With the profession of journalism getting more advanced and innovative on daily basis, women have begun to find their place in the profession to contribute their effort to the development of the profession.
Female journalists and broadcasters in a bid to redefine the basic concept of ethics and professionalism that affect practicing female journalists and broadcasters gathered at the third edition of Women in Journalism Conference, Muson Centre, Lagos, a platform where women journalists can network, campaign, and train all across media outfits.
The conference was tagged “Stand Up for Ethics and Excellence”, had in attendance Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa, former news anchor at Nigerian Television Authority; Stephanie Busari of CNN; Agatha Amata; Betty Irabor and a host of other award winning female journalists in attendance.
In her goodwill message, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa charged the female journalists by acknowledging their choice of profession. “You have chosen the best profession in the world” the Nigerian news anchor turned politician said.
In order to stand out as a female in journalism or in any profession at all, Hon. Dabiri-Erewa said there is need for women to be outstanding in all they do. “Women journalists should try to do things differently.”
Another speaker and veteran journalist at the event Bimbo Oloyede, passionately transferred the wisdom accrued over years of experience on the job as a journalist to the female journalists in attendance.
Touching on the theme of the event, Oloyede said that “as journalists you know the right things, but are you doing it?”
She went on to say further that “Excellence is a continuous process, not an accident.” and urged them to go after excellence in doing their job.
As a journalist living in Nigeria, Oloyede said that responsibility and sensitivity are key qualities every journalist should have.
She reiterated Hon Dabiri-Erewa’s speech about the need to stand out by advising journalists to be principled.
“Someone who is principled and of good behavior will stand out when they keep learning and knowledgeable.” She said.
The inspirational speeches were followed by a panel discussion that consists Stephanie Busari of CNN; Sharon Ogunleye, TV producer at Thomson Routers; Femke Van Zeijl, journalist; and the moderator, Tolu Adeleru Balogun with discussion on “Challenges of journalism in Nigeria.”
In her contribution, Stephanie Busari mentioned that corruption is one of the challenges disrupting journalism profession in Nigeria. “Corruption is a worldwide plague that thrives in Nigeria due to the lack of a system that checks corruption.”
She urged female journalists to endeavor to get to the root of issues. “Ask yourself, what kind of journalist do I want to be? Do I want to be the one who sits on desk or do I go out and make things happen and be a change agent?”, she asked.
Femke mentioned lack of data and statistics as a challenge of practicing journalism in Nigeria.
“Being a journalist in Nigeria is like walking around with an eye patch. You don’t know where to go, who to meet. If you get there they won’t talk to you neither will they give you the information you need. There are no statistics, no accurate data.” In spite of all stated, she encouraged Nigerian journalists to get off their desks and go in search of stories.
Talking on the challenges peculiar to female journalists, Femke said “being underestimated by the person you are interviewing simply because you are female.” It is the reality most female journalists have to deal with. To deal with this challenge, she advised women to “change your downside into an upside.”
Stephanie Busari said that she was not unaware of these challenges, however she believes firmly that “We are as good as any as male journalist and we as women should start owning our profession and be proud of what we do, believing that we are capable.” She said women can look for ethical ways to turn those challenges into advantages.
According to Sharon Ogunleye, “female journalists should be well balanced in their work – filming, editing stories”.
She also went on to warn that, “Once you’ve decided to become a journalist you should accept the fact that investigating a story could get you killed, kidnapped or threatened.”
Femke Van Zeijl’s parting word was, “If you decide to be a journalist you shouldn’t have the wish to be popular, to be rich and to be 200% safe. Even going to talk to Okada men is putting yourself out there and at risk. It’s the profession we chose.”
Tolu Adeleru Balogun brought the panel session to an end by basing her advice on a question asked by one of the guests. According to her, “You can’t cover three beats without one suffering. Focus on one beat, but keep being informed on the others as a hobby to remain aware.”
A second panel discussion was made up by Motunrayo Alaka, Centre Coordinator, Wole Soyinka Centre for investigative journalism; Adetokunbo Akinosho-Thomas, veteran journalist of repute; Ifeyinwa Omowole, Editor with News Agency of Nigeria and President Nigerian Association of Women Journalists, and the moderator Kris Ero, broadcaster TVC and Radio continental.
This panel put in perspective what is considered ethical in journalism and what isn’t.
Adetokunbo Akinosho-Thomas acknowledged that most media organizations political affiliations do not encourage the truth, yet she encouraged journalists to say the truth as much as they could.
Alaka decried the lazy attitude of females journalists and their assumption that their anatomy will get them ahead.
She gave an example with the Centre’s initiative to promote women in journalism and how the applications from female journalists were disappointing while their male counterparts had promising stories.
She said that despite wanting to promote female journalists, the need is not just to “fill up spaces with incapable women” but to get women who were deserving of the position.
She encouraged women to stop limiting themselves and learn everything they can.
Omowole on the issue said that if you write and your content is true, you are a journalist, trained or untrained. What keeps you in journalism is that you receive training at some point.”
The moderator, Kris Ero read aloud the first rule of the International Declaration on the Conduct of Journalists, “Respect for the truth and the right of the public to the truth is the first duty of the journalist.”
With this rule in mind, she asked those in the panel if using invisible microphones and taking pictures without consent is ethical.
Alaka answered that “Undercover journalism should be the last resort, not the norm. The question to ask in journalism is the question of the public good, except if it will serve the public good, only then can resort to undercover journalism. Otherwise, we do not subscribe to it”, she said.
To buttress the point on public good, Omowole asked Nigerian journalists to stop running down their country through what they write, stating that no international journalist of repute paints their nation in a bad light. “Before you write anything ask yourself if you are inviting or informing through your words.”
Alaka said “News is a product, credibility is its unique selling point” and asked journalists to strive to be credible always.
The conference ended with the presentation of awards to honorees that include Dame Comfort Obi; Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; Dr Doyin Abiola; Bimbo Oloyede; Adesuwa Onyenwoke; Betty Irabor;
Others include Funke Egbemode; Kehinde Young Harry; Peju Akande; Mrs Ijeoma Nwogwugwu; Ifeyinwa Omowole; Agatha Amata; Adetokunbo Akinosho-Thomas and Ibim Semenitari, all veteran journalists.