From Ismail Mudashir, New Delhi, India
Lack of confidence in media content and the growth of online journalism at the expense of the traditional media dominated discourse at the training of African journalists at the Jamia Millia Islamia, University in New Delhi, India.
Thirty journalists from Tunisia, Mauritius, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Madagascar, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Sudan, Seychelles, Malawi, Coted’Ivore, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Niger and Morocco are being trained at the university.
The training which is organised by the Indian Government through its Ministry of External Affairs had two journalists from Nigeria-Ismail Mudashir of Media Trust Limited (publishers of the Daily Trust titles) and Makut Simon Macham of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
From the beginning of the training to the end of the classwork, the challenges facing journalism were extensively discussed.
The Director of the Mass Communication Research Centre of the University, Professor Iftekhar Ahmed, said lack of trust of media content by the public and the growth of online journalism are banes of the traditional media.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, the professor told journalists that their jobs were on the line due to the challenges.
“People no longer have confidence in the media. What are you doing as a journalist to address this? Are you doing the right thing? Are you misleading the public? he queried.
According to him, with the development spreading across the globe, if journalists are not on their toes, they will ‘sleep’ somewhere.
Ahmed added that aside the lack of trust in media content, people no longer trust the government and this has made the responsibility of journalists to be higher.
The Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Talat Ahmad, said with the social media, “everybody is a journalist”.
He said: “In social media everybody is a journalist. Differentiate yourself by doing your job professionally. Be objective, always base your report on facts and don’t allow yourself to be guided by economic interest.
Throughout the training, these observations were echoed. For instance, while delivering a lecture on topic “Print Media and online journalism: changing scenario and opportunity”, a lecturer cum journalist Ms. Zehra Kazmi said even though the circulation of newspapers in India was growing, the revenue generated was declining.
“In India, the circulation of Newspapers is growing unlike what is obtainable in other countries. But the industry is not doing well because of the drop in advert revenue. People prefer to advertise online. It’s cheap and has wide reach,” she said.
A 63-year-old retired journalist in India, Robbikashyap, said newspapers would always remain relevant, no matter the technology advancement.
Kashyap who retired after putting in 37 years at the Tribune of Chandigarh in the northern part of India, said: “Newspapers and other traditional media will continue to exist no matter what. When the Internet came onboard, I was told that I will lose my job. Years after, I retired in 2015 and newspapers are still in circulation.”
Kashyap said however that most newspapers staff in India were struggling to survive and that majority of them are being engaged on contract.
“In India now, everybody in the newspapers industry is a casual staff. Contract staff gets more salaries but the job is not certain. Throughout my career, I was a full time staff and my salary was regular,”Kashyap who retired as Deputy News Editor said.
One of the trainees, Mr. Macham of the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA),said the dwindling confidence in the traditional media is directly linked to its ownership and control. He said: “Because of the perceived influence of the owners and their associates on the content of the media, the people feel they are less objective and have no capacity to tell the truth except from their owner’s perspective.”
He said the traditional media is threatened to the extent that readership is drawn along the lines of solidarity with the ownership patterns. “The traditional media will continue to do well if they raise the credibility level as that is lacking in the social media right now,” he said.
For his part, a South African Journalist, Mr. Emmanuel T. Magubane, said the threats against the print media are real.
Magubane who is a political reporter at the Mercury Newspaper, South Africa, said the industry will not collapse overnight but that self inflicted wounds through mistakes, incompetence and ‘juniorisation’ of newsroom were killing the industry.
“In my country, the industry is facing similar challenges. Many are implementing the digital first strategy to move to more competitive platforms.Newspapers specifically still have a future, but as long as they are managed by corporations they will die, philanthropists are the possible saviors of newspapers,”he said.
Also speaking, Mr. Zabeirou Moussa of the Le Sahel Newspaper in Niger Republic, said despite the growth of the online journalism, the traditional media were still relevant.
He said: “In Niger, the online media exist but their effect on television, radio and newspapers is not as pronounce as the case in other countries. I think that traditional media will have their place in my country as long as Internet patronage remains low.”
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