Journalism On Campus: What UI Students Need To Understand

Journalists and Journalism: Who Exactly are These People?  

As proven in history, information is more readily available in democratic societies. However, there are downsides to the free flow of information, if unregulated. For one, there is the possibility of dangerous propaganda and misinformation. Fake news is also bound to thrive. This implicitly creates the need for a source, a regulator, and a custodian of accountability. These people are called  Journalists. The role of a Journalist is important to democracy. Journalists have a converse relationship with fairness and freedom of speech. These two conditions are important for the craft  – as you may have it – to thrive, and vice versa. The absence of these conditions predisposes journalism to doom, and journalists to different forms of assault and torture. 

Due to the power that information wields, it is normal for administrations – across strata and regions – to attempt censoring its flow. This inherently makes them at loggerheads with journalists and journalistic outfits. The point of journalism is access to accurate information, especially on matters of general importance. In some cases, this matter involves actions (both negative and positive) of administrations and individuals. As a result, most of these individuals employ assault.  Assault is “so normal” even in democratic countries that journalists have considered it a job hazard.  

The Press is your friend  

“We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers”.  

–Helen Thomas  

According to Chapter 2, Section 22 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution,

“The press, radio, television  and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives  contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to  the people.” 

By orientation, no Pressman is trained to be a cop that targets political office holders, citizens, or nations. The primary aim of journalism – as it is practiced on campus – is simply information and accountability. By implication, management officials and students must therefore realize that the natural enemies of democracy – which they believe and practice – are those who attempt to silence the voice of the press or attack journalists who are carrying out their constitutional responsibilities. 

As a result, rather than perceive (campus) journalists as enemies or individuals to be mortified of,  they should be seen as what they are, and what they represent: watchdogs against the prevalence of administrative and societal rot. In continuation, it is pertinent that everyone realizes that the end game of journalism is ultimately utilitarian. Stories, articles, reports, and analyses are done for the greater good of the citizens (or students) in general, not the leaders alone, not the citizens alone, but for everyone.  

Journalists are not “Self-acclaimed.”  

“Fake news is cheap to produce. Genuine journalism is expensive.”  

–Toomas Hendrik  

While anyone can write and pass information, not just anyone can be a journalist. No thanks to  Social media, the reality of fake news and the corresponding damage it can wreck, is even more amplified. For journalists, stories and news are thoroughly researched, and they follow certain methodologies and ethics that guide the profession. Therefore amidst the fake news pandemic, it is natural (and important), that individuals recognize and rely on credible media outlets and journalists for their information. By implication, people do not carry the “journalist tag” without appropriate training, especially in media organizations with years of credibility. This training ensures that personnel operate within legal and ethical limits and protects the interest of the relevant communities while at it.  

Say No to Victimization! 

“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and  speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph, and the signs of horror are  still in the air.”  

–Henry Grunwald.  

Since News and topical issues on current events are the most important stories to break out, it is customary for Journalists to be undaunting in the face of challenges while executing their duties.  The same can be said for campus journalists at the University of Ibadan and every other University campus in Nigeria. After all, it is often believed that “if it is from Ibadan, it must be of outstanding  quality.” 

This quality of pursuit has been reflected in the way campus journalists at the University of Ibadan pursue stories. However, the dark side to this reality is the consequential victimization that follows after these stories have been broken. Journalists in the University of Ibadan – on different accounts – have reported verbal attacks, near physical attacks, ostracization from social gathering organizations, and strained relationships.  

These acts are counterintuitive for a society that is supposed to consolidate the democratic ideals of a country. For student leaders who try to silence journalists, it may offer short-term protection.  It is however counterproductive in the long run. For students, it is inconceivable – when thought about deeply – to seek to destroy structures created to work towards their own advancement. The implication of silencing journalism or assaulting journalists is the lack of accountability and unchecked power. Down this rabbit hole lies all sorts of unimaginable consequences. There is possible disregard for student welfare, managerial incompetencies, corruption and mismanagement, lack of access to information, and a corresponding stifling of a stimulating environment for growth and intellectual development.  

All of the above starts with victimizing journalists. As far as the University of Ibadan’s campus is concerned, the primary aim of journalism is to protect the interest of everyone. It is not an anti-administrative mechanism; it is not a propaganda machine, nor is it a school of magic. It would therefore be better – for the collective good of the student body – that the intentional targeting and victimization of student journalists are stopped and frowned upon.  

Stories and Political Agendas; Which is Which? 

Most journalists in their reportage do not take sides. For the most part of it, reports are objectively tethered to the greater good. However, for cheap points, it is common to see political officeholders and aspirants paint journalists as inexperienced, inadequate, or biased. This happens in the “real world” and consequently in the University environment (which is unfortunately a  microcosm of real Nigerian politics).  

It is also not uncommon to see individuals finding a way to spin the subject to ensure they remain in office and pull the support of the student behind them. A typical example of this is individuals denigrating an entire report as deliberate efforts by political opponents to sabotage their campaigns or their reputations. Come to think of it critically, if the issue being addressed affects every student, then citing personal attacks in response to the subject matter is not only logically inconsistent, it is malicious and an attempt to evade accountability. 

As students, it is easy enough to identify the difference. Objective political reportages feature voices and evidence and also address issues, rather than attack persons. Propaganda and political agendas operate on totally different levels. Instances abound in the media spaces between National political candidates. Therefore, delineating the hard work of journalists on campus to agendas and propaganda is disrespectful to the student populace, their intellect, and the work of the journalistic body. Whenever controversial stories pop up, it is important to ask, Are these addressing issues or people? Is there proof of the report? What does the person involved say? Is there a supposed impact? Students can use these metrics whenever they are caught between political tantrums and true reportage.  

And In Conclusion 

Behind every story are hours of coverage and reporting. Campus journalists usually take time to fact-check that every detail provided is as accurate and precise as possible. When a Journalist is seen to have erred or tended towards bias, such individuals are called out or (in worse case scenarios) disclaimed, to avoid putting either the Local Press Organizations (LPOs) they represent into disrepute. It is always a collective effort of confirmations, iterations, and oversight regulation. 

This is not for you to take sides with journalists but to understand the amount of work, and the extent of dedication required for execution. It is also necessary for you to comprehend issues and respond, contribute or recommend based on these comprehensions when stories are done. Given the cost to the press in ensuring democracy flourishes, elected officials should be the press freedom’s steadfast defenders rather than attempting to muzzle media voices. Campus journalists should receive better treatment while they carry out their legal obligations. 

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