New Technologies and Journalism Practice

'Gbenga Sesan at the Journalism Workshop

Last week, I was invited to the World Bank/Media Rights Agenda workshop for journalists, where I made a presentation on New Media Technologies and Journalism Practice. Please see the final Workshop Communiqué below:

Lagos, February 6 to 8, 2006

The World Bank Institute (WBI) in Washington D.C., in partnership with Lagos-based Media Rights Agenda (MRA) held a three-day Journalism Skills and Training Workshop at the Ostra Hall and Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos between February 6 and 8, 2006.

The workshop brought together about 50 editors and senior reporters to discuss the role of the media in improving governance and development in Nigeria. The workshop was aimed at strengthening their skills to understand and report on key development, poverty, economic and governance issues, including the macroeconomic environment, the international economic environment, poverty reduction strategies, and the role of local and international institutions in alleviating poverty. The ultimate objective of the workshop was to sharpen their ability to report on economic and development issues to improve public understanding and awareness in
these areas.

Workshop modules included the attributes of quality of information; journalism ethics, rights and obligations; media accountability and self-regulation; business and economic reporting; development journalism; effective coverage of budget and macroeconomic issues; effective coverage of poverty reduction strategies; effective coverage of international economics issues; writing effective development stories; writing on economic policy issues and the impact of new media technologies on journalism practice.

The workshop participants agree to and hereby adopt this Communiqué.

Observations:

The participants observed as follows:

  • The media are the primary intermediaries of information between the government and the citizens. The media act on behalf of the citizens in seeking information on government policies, programmes and activities. The media therefore constitute an important tool for holding the government and public authorities accountable to the people and bringing about development.

  • The Nigerian media need to carry out more investigative journalism if they hope to impact positively on the public space. The enactment of a Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria would
    enhance the practice of investigative journalism as it would enable journalists to move away from the realm of speculation to more factual and accurate reporting.

  • It is important for journalists to familiarize themselves with the laws of defamation, which tend to define the scope of the right to freedom of expression and affect the journalist’s
    performance of his professional duties.

  • The issue of pervasive corruption among public office holders as well as in the private sector has become a matter of great public concern and interest. Any publication in the broadcast or print media exposing corrupt practices among public office holders or in business does an immense service to the society. The journalists should therefore not be deterred by the laws of libel from carrying out their duties faithfully, with boldness and vigour.
  • With the renewed global interest in development economics and the importance of this on national populations, there is an important need to bring about improved coverage of development and economic issues in the media. It is therefore imperative that media
    professionals, especially those covering development and economics, have a deep understanding of how economic policies and developments impact on the population.

  • The widespread corruption in the media raises serious concerns about the profession. The greatest asset any news organization has is its credibility. In order to establish public confidence and trust, media professionals and media organizations must abide by high ethical and professional standards. Media professionals should endeavour to familiarize themselves with the applicable professional codes of ethics. Professional bodies within the media as well as media owners and managers also need to do more to enforce ethical and professional standards among media professionals.
  • The information age is revealing a complex convergence that is creating societies driven by information and communication technologies. Regrettably, many journalists lack the requisite
    knowledge to operate in this new information age that is transforming the nature of the media in the gathering, processing and dissemination of news and information as well as media forms.
    Journalists in all types of media therefore need to keep abreast of technological developments in the field of communications and acquire the technical skills required to use the new media.

Recommendations:

Media stakeholders should take urgent steps to revive and strengthen the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) to enable it enforce the provisions of the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists as it is required to do under the Nigerian Press Council Act, as amended. They should also ensure that the Council is independent of government or other political influences in order to enhance its credibility and effectiveness.

Furthermore, the media industry should adopt intra-industry peer review mechanism or process, which will encourage compliance with best practices.

The media should pay more attention to the activities of the various anti-corruption agencies, particularly to ensure that appropriate mechanisms, including secure and predictable funding as well as functioning complementary institutions, are put in place to guarantee their independence, accountability to the public, sustainability and effectiveness.

Given the capacity deficit in the media in a number of areas, donor agencies, including the World Bank, should work with local organizations to provide capacity building assistance which will
enable the media to be professional, independent and sustainable.

Assistance may be provided in the following areas:

  1. The knowledge and skill base of journalists should be upgraded through sustained training programmes over a number of years. Training is required in the following areas:

    • Deeper knowledge and understanding of economic and development issues, including the ability to analyze the impact of the government’s economic and fiscal policies on the society as well as the implications of international trade agreements for the country;
    • Writing and presentation skills to be able to report economic and development issues as well as other matters;
    • The use of digital and other media technologies in the collection, editing, publishing and distribution of information;
    • The management of media establishments to enhance their economic sustainability.
  2. The provision of access to new media technologies, including laptop computers, digital cameras, minidisks, midgets, etc.

    Adopted in Lagos
    This Wednesday, the 8th day of February, 2006

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