A Handbook for Journalists

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Yinka Olatunbosun

It’s no news that Kolawole Oredipe’s latest expose on his 15-year career in journalism titled, “Cross-Over Journalist: Reporting the Niger-Delta’’ is the latest addition to the existing literary efforts of journalists in Nigeria to document moving stories of the career lives. The book which was launched a few weeks ago is a painstaking effort of a very busy professional to crystallize some remarkable details of his experience in the field of journalism in the Niger-Delta region. His narrative began from the point of making the career choice, to toying with the idea of returning to his initial dream job at an oil-servicing company while ending with the determination to make the most of his time in journalism.

His story is an insider’s account that shows how a lot of professionals in the media or perhaps elsewhere embark on a career without much interest at the initial stage but later make discoveries that give them the staying power. He recalled how he had worked the ropes to the present position as the Principal Editor, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) with the view to inspire young journalists to embrace the spirit of hard work and a receptive heart to acquire knowledge from superiors in the newsroom.

The book is one that is very necessary for our period in history in Nigeria wherein what drives the average journalist is the ambition to make good money and in good time. While it is not a bad desire to wish for the good things in life, the spirit of materialism has a destructive influence on the practice of true journalism.

Oredipe’s story in the book showed clearly that as a young journalist, he paid close attention to how his copies were proof-read and edited rather than his bank statements. It is perceivable from his story that he maintained a good relationship with his superiors which helped him to develop strong multi-tasking skills. Her persona evolved through the pages as a witness to historical development in the controversial region. It’s quite interesting too that the author leveraged on his Applied Geology background to interrogate the issues in the oil-rich region and the industry as a whole. His career journey which began with the print media moved on to the electronic media where he seemed to have found a comfort zone after gaining the mastery of writing for the ear as against writing for the eyes.

His ambition for promotion, which he got, was founded on merit and the self-realisation of the wealth of experience earned from investing his sweat and sleepless nights in the job. In the book, he portrayed his life as a journalist in a “sleeves rolled-up’’ manner not attempting to glamourise the narration with accounts of international escapes with public officials or so. The author does his personal archiving task by including in the piece news stories as well as an inaugural speech by the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson.

In chapter nine, he captured the experience of many journalists in the story titled, “Unfriendly Security Men at the Creek Haven Gate.’’ In reality, unfriendly security men are in many places today and journalists have reasons to encounter them, perhaps, more regularly than other professionals. They receive journalists with apprehension, increased suspicion and sometimes the identity card they carry is not enough to prove that they deserve to be at a particular place at that given time. What is even grim is the fact that despite a journalist’s frequent visit to a particular venue, the security men often feign ignorance and are prepared to bar you from entering into the venue. While some journalists had cultivated the habit of tipping the security men and others who may attempt to slow down their work, it is very disheartening to read reports such as documented in this chapter by the author of how journalists are continually and deliberately harassed by security men, many of whom read newspapers or listen to the radio out of sheer boredom at work.

Oredipe’s book also underscores the importance of training for journalists as he captured his JCI experience. Junior Chambers International (JCI) is regarded as the largest network of young professionals and entrepreneurs across the globe. The author participated in the “Training the Trainer” course in 2013 and subsequently trained in Cameroon, Cote d’ Ivoire and Tunisia. While this reviewer may not score the writer high on the creative use of language in the work, it is instructive to know that the literary effort is an easy-read, concise with verifiable truths about his personal account of his well-rounded practice in journalism.