An average Nigerian journalist is a stickler for hardwork. He does his job with passion, panache and enviable zest. He strives hard to be ahead of his colleagues. He has the nose, eyes and mind for big stories.
He does all of these most times without little or no commendation from his employer. If he brings in big exclusive stories, his employer takes the credit. If he runs into trouble waters, they leave him in the cold. But he never gives up.
Regardless of certain unbecoming conducts of a few, most Nigerian journalists display rare passion, commitment and professionalism in their daily reportorial assignments. It is only in Nigeria that journalists work from January to December without salaries, no leave and hardly go on refresher courses.
A Nigerian journalist is seen as a magician. Both his employer and Nigerians all expect him to meet their daily information needs even when he is indisposed.
We feel less concerned about the plight of our newsmen. Journalists in this clime are treated like orphans. They swim in shark-infested waters to report issues. They step on mighty and very influential toes to expose graft in high and low places. They abandon families to travel to unsafe territories to amplify the voices of the oppressed. Some even get killed, maimed or kidnapped at times.
We are told it’s a thankless job, but they have bills to pick up. His kids hardly see him at home. His take home, if at all he gets it, finishes on arrival. We hardly cut them some slack. We see them as all-knowing, infallible and magicians. But we often make haste to call them unprintable names each time their articles fail to align with our biases or narrow considerations.
Sadly, they go through all these hassles without any form of support or encouragement from their employers. I know a TV station in Nigeria where reporters are owed salaries for three years running. I learnt top management staff of this news platform still breathdown on unpaid staffers anytime they report late to work or fail to come at all!
Reporters defy doctors’ warning to be ‘on top’ of their beats. They work round the clock to monitor and report happenings in the society. They don’t have the luxury of time to attend to pressing personal issues, including their health. Some of them cannot even afford to pay medical bills, yet they work for billionaires.
Just yesterday, Nigeria’s broadcast media lost one of its finest, Channels TV’s State House Correspondent, Mr. Chukwuma Onuekwusi at a private hospital in Abuja. Not long ago, Daily Trust Joseph Hir, AIT’s Nengi Finecountry among others died mysteriously. We equally have a number of unreported deaths involving journalists across the country.
While media owners and publishers live in opulence, drive posh cars, send their kids abroad for school and holiday, these very guys who step on landmines to promote their businesses live in squalor and demeaning conditions.
Some reporters can hardly afford nice clothes, shoes or even cars to move around. I know a number of journalists who regularly trek to event venues for lack of transport fare. They get to event venues in sweaty, smelly, oozing shirts! Sad.
It is high time practising journalists called the bluff of greedy, self-serving employers who see reporters as mere working tools and not the professionals they are.
Dear journalist, take out time to relax and attend to personal issues. Your platform can go on smoothly with or without you. That news item can fail, but not your health.