FROM WEAPONISED POVERTY TO MONETIZED MEDIA PRACTICE
By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
Curiously, media practice in Nigeria has seen power lately gone the wrong way but assumed it’s the right thing- watched the nation’s political gladiators redefine democracy in the image of their actions but viewed it as normal.
It is a global axiom that every society needs some shared values to hold it together. When such values disappear, society becomes a mere simple equation without meaning.
Likewise, the Nigerian political space at independence despite not being a natural country but an amalgam of multicultural, multi-religious and multilingual groups, thrived peacefully on some values nourished by a healthy public leadership and supported by a vibrant media sector built on professionalism.
Historically, media professionals in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, watched the society. They watched over crimes, injustices, malpractices, and every other act that was deemed unfair and unlawful. They were competent to carry out their duties as the fourth estate of the realm. And were not the kinds of dogs with ropes tied roundabout their necks, and so having no freedom of speech and expression. The fact that they were watchdogs means they know what to do, where they are going, and how to discharge their duties as at when due. That is, their decision and direction should not be dictated by any force or power whatsoever
At that time and place, editorial comments from the newspaper houses were not only feared but respected and revered. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up, but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicine of air and light, media professionals brought up hidden tensions that were alive in the society to where they can be seen and treated. They exposed injustice with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion. that was back in the days.
Today, it is a direct opposite.
The once public interest co-existence between the public leadership space and media professionals have transcended to a form characterized by survival.
Presently, politics and public office is best known for promoting ‘winner takes all mentality and ideologies for sustaining endless search for fields to increase personal wealth and wellbeing. This is further exacerbated by policies that engineer economic failures and upgrade poverty to formidable weapons that drive more people into the ranks of the beggars, whose desperate struggle for bread renders them insensitive to all feelings of decency and self-respect.
In the same vein, media professionals, like their fellow Nigerians, in their quest for survival have opted out of its primary mandate of objective reportage to become a willing tool in the hands of these political gladiators.
This partially explains the reign of praise signing in today’s media practice in Nigeria, overtly eroded opportunities for sound policy formulation, and painfully left Nigerians as both victims and witnesses to tears with our democracy down-graded and troubled.
Globally, the role of the media in every evolving democratic society like ours is to among other functions inculcate and reinforce positive political, cultural and social attitudes among the citizenries. Create a mood in which people become keen to acquire skills and disciplines of developed nations. And when the media fails to perform these roles, the nation can never hope to raise the standards of living of the people or achieve the political development of the state.
For the reason of economic survival and ‘stomach infrastructure’, media professionals have recently become more cautious than courageous in performing their agenda setting roles- watch the making of political cum economic decisions that breeds poverty and perpetrates powerlessness, yet took the easy way out without addressing the underlying factors.
In pursuit of existence, majority of the professionals have lost the philosophy to challenge the nation’s economic logic and capacity to pursue the theory of government in order to effectively inform the general public
And very oddly, the professionals no longer see themselves as problem solvers or watchdogs of the society but now occupy a high ground they do not understand while leaving the masses that initially depended on them confused.
For instance, the failure of the media to study the various propositions presented by the leaders in the past, and their failure to inform the masses accordingly has resulted in situations where politicians persuaded Nigerians to endorse and applaud policies that were harmful to their interest.
This and other sordid performances emanating from the industry explains why the nation is currently groping and stumbling, politically divided and confused. Indeed, the media is part of the problem.
In the face of these failures, one point the operators often forget as the watchdog of the society is that the ‘function of the media is very high. It is almost holy. It ought to serve as a forum for the people, for it is through the media that the people may know freely what is going on. And to misstate or suppress the news is a breach of trust’.
To further underscore the importance of the media players in shaping the society, it is widely believed that the viability of democracy depends upon openness, reliability, appropriateness, responsiveness, and a two-way nature of the communication environment. That democracy depends upon the regular sending and the receiving of objective signals.
But with the practice ‘adulterated’, the vast majority of Nigerians are left with no other option than to depend on the social media which currently dictates the pace. This fact amply provides answers as to why the signal from the conventional media in the country is growing cynicism among the masses and accelerating the decline of democracy on our shores becomes glaring.
Regardless of what others may say, key observations have revealed that while some of the media professionals are busy adjusting the “goal post” to accommodate their vested interest, Nigerians with discerning minds like their counterparts the world over still maintain the rock-solid conviction that ‘a free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a society. That without criticism, reliable, and intelligent reporting, the government cannot govern because without a viable media practice, there is no adequate way in which it can keep itself informed about what the people of the country are thinking or doing.
As this ugly situation in the nation’s media space rages, one point media professionals must not fail to remember is that ‘every decision a journalist makes when gathering, organizing and presenting the news requires a value judgment. Different decisions bring different results. All decisions have consequences that are direct and indirect, intended and unintended, short term and long term. And journalist’s decisions affect others; those decisions may influence thousands of people’s opinions on a political issue’.
In the course of performing this responsibility, they command large followership.