Rooting for journalists’ training the MIP way


Olabisi Deji-Folutile

The media has been under intense searchlight since the last general elections. In particular, there has been a lot of conversation around the performance of journalists pre and post elections. The latest being the reaction of Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, to the one and half hour interview he granted Channels Television.

Prof. Wole Soyinka accused the media of engaging in selective editing and dissemination. He also accused them of taking part of his interview out of context and some parts, sliced into new ones.

Soyinka, in a statement titled “Media Responsibility,” on Tuesday, spoke about the critical responsibility of the media in transmitting the spoken, even recorded word to the public, saying this was especially crucial in a time of civic uncertainty. According to him, when remarks are taken out of context, distortions become stamped on public receptivity, and the central intent of one’s remarks becomes completely unrecognisable. I agree.


Situations like these bring to fore afresh the need for training and retraining of the custodians of what some prefer to describe as either the fourth estate or the fourth branch of government. While the fourth estate connotes independence from government, the fourth branch refers to media’s control by the government. But generally speaking, people love to describe the media as the fourth estate of the realm. I guess the conclusion on where the Nigerian media stands today will depend on which medium is being scrutinized and who is doing the scrutiny.


Suffice to say that media houses have been randomly accused of taking sides with political parties with journalists openly rooting for candidates on social media platforms in the last general election. I recall reading a comment on the wall of one of such journalists. The commenter had asked the journalist how he could provide fair reportage for all the presidential candidates since he was openly canvassing for one of them. His response was that when he gets to the newsroom, he would be objective but outside, he has a right to publicly express himself. How I wish it is that simple especially in a country where journalists are not only poorly remunerated but hardly get the little pittance that is officially theirs in terms of salaries, thus making many depend on handouts from questionable sources.

How many Nigerian journalists for example can confront their leaders as Fox News’ Host Neil Cavuto did to ex -President Trump? Cavuto told Trump to his face that journalists don’t work to please either him or anybody in power. His words: “Well first of all Mr President, we don’t work for you, I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you – to call balls and strikes on you, my job, Mr President – our job here is to keep the score, it’s not to settle scores. Now in my case to report the economic numbers when they are good and when they are bad, when the markets are soaring and when they are tumbling, when trade talks look like they are coming together and when they look like they are falling apart. It is called being fair and balanced, Mr President. Yet, it is fair to say you are not a fan when that balance includes stuff you don’t like to hear or fact you don’t like to have questioned.” Some could argue that Cavuto’s statement was probably a product of his personal disposition towards Trump. It is possible. Nevertheless, it is daring.

The ideal thing in journalism practice is for journalists to be objective and present the facts as they are whether or not they like or agree with those facts. This notwithstanding, there are scholars that think total objectivity is a mirage even among journalists with the best of intent, so they settle for subjective objectivity. The reason is very simple. Human beings are naturally ruled by their biases. Fortunately, news reports have definite ingredients. They must be fact-based, accurate, balanced, measurable and observable, which means a journalist should ordinarily not be found fabricating stories or news reports. But is this always the case?

As an observer, I have seen journalists turn the engine of political mischief- some do this unknowingly because some of the so-called misinformation and fake news originate from trusted official sources. While the situation on social media is understandably pathetic due to lack of control, gatekeepers in some mainstream media have been compromised so they are no longer keeping the gate well. So, Neil Cavuto’s notion of journalists keeping the score and not settling the scores is still a tall order for many Nigerian journalists. These days, many journo -political analysts are just settling scores as they like. Objectivity has taken a moral flight.

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In fairness to some of these journalists, things are beyond their control. They work for media owners running for political positions. And it has been long established that media contents are more often than not determined by those in control of economic and political power in any society.
According to the United Nations, Journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. It is also one of the toughest. Some say it is hungry work. Apart from the job hazards, its demands are tough. No wonder journalism students these days don’t want to practice. The other time, I was invited to mentor some undergrads in journalism school, none of them was interested in journalism as a career.

This is likely to grow worse unless deliberate attempts are made to place appropriate value on journalism and journalists. One of the ways of doing this is by encouraging and putting emphasis on training and retraining. A laudable example in this regard is MTN’s Media Innovation Programme (MIP) specifically packaged for journalists across the entire spectrum of print, electronic and social media. The MIP, launched in 2022, is designed to help journalists build capacity at both professional and business levels. It is a six-month certificate course run by the School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University. Fellows also go to the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa for a study-trip as part of the programme.

The course, I learnt, is aimed at giving participants a greater understanding of Nigeria’s technology sector and the nexus between media and technology. It is expected to help them to adapt to changing realities. With access to shared resources such as technology and expertise, participants would be able to experiment with new formats, technologies, and storytelling techniques thus pushing the boundaries of what is possible in journalism. Fellows will also have access to professional resources and mentorship from the SMC faculty.

The telecoms firm recognised a skill gap between young Nigerian journalists and their global counterparts on the professional and ethical use of advanced digital tools and resources and it moved to close the gaps. Twenty journalists benefitted from the scheme last year. And this year, it is training another 20 journalists. The focus is on the need for journalists to understand the technical know-how of cutting-edge digital tools and systems that can engender skilled reportage and professional career advancement.

Participants are expected to gain a full understanding of the 5G technology and its importance in the areas of content creation, distribution, and consumption. The 5G technology has been projected to deliver $13.2 trillion in global economic value by 2035 while generating over 22 million jobs in the 5G global value chain alone. If properly harnessed, 5G technology is expected to transform the way journalists work and deliver news to their audiences. According to MTN, it is critical to encourage the adoption of new technology to push journalistic excellence in Africa as it strives to further improve network infrastructure required for media practitioners and organisations to expand their reach.

What particularly impresses me about the MIP is its capacity to expose journalists to real life-case studies that can birth innovative ideas. Aside helping with the quality of reportage, I see it as an empowerment scheme that can equip these journalists with the required knowledge and skills they need to thrive financially as individuals in a rapidly changing media environment. Schemes like this can help journalists grow their own businesses and boost their economic growth.

I know that this kind of initiative will be quite expensive, but we surely need more of it in transforming media practice in Nigeria. For instance, journalists need to be trained on how to use social media and how they should conduct themselves in this arena. A lot of media organisations in Nigeria don’t yet have a social media policy. If they did, some of the things that happened during the elections wouldn’t have happened.

The society should be much more involved in helping the media carry out its social responsibility functions. The Poynter Institute in Florida, United States brings journalists from across the world to the United States every year to train them on how to do their work to serve the society better. I am a proud fellow of this institute. We need to do more of this for Nigerian journalists. Invariably, the quality of media practitioners will have a direct impact on the quality of governance and development in Nigeria .The country needs a credible media for the good of everyone.

Olabisi Deji-Folutile (PhD) is the editor-in-chief of and Director, Operations at AF24NEWS.COM. Email