WEBINADEMIC: How nonprofits stepped up training for campus journalists despite COVID-19 lockdown

Soon after the Federal Government announced the closure of primary, secondary and tertiary schools in Nigeria. Several non-profits rose up to provide continuous training for students including students/campus writers and journalists. In this report, IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI documents the experiences of these students.

24-year-old Oluwafunmilayo Adefila’s hopes to complete her journalism course work in April were dashed when the Federal Government announced the shutting down of schools across the country on March 28.

The Nigerian government announced lockdown and restriction of movements and other various measures as part of efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus. The global response to this disease affects about 90 percent of the student populace worldwide.

Adefila’s hopes were renewed when non-profit organisations in the country started organising trainings on journalism-related courses online.

Adefila, an ND II student of the Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa, Ogun State said: “It’s a great privilege for me to participate in the webinars during this pandemic that crippled almost every aspect of life. I’m proud to tell you that I have transformed my news writing from the ones I write before now. I have been able to make use of the determinants of news, fact checking in investigative journalism.

“It has been a very great and interesting training and I hope to learn more from such webinars. Sometimes I had the challenge of power supply. I often have to check in at places where there is supply,” she added.

With no end to the homestay of these students in the offing, the non-profits leveraged the advantages of various social media platforms including WhatsApp, Twitter, Telegram, Facebook and Zoom among others to train the students on various issues and topics including journalism, fact checking and developmental journalism among others.

These not-for-profit organisations took time to train these campus journalists in order to improve the knowledge base of students including the likes of Adefila who were at home as a result of the lockdown of some states and restriction of movements across the country.

WEBINADEMIC

The numerous e-trainings and webinars were regarded as a webinademic among the campus and journalism communities. The term webinademic, which denotes webinars during the COVID-19 pandemic was first used publicly by investigative journalist and executive director of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan. “COVID 19 – related diseases. First, it was #Infodemic. Now it is #webinademic,” Aiyetan, remarked in a tweet on Saturday, May 30.

Training is important to equip the students’ knowledge base with resources, ideas and thoughts that resonate with what is obtainable on the field. Particularly in the present day where various digital tools are deployed to carry out journalism. A lot of half-baked graduates are churned out of these campuses.

Training is also important because a lot of schools where students are taught journalism and mass communication do not have most of the equipment needed for the right upbringing of these students. Most of their curriculum are obsolete and not in tune with the requirement of the

It is for this reason, among others that these non-profits and press organisations decided to create online learning platforms during the lockdown to continue to engage the student journalists.

One of the non-profits, the National Union of Campus Journalists (NUCJ) held a series of training for members of the association. The trainings including TweetChatd and WhatsApp chats featured Chido Onumah, coordinator of African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher of Premium Times; Jude Ilo, Head of Nigeria Office, Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), Azeezat Adedigba, a reporter with Premium Times and Shola Lawal, a freelance journalist.

The journalists who participated in the trainings were trained on how to advocate for justice, equality and human rights as campus journalists, digital literacy and developing news story ideas.

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Onumah lamented that Nigeria’s progress in terms of digital literacy is lagging behind among the comity of nations, adding that: “I think the country still has a long way to go in the formal sense. While it is true that we have millions of our compatriots who are ‘tuned in’ to the digital world, the country lacks the infrastructure. Digital literacy is one component of being a digital citizen.

“I’m talking about access to computers & other digital devices. I am talking about internet connectivity. I am talking about funding for school and after-school media & digital literacy programs. I’m talking about making media & dig literacy a part of the curriculum,” he said.

Olorunyomi who is also the Chief Judge for the Zimeo Award of the African Media Initiative (AMI) said: “If campuses remain closed for long and students are in wide dispersal, we can repurpose our operations in two key ways: one is to reflectively report on the challenges of education financing in Nigeria today.

“The second is how we use our capabilities in accountability reporting to beam light on community administration and management in all our neighbourhoods. Naturally, the new platforms of dissemination will unquestionably be socials.

“Collaborative reporting could come in handy. The important thing is to have broad headers of what the major challenge facing the sector today is. I may be wrong but access to quality education tops the chart in my view.”

One of Nigeria’s unique social enterprise hub, I-79 Media Consults, on its part trained not less than 500 campus journalists from 32 campus press outfits in 16 states across Nigeria’s six geographical zones including the Federal Capital Territory and the Benin Republic. The training with the theme: “The Dynamics of Journalism in the 21st Century” forms part of the organisation’s webinar series for campus journalists and was held between Friday, April 17 and Sunday, April 19, and Friday, May 8 and Sunday, May 10, 2020.

The webinar focused on developing careers in writing, news writing principles, fact-checking and disinformation, ethical considerations for online/digital journalists, developmental journalism in the face of Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges and challenges of investigative journalism in present-day Nigeria.

Jonathan Olajide, one of the facilitators and a lecturer at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, remarked during the training that news writing principles are, “principles are learnt in the four corners of news writing class, improved upon by reporters based on field experience after graduation.

“In writing news, reporters must be guided by the most significant principles including Fairness, Objectivity and Balance. These are fundamental principles. Regardless of the dynamics of this current century and those of the past, these three principles are sacrosanct,” Olajide said.

Concerned by the growing misinformation around the globe, Ibrahim Alawode, a fact-checker with Dubawa, Nigeria’s first verification platform, during the training, said: “In the world today, everyone is a content producer, unlike the age before the internet and social media where we have more content consumers than producers. People manufacture contents from the comfort of their rooms and throw them into space. The reason why social media is called the Misinformation industry.”

Other facilitators are Seyi Gesinde, digital media editor/content marketing expert; Razaq Ayinla, South West Editor of Business Day and Kabir Adejumo, freelance investigative journalist & director of Campus Press Hub.

The organiser of annual Campus Journalism Awards & Dialogue, Youths Digest, also trained campus journalists on factual reporting, developmental journalism, investigating reporting and safety precautions to be observed while reporting the coronavirus pandemic. The training was organised in collaboration with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre  (CISLAC).

The training featured a series of online seminars facilitated by prominent journalists, student union leaders and media experts including Jonathan Rozen, Senior Africa Program Researcher with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ); Nasir Adhama, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Student Affairs; Azeezat Adedigba, winner of the 2019 Female Reporters Leadership Programme; Akintunde Babatunde, programme manager, Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ); Lekan Otufodunrin, Executive Director, Media Career Development Network Services and Ajibola Amzat, the Editor at the International Centre for Investigative Reporting. (ICIR).

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One of the facilitators and former Managing Editor of The Nation Newspaper urged campus journalists to develop interest and skills in developmental and investigative reporting to a better and transparent society.

“Prominence should not be the goal of any journalist but being excellent in your work. You may also need to report major issues in unique and excellent ways to be noticed either by your organisation or the world generally. Do it as a duty,” Otufodunrin charged.

‪On the other hand, Amzat pointed out that: “Campus journalists can undertake reporting assignments at this period using several open-source tools available. Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other tech companies have created tools that can be used to report from home. Learn about these open sources, and use them.”

‪Amzat also advised that journalists must also be conscious of their health while covering assignments, adding that “the infection does not distinguish journalists from non-journalists. It attacks all equally. Therefore, journalists covering COVID-19 need to protect themselves.”

Nixx Hash Communications, a fast-growing media and PR agency in Nigeria, also organised online training for young journalists. The training was organised as part of efforts to celebrate the 56 birthday of Lekan Otufodurin, Executive Director Media Career Development Network who equally was the facilitator of the training. The participants were trained on understanding and perfecting basic media entrepreneurship trends and skills on Friday, May 8, 2020.

Vantage Network Africa, a platform for human capital development also trained young persons on improving emotional intelligence and honing networking skills on Monday, April 12 and Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Facilitators of the webinar are Agboola Afees Akinola, Program Assistant Education, YouthHubAfrica and Akintunde Babatunde, Ambassador, Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL).

The participants were trained to learn better and apply innovative ideas, acquire new competencies, develop skills, behaviours and attitudes that meet the needs of the 21st century workplace.

Students associations also came to the rescue

Students-run associations and organisations also held training sessions for their members. Leading the pack was Roundnews Media organised a 7-day webinar that focused on effective news writing, investigative journalism, audio production, business development, journalists and citizens’ right and the law and effective CV writing. The webinar was organised to engage the mind of youths who aspire to be at the forefront of their field.

The Union of Campus JournalistsUniversity of Ilorin  (UCJ UNILORIN) also organised a holiday webinar series for her members. Niyi Oyedeji, an alumnus of the institution and reporter with the ICIR spoke to them on “The ABC of newsgathering and reporting.”

Pen Press UDUS, an affiliate press board of the National Association of Campus Journalists (NACJ), Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto organised a week-long webinar in April for her members and other campus journalists with the theme: Making the best of the shutdown: Journalism, writing and prospects while the quartet of Ibrahim Adeyemi, Abiodun Alao, Kabir Adejumo and Adekunle Adebajo trained campus journalists at the University of Ibadan on investigative journalism, news reporting, fact check and how to win essay competitions between April 11 and 19, 2020.

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While the Association of Campus Journalists (ACJ) of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife also trained her members on Saturday, May 9, 2020. Akintunde Babatunde, Program Manager, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) on the topic “COVID-19 pandemic: Contributions as a campus journalist,” members of Press Club MAPOLY, the press association of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta were trained on getting accurate reports through interview on COVID-19 by a former president of the union, Nurudeen Salako on Thursday, May 7, 2020.

Tales from other students

Many of the students who spoke to Tribune Online lauded the efforts of these organisations for keeping the flame of learning alive while they enumerated some of the challenges they encountered during those training sessions.

News reporter, content creator and author, Kudirat Oluboyo, told Tribune Online that: “I am a graduate who didn’t study any media-related course in school but in a way, I became interested in news writing, reporting, and fact-checking. So, I struggled with making heads way in it until I was privileged to come across I-79 Media Consults and be a member of their webinar.

“The first series was an introduction as it treated topics as career in writing, news writing principles, and the act of fact-checking. The above topics were exactly what I needed at that time to cement me with writing for the media and ways of doing so.

“May I specifically say that I loved the teaching where the tutor gave diagrams and picture explanations of his topic. Another tutor also gave news article samples while the other gave a representation of the degrees and damages of promoting unchecked news as a newswriter/journalist.

“I am currently with The Precision Ng; an online media house. I am making use of fairness, objectivity, and balance just as I was taught in the webinar series and I am doing very well.”

For 300-level mass communication students of the Lagos State University (LASU), Quadri Sultan, the training have boosted his network of professionals and academic repertoire. He said: “My knowledge in investigative reporting, reporting in this digital age, fact-checking has been broadened through these online trainings. I have been able to connect with the facilitators and participants to create a fruitful relationship. I have been able to learn first-hand from the experiences of these well-achieved facilitators as well as their guiding tips.”

Another 300-level mass communication student at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Temidire Bada said: “The several webinars have helped and engaged people in different areas of interest.  With a lot of free webinar sessions where people obtained knowledge at a low cost – time and data charges.

“However, many webinars termed ‘free were not free indeed’, so many of them. The organisers just gathered people to lure them to either pay for the main course alongside a prescribed set of terms and conditions. I have been in some, and I was quite disappointed at the outcome.

“My organisation owned a platform that houses more than 4,000 students. Every day, I get messages on either this webinar or that. It’s now like a virus that has entered everywhere. The thought is overwhelming. Nevertheless, I have benefited from a good number of these classes, some of them have contents that are well explained and satisfactory.

“I have also built connections from some of them; even though I have to go over the messages intentional and deliberately, which is why I fear if people signing up for either free or paid webinars are really paying attention.”

Temidayo Kpossou said: “Well, the truth is; I’ve been far from the journalism terrain though I trained and practised at some point. Joining the webinars gave me new knowledge about the current practices and how to align with the evolvement.

“I enjoyed every lecture, particularly the one based on the challenges of investigative journalism. The other training also helped a lot because my writing isn’t as smooth as before. Overall, the training have been one of my biggest gains during the COVID-19 lockdown and I appreciate everyone whose efforts helped to put it together.”

  • This report, under theInformation Saves Lives project, was done with support from Internews. Have you come across any suspicious COVID-19 claim or working COVID-19-focused solution, submit for verification using this submission form.
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