In what could be described as an affirmation of the private sector’s previous declarations, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Sun newspaper, Mr. Femi Adesina, has expressed concern over the quality of university and polytechnic graduates joining the journalism profession.
In an exclusive interview with The Intellectual magazine at the weekend in Lagos, Adesina observed that despite displaying ritzy degrees, many graduates performed poorly in the employment tests administered at The Sun.
“You find people parading all sorts of fancy degrees – first degree, second degree,” he said. “And when you tell them to write something, from the very first line, you see howlers in terms of errors. It is dispiriting.”
The development persuaded The Sun to put a Graduate Trainee Scheme in place, where fresh graduate seeking to work for the newspaper are drilled and knocked into shape. Adesina said: “What we do is, we advertise for graduates in any field and we test them. They do written, oral, all sorts of test. And when we have got the type that we need, remember, they don’t have to be graduates of Mass Communication or Journalism, all they need to show is that they have what it takes to be able to write, we then employ them and we train them. It’s a six-month course and at the end of the six months, those who scale through are then employed fully. Those who do not scale through are dropped. That is how we renew our manpower.”
Although Adesina said there has been no formal interaction between the Guild of Editors and faculties of tertiary institutions offering Journalism programmes in Nigeria to date, he insisted that journalism education must find a way of blending the town and the gown. According to him, while student do all the theoretical aspects of journalism, “when it comes to the practical aspect, they know nothing.”
Adesina also implored journalism teachers to spend their sabbaticals in media houses rather than going to other universities. “There is nothing that says a Professor of Mass Communication or a PhD holder, who wants to do sabbatical should come and do it at The Sun, on our editorial board or somewhere else, instead of going to another university,” he said.
On the gap between the theories being taught in the institutions and contemporary trends in the media industry, Adesina underscored the importance of capacity building among journalism teachers due to the influence of technology and constant interface between the institutions and the media.
His words: “You will find that, particularly in the area of newspaper production, it has changed completely from what is being taught theoretically (in tertiary institutions). And if a teacher is cocooned in the University, he will still be teaching the old, theoretical newspaper production. But production has changed with the influence of ICT.”
However, the renowned journalist whittled down the fears being expressed in certain quarters about the possibility of the social media wiping newspapers off in the near future. He did admit that online threats had affected the revenue base of many newspapers around world including Nigeria, he was however insisted that those running media houses now have to be more creative.
He explained: I have attended conferences of the World Editors’ Forum twice, where the focus was on the Challenges of Online. One was in Cape Town, and then I attended another one in Hamburg, Germany. Both focused on the online challenge. At those two conferences, you know what the consensus was? Online, yes, it’s a challenge, but the printed word would always be there.
“When radio first came, the noise was that, ha, this is the end of the printed word, particularly the newspaper. And you see that radio and newspaper ran pari passu for decades.
“Then, when television came, ha, the noise was louder – ‘this will finally kill the printed word.’ Television: you can see, you can hear, why do you need to read again? But television ran for many decades, the printed word was still there. So, now, the online has come. It has posed a challenge in terms of diminishing revenue. But the creative newspaper or magazine would remain alive.”
Adesina also disagreed with some critics who accuse the Guild of not showing concern about journalists’ welfare. While he agreed that the Guild was very influential, since its members operate closely with media owners, he nevertheless averred that issues of welfare should be the business of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). “The Nigerian Guild of Editors is not a union,” he stated. “It is an association of editors. The union end of this profession is the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
“Yes, the Guild is quite influential because it is an association of people at the top echelon of the profession, but in terms of welfare, unionism, that is the duty of the NUJ. Don’t forget that even editors who are members of the NGE are also members of the NUJ, but the NGE takes care of things that pertain to editors.
“Editors are like the bridge between the owners of the businesses and the journalists who work in those businesses. Editors are privileged to be senior people, and they interface between the owners and the journalists. Therefore, the editors cannot be unionists. They cannot be. If you are representing ownership, you can’t be carrying placards.”