MOHAMMED Haruna is my idea of a quintessential journalist, a man of integrity who cannot be bought or cajoled into giving your book a favourable review. He simply writes what he believes to be the truth and nothing but the truth. He calls a spade by no other name than a spade. Beware, if you are asking him to review your book, because he could make you feel bad, if you didn’t write what he considers a good book.
So you can imagine my joy when I came across his review of our latest book: “50 WORLD EDITORS: Conversations with Journalism Masters on Trends and Best Practices.” I thank the Good Lord that Mohammed Haruna liked the book and gave it an excellent review to the point where he rated it as “perhaps the most encyclopaedic book on global journalism.” Wow! Unbelievable! My co-author Dimgba Igwe must be turning in his grave. Let me thank the Corporate Affairs Departments and various media houses that saw gold in this book and have bought many copies for their reporters, line editors and editors:
By Mohammed Haruna
The Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Nigeria’s official international affairs think tank, was host to one of the most important media events last year; the presentation of perhaps the most encyclopaedic book on global journalism authored by two of Nigeria’s best journalists, Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe.
It was a happy event but at the same time sad. Happy that the labour of nearly a decade of Awoyinfa and Igwe running after some of the world’s best reporters, editors and publishers in the world for their views on the media finally bore its fruit. And what a fruit it was!
Sadly, however, only one of the two authors was alive to witness the event. Igwe, as we all know, was knocked down one year ago – September 6, to be exact – by a hit-and-run driver while jogging in his neighbourhood. The accident proved fatal from lack of prompt medical attention.
Igwe’s painful death must have been one of the most traumatic events in Awoyinfa’s life because of the close bond of friendship that developed between the two, going back to the early years of their careers about three decades ago. So close has been their relationship that they came to be identified by their colleagues, and even those outside their profession, as the “Twin Brothers”, even though one is Yoruba and the other Igbo.
As “Twin Brothers,” the two formed one of only two intimate friendships thrown up by Nigeria’s journalism profession that have left proud legacies in the profession, the other friendship being the older and better known “Three Musketeers” of journalism, namely Aremo Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State and one-time managing director of Daily Times, Mr Felix Adenaike, a Daily Times alumnus and at various times the most successful managing director of Western Region’s Sketch and the independent Tribune, and the late Mr. Peter Ajayi, an alumnus of Tribune, editor of the Kwara State Herald in its heydays, and managing director of Sketch.
However, whereas the Musketeers left behind a legacy of sound investigative reporting and excellent writing style, the twin brothers popularised tabloid journalism and made it respectable, first as pioneer editors of the rested Weekend Concord and then as pioneer managers of The Sun whose owner and publisher is Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, two-time governor of
As if by coincidence, one of the Musketeers, Osoba, chaired the presentation of the twin brothers’ book. He used the occasion to touch on one of the most problematic issues in Nigerian journalism; the poor wages, at least in relative terms, of Nigerian journalists, that is when they get paid at all. A little about this presently.
To return to the book itself, it is, as I said, perhaps the most encyclopaedic book on global journalism. Before it I can remember only one such book. This is the award-winning Powers of the Press: The World’s Great Newspapers by Martin Walker, an alumnus of the London Guardian and one of the most successful British journalists, and currently Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the global news agency, United Press International.
Walker’s 1982 book was a tour de force as an insider’s look at the workings of 12 of the world’s most influential newspapers. His selection were the UK Times, the French Le Monde, the German Die Welt, the Italian Corriere della Sera, the Soviet Union Pravda, the Egyptian Al-Ahram, the Japanese Asahi Shimbun, the American New York Times and Washington Post, the Canadian Toronto Globe & Mail, the Australian Age of Melbourne and the South African Rand Daily Mail.
Whereas both Walker’s book and the twin brothers’ are encyclopaedic, the latter, containing interviews with reporters, editors and publishers of 50 of the world’s best media houses, is obviously more encyclopaedic. Second, whereas Walker’s is limited to newspapers, the twin brothers’ includes broadcast media and news agencies. Third, whereas Walker’s is one man’s insight into the inner workings of top flight journalism the world over, the twin brothers’ is, as the sub-title of the book says, a “Conversation with Journalism Masters on Trends and Best Practices” of the trade. In other words, their book presents the journalistic views of the masters of the profession across the world’s five continents in their own words.
This alone makes the book a fitting legacy to the resourceful twin brothers. It should also make it a must read not only for journalists and journalism schools. It should be so for anyone with an interest in politics and economics. And this, when you think about it, is just about everyone, since we all need information even to survive. And we get that most of the time through the media.
One little weakness of the book, as one which should be a reference for Nigerian journalism students, is that it did not include enough Nigerian journalism icons. Six such were interviewed, namely: the late Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Osoba, Thisday’s Nduka Obaigbena, the Pulitzer prize- winning Dele Olojede, The News’ Bayo Onanuga and Channel TV’s John Momoh. Clearly missing from this list is an interview with Malams Adamu Ciroma and Mamman Daura, each as first, editor then managing director of The New Nigerian, the most literate and arguably the most authoritative newspaper in Nigeria in the late sixties and seventies.
In the Introduction to the book the authors claim they pioneered Nigeria’s first Saturday newspaper, the highly successful Weekend Concord. I am not so sure they are right about that if their idea is of WC as a tabloidization of reporting. Before WC, let’s not forget there was the highly popular Lagos Weekend published on Fridays by the Daily Times of Nigeria. And after LW there was Saturday Extra, a four-page pull-out in the New Nigerian on Saturdays which reported stories from human angle and featured prominent columnists like the late Theresa Bowyer, one of the pioneer female journalists of this country.
These, of course, do not detract from the legacy of popularising of tabloid journalism and making it respectable in Nigeria which the twin brothers have built.
As I said earlier, the chair of the occasion and himself a journalism icon, Osoba, seized the opportunity of being in the chair to plead passionately with owners and publishers not only to pay their journalists living wages but to do so as and when due. Much of the terrible “brown envelop” syndrome which has blighted Nigerian journalism for long, he said, can be blamed on owners and publishers of mass media not paying their employees well, or worse, not even paying them at all. One can only hope that his plea will be heeded.
Times, of course, are tough for the industry, as they are for the rest of the economy. But when reporters see their employers living it off from what they see as the proceeds of their sweat – and this seems to be the case with several owners and publishers – it sounds unrealistic to blame journalists for resorting to brown envelops, terrible as it is.
Looking down from the great beyond, Igwe must be a happy man seeing the way his colleagues trooped in from all corners of the country to attend the presentation of a book he co-authored and at the same time to celebrate his life.
As Awoyinfa and Igwe have shown, tabloid journalism can be as respectable as serious journalism. But this is only in so far as it respects the basic rule of journalism that only opinion is free; facts must be sacred.
*To buy this book, call Gloria on 08033445125.