects ownership, technology, sustainability, and policy in the digital age.
He added that journalism and democracy are inseparable.
“If we are going to save our democracy, we must make sure fact-checking protocols become part of us.
“If you will be called a journalist, first and foremost, your credentials must be that you are truth-telling,” he stated.
He reminded journalists at the conference that democracy would not exist if accountability journalism did not.
Olorunyomi said that without accountability in democracy, journalism would not endure.
He reiterated that journalism must be an enterprise in truth-telling.
Motunrayo Alaka, Executive Director of Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and Deji Adekunle, Programme Director MDIF/Nigeria Media Innovation Programme (NAMIP), delivered the opening remark.
They noted that the conference was organised with the MacArthur Foundation and eighteen media and journalism (MAJ) Cohort organisations to deliberate on the primary concerns influencing media freedom and how journalism would help Nigeria maintain a strong democracy.
Discussion on the keynote address
Speakers suggested solutions to media challenges amid dwindling resources in a session centred around the keynote address moderated.
The panellists urged media organisations to reflect and develop more initiatives to bolster their independence and financial security.
The editor-in-chief of the Daily Trust Newspaper, Naziru Abubakar, outlined how his organisation was testing out fresh financial models with the help of contributors and partners because traditional revenue sources were not generating enough to pay for staff salaries alone, let alone other costs.
He added that the media’s most difficult challenge, either locally or globally, was financial sustainability.
“Legacy media needs to find so many ways to fund their newspapers,” he suggested.
According to Deji Adekunle, MDIF/Nigeria Media Innovation Program (NAMPIP) programme director, there are still hurdles to scale to achieve accountability journalism.
On media regulations, Adekunle said, “We don’t have to focus on regulations that will come; we should look at regulations that exist. The policy framework should be about press freedom.”
Media regulations and independence
In a session on media regulations and independence moderated by Sharon Ijasan of TVC News, Lanre Arogundade of the International Press Centre (IPC) said press freedom should be about the people.
“Media regulatory bodies must be interested in the economy of the media. The media in Nigeria has never been averse to being regulated,” he stated.
Arogundade outlined how the Nigerian press must adhere to the Nigerian Union of Journalists Code of Ethics to fulfil its role as the country’s watchdog.
On the role of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in regulating media houses, the Director of Broadcast Monitoring, NBC, Franca Aiyetan, said the commission had done a lot to hold the space.
She said synergy was important in carrying out their mandate as regulators.
“Every civilised society is concerned about what happened in its digital space,” she said
Sharing experience in investigative journalism
Deji Badmus, founder of TV360, and Juliana Francis, deputy editor of The Eagle Online, ehared their experience in investigative journalism.
Badmus said the passion to change society and hold government accountable drives investigative journalism.
He listed the effects of investigations and explained that notable journalistic reporting led to the first restoration of the Third Mainland Bridge and the refurbishment of the Police College in Lagos.
According to Badmus, investigative journalism will thrive only in a society where the reporter does not need to worry about where the next meal will come from.
Francis urged journalists to intentionally look for mentors who know what investigative journalism is all about.
“Write to make impacts and not to win awards,” she said.
Media ownership structure and independence
Speaking in a session on media ownership structure and independence, Oluchi Adams, managing director of AD4TVRadio, said politicians had access to the media because the media is capital-intensive.
Yusuf Alli, the Managing Editor of Nothern operations at The Nation Newspaper, said mitigating media ownership and managing owners was possible.
“Ownership of the media should not be magnified. It is not peculiar to Nigeria; as far as you have the idea, someone else has the money.
“How do you mitigate? You need to tell the truth to the powers that be. Ownership will always be there,” he stated.
Regarding some media houses not paying their workers, Alli said, “If you are in an organisation and you are not paid, get out. Don’t cheapen yourself by going to work every day on an empty stomach.”
In her address, the Editor of the International Centre For Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Victoria Bamas, said the organisation’s position on every grant it received was that the fund would not affect its editorial independence.
“At the end of the day, the important thing for a non-profit is to have editorial independence,” she submitted.
According to Bamas, The ICIR utilises various financial sources to reduce outside influence on its operations.
She added that the ICIR would not accept funds that would compromise its independence and that it included funders’ names in reports to promote transparency.
Sustaining media independence
On sustaining media independence, Umar Pate, a professor and Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Kashere, Gombe state, said economic independence determined editorial independence.
He said stakeholders were trying through a curriculum review to address challenges facing the media, such as verifiability issues and values.
“When you see the work of a journalist, you will know, and when you see the work of a quack claiming to be a journalist, you will know.
“In the new curriculum, we introduced a new course, Media Economics. This is a new course,” Pate said.
Pate submitted that a new generation of journalists would have unique skills, adding that more skills were needed for every journalist.
He noted that investigative journalism was expensive and called for regular training for Mass Communication lecturers.
Theophilus Abbah, Director of Daily Trust Foundation, harped on the need for media houses to invest in research.
He said students should be taught how to draft and implement business plans.
“The content you are putting out must have so much value that people will be willing to pay for it.”
Similarly, Sharon Ijasan of TVC said giving hope to the next generation was important. She explained how she combined teaching journalism students at a university (to share her knowledge with student journalists) with her work at the TVC.
Gatekeeping for journalism in a digital age
In another session moderated by Azubuike Ishiekwene, Editor-in-chief of Leadership Newspaper, participants agreed that gatekeeping in journalism was relevant.
Ngozi Okpara, a lecturer at Pan-Atlantic University, noted that the ethical nature of journalism made it essential in the modern era.
Alli of The Nation said the media ecosystem was polluted and riotous. “We need gatekeeping because we need sanity in the space,” he added.
Lami Sadiq, Head of Investigations at Daily Trust, urged all journalists to have the necessary skill sets to check all facts independently.
“While speed is important, you have to understand that it is important to fact-check your information,” Sadiq advised.
Samson Folarin, Features Editor at Punch Newspaper, said media houses must prioritise accuracy and train journalists to be resourceful.
There were goodwill messages from Amina Salihu, Deputy Director of MacArthur Foundation.
She lauded the efforts of the WSCIJ and the MAJ Cohort in fostering democracy through the media.
According to Salihu, the media are responsible for ensuring accountability and openness at all governmental levels through their reporting.
In her goodwill message, Dina Sabi, Second Secretary of the Netherlands Embassy in Nigeria, said honesty and freedom of the press were required for a functional society.