BY KATE HALIM
Chris Kehinde Nwandu, Publisher CKN News and President, Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria recently paid a courtesy visit to The Sun Publishing Limited Corporate Headquarters, Kirikiri, Apapa, Lagos.
Nwandu, in this interview, sheds light on the new trend in cyber publishing and online information dissemination, the prospects and problems, as well as the forthcoming lecture organized by his online platform to professionalise the trade in Nigeria through the guild he heads. Excerpts:
What is CKN up to lately?
As the President, Guild of Professional Bloggers, we are organizing a lecture that aims to bring some life into the art of blogging and online publication. My outfit, CKN, decided to organize this lecture to educate people in this field. We want to look at the challenges we face so far. We want to look at the good, the bad and ugly sides of online publication, as well as how far we have fared. That is why we have come up with the first CKN Annual Lecture and the theme is “The Role of Social Media in the Socio-economic and Political Development of Nigeria.”
The event is going to take place on Tuesday the 13th of June, 2017 at Renaissance Hotel, GRA, Ikeja. The guest speaker is the Minister of Transport, Honourable Chibuike Amaechi. We chose him, because he has been the most bashed personality in social media on all platforms. We want to bring him in to tell us his experience. Let him analyze social media from his own perspective. The chairman of the occasion is going to be the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. The chief host is going to be the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode. Our special guest of honour is the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi.
Since the lecture has to do with technology, the executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, is going to give the keynote address. We want to use that opportunity to look at ourselves and find out how far we have gone, what we are doing right, what we are not doing right and how to improve, so that we will continue to remain relevant in the scheme of things.
What are the objectives of the Guild of Professional Bloggers?
The first objective is to bring some level of professionalism in the art of blogging in Nigeria. It is our aim to let Nigerians know that bloggers are not riff raffs, drop outs, trouble makers or blackmailers. There are many bloggers making legitimate money out of blogging.
The second one is to act as an avenue for bloggers to interact on issues of national importance and issues that concern them too. Another objective is to look at areas of cooperation and collaboration between bloggers in the areas of content and information management.
The guild also seeks to establish some codes of conduct ethically for practitioners of industry so that we can distinguish ourselves from those who are just on the cyber space and those who are doing their jobs well and professionally.
We also set up the guild so that we can train and re-train ourselves with modern day technological know-how on the art of professional blogging, news dissemination and online publication.
So how do you intend to do all these given the free access many people have when it comes to blogging and how do you plan to get a reasonable amount of bloggers into the guild?
Already, we have a reasonable amount of bloggers registered with us, but we are looking at how we can continue to spread our tentacles. By the time those who are sceptical about joining us see the calibre of people within the association and what we have been able to achieve, they will definitely know that this is where to belong.
Also, it is easy for organisations to relate with people who have come together as one and see themselves as professionals, rather than just dealing with individuals. Also, no one knows it all. When you belong to a group, you will interact with others, look at your strengths, know your weaknesses, try to balance both and learn from other people who are doing the same as you.
This body will also give bloggers credibility. By the ethics establishing the association, there are certain things you are not supposed to do. Once people see that there’s credulity in our association, there’s a tendency that they will come and join us. We know it is a very difficult task, but they are surmountable. We want to put face to blogging in Nigeria. It’s an avenue to make money, learn from others and reach out to the world with information and people will take you seriously.
What are some of the challenges you face running CKN News as well as the association?
As an online publisher, network communication is always a challenge. We rely on telecom companies to work, but sometimes, it is very difficult to do so. At CKN, we have more than eight internet platforms, yet sometimes we can’t break stories or upload articles, because all of them are down. It can be frustrating.
Information gathering is another challenge. We are not as big as most media houses, so we have to rely on traditional media and News Agency of Nigeria for news. We rely mostly on our i-reporters. We have over 2,000 of them that supply CKN news and stories all over the world. They are not being paid, but they believe in our passion. But that is also another challenge. We have to authenticate their stories.
The issue of libel is another challenge. We don’t have legal department and lawyers unlike traditional media. Getting personnel is another challenge. Because of the economic challenges, we don’t have the resources to employ qualified staff with the ability to do the job well. Many online platforms are run by one person, who is the editor-in-chief, reporter and photographer. If anything happens to him, the website will suffer too.
Being able to attract patronage in terms of advert is challenging. You must build your platform to a certain stage to be able to attract patronage. It depends on your content and the level of reach.
Running the guild is very challenging because when you are starting something new, the tendency for people not to believe in you is always there. I almost gave up at a point, but I chose to hold on to few people who stood by me. Today, people are getting to know that there is a guild that will support them when problems come.
How do aspiring members register?
We have the ethics committee that look at areas of ethical issues. We also have the membership mobilization committee. If you want to be a member, you can contact us and we ask you to send your details to us such as your name and address. The problem we have always had with online media platforms is that people just print in the air. You must have a face before we accept you.
We will look at your platform to check for consistency. You must have been publishing quality articles for one year before you move to the next stage. Then we interview you one-on-one. When you qualify, we will accept you. If we are not satisfied with your website, we tell you areas where you can improve. If you are an online blackmailer, we cannot accept you. You must be clean. When you are admitted, you now pay the normal subscription fee. You gain the privilege of being a member of the Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria. We hold our physical meetings every two months. But we have a Whatsapp platform where our members all over the world meet and discuss important issues that concern us.
What is the difference between online publishing and blogging?
There’s a thin line between the two. While online publishing is more regulated and more established platform, blogging is an all comers affair. It takes some level of professionalism to run an online publishing platform, because you have to get a domain name, you have to register a domain name, then you design your website and then start writing unique articles to attract traffic.
Whether you are doing online publishing or blogging, you are using the same word space. It’s still blogging, but the difference is that blogging doesn’t cost anything, you just need a Gmail account to do that, but online publishing is more regulated, more established and more professionally done.
Another difference is that most bloggers don’t have professional training unlike online publishers. As a website owner, your content must be rich. You must have a defined goal and audience you are targeting. But a blogger can just write whatever catches his fancy because anything goes for him and blogging is an all-comers affair.
In terms of security and cyber attack, a website is more secured than a blog. Blogs are prone to some attacks, but websites are more secured with their contents. People tend to read more of blogs than visit websites, because blogs are attractive and much easier to set up. Blogs are more eye friendly than websites when you are using phones to access them. Websites are seen as serious platforms, while blogs are more relaxing and entertaining. The way websites handle news is different from the way bloggers do.
What future do you see for blogging and online publication in Nigeria?
It is the way to go. It’s a Tsunami that is taking the world by storm. Even in traditional media, there’s no newspaper that is not online. There’s no radio station that doesn’t run an online platform. Online is new world order. We can now watch television online, listen to radio online and even read newspapers online. The traditional media is working tenaciously to key into this in thing.
As far as telecom density is growing in leaps and bounds, people have access to internet and smart phones, it is now clear that it is the future. Online journalism is not like citizen journalism. Everybody is now an i- reporter. People now snap things and announce things before traditional media carry the news. As an individual who captures things as they happen, you may not be able to report it like a professional reporter but the message is there, the picture is there, the place is there and the time is mentioned.
Traditional media can now take it from where an i- reporter stopped and curry it and properly package it. These days, people no longer wait for 9 o’clock news to know what is happening around them. What the traditional newspapers can now do after people report things as they happen is to give it accuracy and be elaborate in their report, but the basic news has been passed across already.