MEDIA stakeholders, at the second day of the inaugural West Africa Journalism Innovation Conference (WAJIC), in Abuja, proffered solutions on sustaining accountability journalism.
In a session moderated by the Editor in Chief, Premium Times, Musikilu Mojeed, titled “Accountability Journalism and the Challenges of Sustainability”, various speakers at the event organised by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) agreed that accountability journalism cannot sustain itself.
One of the panellists, Publisher of BusinessDay Newspaper, Frank Aigbogun, hinted at the need for collaboration among media houses to sustain accountability journalism.
“Newspaper Owners Association of Nigeria, which I am a member, had a seminar last week at a resort; it was about collaboration. So the newspapers at least are already collaborating, many of them are now printing in the same location. It was unthinkable years ago. So collaboration is already happening in the media.”
On how he sustained his Newspaper, Business Day, Aigbogun said, “Let me talk about Business Day; when we started, our traditional business accounted for 100% of our revenue, and our traditional business is simply print subscription, print advertising.
“Today, our traditional business accounts for 49% of our revenue; we expect that in two years, we will take it down to 40% of our revenue. We would like to be at the point of 70/30, and we think it is doable. What are we doing? It is simply revenue diversification.
“Our events and conferences units, for instance, added to our digital operations, provide today 51% of our revenue. As you said, we started eight digital subscriptions in Africa; today, we have subscribers who contribute.
“What are we doing? We are investing in journalism, they talked about not paying salaries; fortunately, we pay salaries. We invest in journalism, we simply believe that good journalism should attract some kind of revenue. That’s our principle at Business Day,” he said.
In her submission, Toun Okewale Sonaiya, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Women Radio, said accountability journalism cannot pay for itself. She urged media owners to embrace diversification in order to remain relevant. She also discussed the need to diversify the representation of women’s issues in the media.
She stated that accountability journalism is dying and needs to be rescued.
“In my opinion, there is a pricing problem there because it cannot pay for itself. It is very expensive. You referred to other forms of journalism where you can sit in the corner of your bedroom and write about anything.
“From my economic perspective, I found accountability journalism very expensive. It is time-conscious, time constraint. Sometimes it takes weeks, it takes months, it could take a year, so it can’t pay for itself. 90% of media owners in Nigeria are men and most of them have agendas. Every media owner has an agenda,
“A lot of media house can’t pay salaries; when you pay salary, there is dignity,” she added.
Deputy Director (News Operations) Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Muhammed Ali, said holding people accountable is difficult and encouraged collaboration in the media space.
“Importance of collaboration in the context of accountability journalism and sustainability cannot be over emphasised,” he said
Principal Scarlet Ink Media, Fran Scarlet, who spoke virtually, said they have moved away from believing that advertisements will fund accountability journalism in the United States.
“The media globally is affected by accountability journalism,” she said
“Many of the foundations don’t fund you everywhere; you need to have a good management, you need to have a good model.”
In her remarks, Rosemary Egabor-Afolahan, Head of Commercials, News Central TV, said partnership among media houses is the way out.
“Partnerships and collaborations with independent content producers are crucial. We gain a comprehensive understanding of our target audience’s consumption behaviour and co-create content with them.
“We are investing in journalism partnership; you cannot get it wrong with partnership,” Egabor-Afolahan stated.
Programme Director of the Media Development Investment Fund, Deji Adekunle, advised media houses to embrace innovation and diversify.
“We must focus on innovative distribution methods, understand our audiences, segment them effectively and actively engage with them. By doing so, we can explore, improve strategies to monetise our existing audience and their valuable talents and skills.
Adekunle said Journalism, in general, has been slow to innovate.
“No organisation is guarantee eternal life. You have to continue to innovate. Your journalism must be of high value,” Adekunle said.
The event organiser said about 300 journalists from across West Africa registered for the conference.
On day one of the event, the Vice President of News at Google, Richard Gingras, urged journalists to be more constructive in reporting to sustain the relevance of the media.