Tuesday, 2 August 2016


By Ejimofor Umegbogu

It always leaves me stumped that the profession of

journalism in our country is allowed to sink deeper and
does not pass the smell test even as corruption and
ignorance are now sky-scraping.
People are asking: “Where are the journalists? Where
are the columnists? Where are the opinion and the
editorial writers?” The answer seems to be a shameful
and disturbing silence and an embarrassing void.
Some bigoted or wacky journalists even shamelessly
believe that judges, lawyers or doctors are better than
them. This is because they do not understand their lofty
role in the society.
On campuses, lecturers tell journalism students that
journalism is not a profession that will make them
financially comfortable. This is a teaching that must stop.
“It’s not a profession to make money. It’s a social
service. If you want money, go to the bank,” they say.
But journalism is a noble profession that oversees and
keeps in check any other profession on earth. Journalism
is meant to be the conscience of any society. And when
the edifice of journalism crumbles, the country fails
because if the conscience fails, no country can survive.
Journalism practitioners watch over the society and
determine where a country heads, where the conscience
goes, how the laws are made, how things should or should
not be done, what should be praised and what must be
Journalism must be the last pillar of hope of any society
and when the law fails, when people abuse their power
and authority, when the social contract crumbles,
journalists must stand by the people, by the conscience
and hold the abusers accountable.
Any society that does not hold journalists in high esteem
cannot succeed because a society without conscience may
head in any direction.
Also professions that are held in higher esteem are not
better than journalism.
For instance, you can work in the bank, count money and
watch over deposits or big accounts, but what really is
great about it apart from an official car and a relatively
decent salary?
What is creative about it? How do you influence the
society? How do you change behaviours or inequality in
the society? How do you create a better world?
Better still, how do you tell those who make laws what is
right and what is not acceptable? And when you are
unjustly sacked in the bank, what can you do about it,
especially when the law fails? When morality and
conscience are the only bulwark left? Or even, what if
you are abusing your power as a banker? What if you are
stealing people’s hard earned incomes? Who should hold
you accountable when the law fails? Most times, we all
look the journalist’s way.
You can even be a judge or a lawyer and argue cases or
dispense justice based on the laws available, but what if
those laws are unjust and immoral? Who do we turn to
for the advocacy of better laws?
And when lawyers or judges are unjustly sacked or axed
for political or selfish reasons, when the law fails the
lawyers and the judges, who do they turn to? They
usually turn to the conscience of the society. They turn
journalists for a final rescue.
Or how can we explain that in this digital age, we still
pride ourselves with obsolete laws in our courts such as
pictures taken with a digital camera are not admissible in
court when manual cameras have almost gone into
Lawyers cannot change that law and judges simply say
‘that’s the law’ or ‘that’s what the law says’.
You can even be a doctor and treat people when they
come to the hospital already sick based on the training in
medical schools. But how do you advocate for better
medical schools? How do you advocate for less strikes in
our universities?
Can you even prevent sickness? How do you prevent
eateries and restaurants from feeding our people with
chemicals that end up giving them stroke, diabetes or
cardiovascular diseases?
How do you influence the enactment of laws that can
enhance better food processing and consumption?
These responsibilities are often left to journalists, to
the conscience of the society, especially in corrupt
countries where government agencies in charge of such
tasks collect bribes and look the other way.
And because some journalists don’t understand their
lofty responsibilities, their role in the society, they let
themselves down even as publishers and the society
enslave them.
And when dictators or oppressors take over power,
bankers, lawyers, judges, lawmakers and other noise
noisemakers flee. Everyone looks up to journalists, to
the conscience of the society.
Truth be told, there are internal problems in our
profession. For instance, some journalists are paid
crummy salaries which can barely take them home, much
less feed them and their families.
Some publishers are so irresponsible that they don’t pay
journalists for months and some even shamelessly ask
reporters and editors to get money from members of the
public who want their services. What a shame!
And as a result, at press conferences, people refer to
journalists as gentlemen of the press in condescending
manner as they show up shabbily dressed and sweating.
Some quacks have also invaded the profession of
journalism, but this is not specific to journalism. Quacks
are all over the place, from the banks to our political
office holders.
When journalism is weakened, the society is weakened.
When journalists are not comfortable, they become
puppets for corrupt politicians, thieves and dictators and
as a result the same society that neglects journalists
takes a hit and ends up worse, with more corruption and
a comatose economy.
I urge Nigeria today to ensure journalism is given back
the lofty place it deserves.
If not, we will have only ourselves to blame when the
cookie crumbles.



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