Without sounding immodest, there is no denying the fact that an opinion article which I wrote and published on this platform today, August 16, 2023, has unarguably embarrassed some of my professional colleagues in the newsroom, even as I received few calls from two professional colleagues working at other media platforms. The article titled, “Urging Mr. President to rise above nepotism and cronyism” was considered by virtually all of them to be out of tune. The reason for the somewhat unanimous reactions cannot be farfetched as I did not praise their demi-God.
Disappointedly to this writer, it is sad to observe that not a few practicing Journalists are cognizant of Henry Anatole Grunwald’s quote that says, “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”.
Given the reactions from critics of the above referred article, it is expedient to remind them that in practicing journalism that there are two trajectories to follow. One is development journalism while the other is critical journalism. Good enough, it is governance that influence any Journalist that knows his onions to decide which trajectory to follow. Thus, if the government is people-oriented, the Journalist will resort to development journalism. On the contrary, if the government is anti-people and bad, the Journalist will resort to critical journalism. In other words, it is apt to say that a government gets the kind of journalism it deserves.
At this juncture, permit me to confess that against the literary whirlwind of criticisms that trailed the publication that it is pragmatic in this context to throw insight into what it means to be a development Journalist and on the other hand a critical journalist.
Against the foregoing backdrop, permit this writer to explain that a development journalist is the one that focuses on global issues, such as sustainable development, humanitarian needs, and social justice. He strives to analyze the causes and effects of these issues, challenge the stereotypes and dominant narratives, and give voice to the marginalized and powerless. As a development journalist, he also tries to document the conditions within a country so that the larger world can understand them. Unfortunately, my professional colleagues that were critical about my write-up, a development Journalist is the one that praises the government even when it is not doing well.
Concerning critical journalists, they aim to push for accountability in order to engender a society in which the powerful are accountable to the public, where relevant information is shared and explained, where there is space for democratic initiative and where citizens can exchange opinions fairly. These Journalist, to which this writer belongs, is promoted through an independent and diverse media landscape, with quality journalism adhering to ethical standards.
In fact, a typical critical Journalist in performing his function which I can in this context call “Civic duty” always have it at the back of their minds that authorities make decisions or implement laws that impact society. A critical journalist understands that leaders must be held to account for their actions. Without doubt, critical journalism plays a crucial watchdog role that promotes accountability as a counterbalancing power. Without resort being panegyric in this context, it is high time journalists eschew being partisan.
On the other hand, a critical journalist must at all time in the course of his duty hold political leaders accountable. Meaning, that they have to serve the public. In fact, critical journalists have remained committed to the interests of the population. For this they have been propagating inclusivity, and they know their public. Critical Journalists have the responsibility to do the most they can to reach and represent their audience in all its diversity, and provide them with accessible, relevant and fathomable information.
At this juncture, permit me to reiterate in this context that critical journalism has played an important role in other society. The reason for its societal importance cannot be farfetched as one of its functions is to gather data and information, and present it in a way such that laymen or ordinary people reading the newspaper or watching the television can easily understand.
To throw more light into the foregoing narratives, it is expedient to say that development journalism is made up of two words – development and journalism. Development, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “The act or process of growing or causing something to grow or become larger or more advanced.” Meanwhile, journalism as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary is “The activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio.” Therefore, we can define development journalism as the writing news stories about something that is growing, or advancing for different.
In fact, the former Emir of Kano, Khalifa Muhammadu Sanusi II has recently said that Nigerians take too much rubbish from their leaders. To this writer, some journalists who have resorted to praise-singing are blameworthy of the allegation.
The former Emir noted that Nigerians are not subordinate human beings just because they are not into politics, urging them to break themselves free from the shackles of their political leaders that are out to wreck the country.
Sanusi warned that Nigerians would soon have nowhere to call their nation if they fail to fight against abnormalities in Nigeria.
“We cannot be intimidated by somebody because you are a president or you are a governor and we cannot tell you that you are wrong.
“We have chosen different parts. If I had gone into politics, at least given the people that have access to be president in Nigeria, I could have become president or I could be governor.
“That I choose not to go into politics does not mean I’m a subordinate human being. This is what we all have to learn as Nigerians. We take too much rubbish, and we are all too afraid in our comfort zones.
“By the time these guys might have finished with us, our children will not have anywhere to call a nation. The only way to retrieve our nation and give our children the future they deserve is, if you are not in politics, you must hold those in politics to account.
“It is not a comfortable situation to be in. When people are incompetent and they don’t like you, you wear their dislike as a badge of honour. You can’t be comfortable and feel normal in a distortional environment.
“We must get outside our comfort zones and that is the only way we can retrieve our country. The young people should not fear. This is your country and your future. Take hold of it. Work for it. Build it. Don’t let anyone tell you to run away with your degree to England, America. This is your state. You are coming back here,” the former Emir said.
In fact, at this juncture, permit this writer to opine that rather than literarily hailing non-performing political leaders, and closing their eyes against the ineptitude and cluelessness been displayed by some political leaders by virtue of being affiliated to the same tribe, religion or party, Journalists should always strive to hold political leaders accountable.
The foregoing advice cannot be farfetched as one of the cardinal roles of the media is to also hold political leaders accountable through making sure that those elected into political offices understand and practice Good Governance.