That Port Harcourt Gathering Of Analogue Editors

By Austin Maho

The much anticipated 13th all Nigerian Editors’ Conference and Extraordinary Convention took place at the presidential hotel Port Harcourt, Rivers State between September 20th to -24th 2017, with the theme “Balancing Professionalism, Advocacy and Business”. At the end of the 5 days exercise a 10 point communique was issued which expectedly captured the resolutions of the elite group of Nigerian editors. However an appraisal of the 10 point communique clearly indicate that the editors are clearly oblivious of the problems besetting their industry and profession today. The communiques was dull and uninspiring! There was more talk of individual benefits rather than addressing the problems of the profession which an elite group like theirs is expected to pay attention to.

It was unfortunate to see the editors bemoaning the fate of the newspaper industry blaming it on recession and cost of newsprint and begging the federal government to revive the moribund Oku Ibokun paper mill. The question one would ask is the newspaper industry in crisis as a result of recession, non-availability of newsprint or cost of newsprint? Certainly neither of these. The Nigerian newspaper industry, like its global counter-part is in crisis as a result of the growing shift towards digital. This was ignored by the editors. The editors in this instance were recommending an analogue solution to a digital problem.

Even the key note address by Izubuike Ishekwene was focused on the challenges of running a media establishment for profitability. But he failed to address why the industry is losing patronage and profitability in the first place. What the industry needs is a reformation that incorporates the digital and the development of a market model that makes this profitable. It is rather simplistic to recommend that mass communication departments and journalism schools should incorporate the teaching of business into its curriculum. This is pedestrian! Journalism schools should pay attention to their core mandate. Instead of training future editors to become good businessmen after retirement I would recommend that they begin to research and rework their outdated curriculum to respond to the changing media world of Google and Facebook. Any editor interested in business should go to business school. Journalism school is call journalism school for a reason.

The world as we know it is changing at a dizzying speed. Advances in Information and telecommunication technology is a major culprit in the changes we are all forced to adapt to or perish. Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, in a keynote address delivered at the 2015 Hays Press-Enterprise lecture at the University of California, Riverside titled Journalism’s Big Move: What to Discard, Keep, and Acquire in Moving From Print to Web” highlighted the changes and disruption that are the hallmarks of the last 12 years:

• High-speed broadband became pervasive only in 2004, 2005, making possible the communications we take for granted today. It allowed photos to load fast and instant viewing of videos — and it allows mobile connection to the web.

• Google didn’t go public until 2004. Today, there are more than 3 billion searches a day on Google.

• Facebook was founded in 2004. Now it has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.

• YouTube was founded in 2005. More than 1 billion people now visit YouTube each month.

• Twitter was founded in 2006. A half-billion tweets are sent every day

.• Kindle was introduced in 2007. Three in10 Americans now read an e-book

• Apple introduced the iPhone in June, 2007. Today 2 billion people worldwide use smart phones.

• Instagram was founded in 2009.

• WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and last year was sold for $19 billion to Facebook.

• The iPad was introduced in January, 2010.
• Snapchat wasn’t launched until 2011. It’s now valued at $10 billion or more.

He concludes with an ominous truth: “If this pace of change unnerves you, there is no consolation. Things will only get faster. And for those who resist the change rather than embrace it, there will be no forbearance or forgiveness. Their destiny is to be pushed aside and forgotten”

If their communique is anything to go by, the Nigerian Guild of Editors is not in tune with the global disruptions occasioned by information, communication and media technologies.

Journalism has become a technology business and not business as usual. Editors should be at the forefront at driving this change that incorporates the digital and come up with ideas and initiatives that drives this change profitably in the interest of media investors and professionals.