Calls for development journalism heighten
The call for development journalism is to advocate that journalists report and analyse issues affecting the ordinary people or those at the periphery like poverty, illnesses and their needs. In apparent recognition of the need for journalists to align with this orientation, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Oyo state chapter, in partnership with former gubernatorial candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr Seyi Makinde, recently organised training on how journalists could promote good governance by being development journalists.
The training with the theme, “Good Governance Reporting: The Development Journalism Perspective”, was a platform where journalists examined their practice, mentioned challenges they grapple with in being development journalists and questioned the extent to which their reportage has promoted or debarred good governance. Chief Executive Officer, New Edens Communications, Mr Tunde Adeleke, who spoke on a sub-theme, “Good Practice Guide to Development Journalism” decried journalists’ emphasis on politics and business reporting rather than promoting issues that foster national development and benefit the greater number of masses. Consequently, he called for a radical change to development journalism where media critically report on issues affecting the rural population, children living in slums, the less privileged and the actualisation of the Sustainable Development Goals. For Adeleke, today’s journalists should, in their reportage, open the eyes of the reader to possible solutions to societal problems, influence development process and to attend to the fulfillment of primary needs.
In his own paper, Acting Director General, DAWN Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye identified attributes of good governance that journalists should demand from those in positions in authority. Oyeleye described good governance as being about taking the best possible decision that improves the lives of the citizens and not necessarily taking the best decisions. He listed those indicators of good governance as Accountability, Transparency, Responsiveness, Adherence to Rule of Law, Inclusiveness, Efficiency of the Public Sector, Social development. He went rhetorical in asking whether the extent to which those indicators of good governance were obvious in Nigerian politics. To this end, Oyeleye urged mass media to mandate those in positions of authority to abide by due process and work to improve the lives of the citizens. Especially, Oyeleye called for a review of the Nigerian constitution which he noted challenged good governance.
Another resource person, Mr Segun Balogun bemoaned that many journalists were unable to analyse government policies, hence their reportage on some issues was ephemeral. Though he pointed to the lack of transparency of government, Balogun said today’s journalists were expected to dig deep and be analytical of the issues, especially as they affect the majority. Typically, he noted that journalists should question whether the budget of any state or nation had a clear policy direction on how it would improve the standard of living of the people. Beneath the figures and percentages in budgets, he charged journalists to examine the tax:GDP ratio, debt:GDP, per capita GDP, Recurrent:Capital expenditure, Debt:Deficit ratios, which are basic indicators of the functionality of budgets. Such queries, he noted, would correct the anomalies in the polity whereby, despite budgets, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to get wider. He wondered how states and countries borrowed for recurrent expenditure, like the payment of salaries, rather than expend such loans on capital projects.
In his comments, former gubernatorial candidate of SDP in Oyo state, Mr Seyi Makinde said that journalists, not only politicians, were to blame for the woes in the Nigerian society. Specifically, he noted that good journalism will better the society while bad journalism will wreck the society. He therefore charged the media to imbibe good culture and practices to as to mandate public office holders to take cognizance of the need to deliver good governance.
Journalists, whether print, broadcast or online, did note that media organisations shoved aside developmental issues owing to ownership preference, commercialisation as well as poor funding of development reporting projects. They noted that those interested in development reporting had to rely on foreign donors for such trainings or tasks. In his own comments, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Oyo State Council, Mr Adewumi Faniran did not mince words is stating that the NUJ would be more involved in ensuring the emerging of only politicians who are truly concerned about the welfare of the majority of the people. He made special reference to the 2019 elections where he said NUJ councils at states and national levels would openly declare their support for their choice candidates in the 2019 general election.
The stance of NUJ, according to Faniran, was because journalists were typically pawns in the hands of politicians for election purposes. As corroborated by NUJ Vice President, B Zone, Mr Cosmas Oni, the union would sift political jobbers from those really concerned about the interest of the people. In apparent shift from the past, he warned unserious politicians to steer clear and be set to face a media keen on advancing the interest of the people. Furthermore, Faniran charged journalists to desist from damaging, sentimental or sycophantic reporting but engage in developmental journalism. He noted that developmental journalism would enhance the pace of the nation’s development.