NUJ

Who is a journalist? By Lekan Otufodunrin

By Lekan Otufodunrin

This piece is not meant for new students of journalism who have to be schooled about what journalism is all about in their first year. It’s an attempt to reopen the age-long discussion about who should truly be called a journalist and what the profession is.

Until the advent of new media platforms, when sourcing and sharing of information became easy, there was not much controversy over who a journalist was. Even if you did not study Mass Communication or Journalism, you must be identified with one media organization or the other to claim to be a journalist.

The fact that people get published or present a programme on broadcast stations did not even qualify them to be journalists. They were simply writers that they were or producer.

Under the Nigeria Union of Journalists Constitution, graduates of other courses have to get a minimum of a Diploma in Journalism or must have worked for a number of years to be a full member. Though this requirement has not been enforced, but for those in this category, there was enough check and balance to ensure that the rules of journalism was complied with.

Even those who claimed to be citizen journalists knew their bounds. They did their best to abide by well-known guiding principles of truth, fairness, balance and other ethics of their profession.

Some of them even have to pass the information they have through recognized media organizations.

However, with new media all the above no longer obtain.

Just anyone who can type content or record audio or video now claim to be a journalist and are accorded such recognition.

One of the easiest things to do these days is to launch a website or have a blog and start sharing information that used to be the exclusive jobs of trained journalists and claim to be a journalist.

While the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression through any channel, doing this does not automatically make one a journalist.

Journalism is a profession with body of knowledge and ethics of practice. It is a profession with courses at various levels to learn what it entails.

Even back in the days when journalism was for “floatsams and Jetsams” of the society, apologies to former Premier of Western Region, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, there was an apprenticeship process for interested persons to know the basic rules.

While anyone can make false claims to be a journalist, it’s necessary that such people are not accorded such status, but should be seen for what they are and made to face the wrath of the law when they violate the basic rules of journalism.

This piece was informed by a post by Senator Babafemi Ojodu titled “This is not acceptable and an Abhorrent kind of journalism”, condemning a false Facebook post by a blogger Femi Salako that a popular eulogist, Kunle Ologundudu has been assassinated in Lagos.

Ologundudu has since confirmed that he is alive and well, while Salako is nowhere to be found to justify his false publication that has caused unnecessary tension home and abroad.

I have tried hard to find out Salako’s link to journalism and the best I have found is that he is a content writer along with being a musician. He is definitely not a journalist in anyway as content writing is not same as journalism.

Anyone can write content as Salako has done and should not be mistaken to be a journalist. People like him are Information traffickers as Professor Abigail Oguwesi of the University of Lagos will describe them.

They peddle true and false information for whatever motive without, thinking of the implications of their misdemeanor.

Instead of allowing such people to get away with spreading falsehood and being mistaken as journalists, they should be described in the words of President Muhamadu Buhari – “treated then in the language they will understand” the implications of their act.