Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Chairman/Founder of Media Trust Limited, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, thursday said the planned events to mark the 20th anniversary of the media outfit are expected to be a celebration of commitment to robust journalism, good business and to reflect and plan for the future.
Speaking during a press conference with senior editors in Abuja ahead of the 20th anniversary of the company next week, he said the Weekly Trust was started because the shareholders wanted a job and created one, saying the organisation is now 20 years old.
Tracing the journey of the organisation, Yusuf said it all started in a ‘’war room’’ in Kaduna with the Weekly Trust, which was initially published on Fridays.
According to him, “The Weekly title started during the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha but we were determined to be our own selves and not to be dictated to. And within months General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over with the promise of returning the country to politics, and we then thought of going daily with a political newspaper.”
He said despite the initial challenges of sustainability, the company weathered the storm for 20 years, adding that in the last two decades, the organisation had been quite adventurous with new titles.
The Media Trust Limited founder further said after starting the Weekly Trust (now Daily Trust on Saturday) in March 1998 in Kaduna, the company began a daily publication in Abuja in January 2001, and later the Daily Trust on Sunday (formerly Sunday Trust) was introduced in July 2006, a Hausa vernacular publication, Aminiya in March 2006, Teen Trust in 2015, and Trust Sports in 2017.
He said there was a time, at the early stage of the organisation when poor cash flow threatened the company but added that the organisation had been lucky and had broken even a long time ago.
‘’But our overall aim is to do a product that is generally acceptable. We’ll continue to have challenges, but we’ll also try to deal with them as they come,” he added.
Sharing the exciting moments of the organisation, he said:, ‘’They are many, including sitting with you people. It is pleasant to sit with colleagues. I am retired now and just on the board and to see what we do by the day.
‘’When I was the Editor of Triumph in Kano, what was exciting to me was when I put the paper to bed and go home. I was a bachelor then and when the paper is ready, they would come and slot it under my door around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and in those early days.
‘’I couldn’t even sleep because you have finished what you thought is the paper but how it would come out is another thing and you are also worried about it. So, I would be there on my bed and when they slot the paper, because I had no wife, I would jump to pick it up, read it and then go to bed.
‘’Up till now, I am excited about our daily work, maybe it is just something in me. The paper is brought to my house early in the morning and sometimes, I call my security men to know if the paper has come or not. So for me, the high point is this work we are doing and I think it is something that combines so many things which is about the news, the intellect, the business and to get it going together; I believe is satisfying to me.’’
He explained that success either ways includes materials, building offices, expanding the organisation’s press around the country, saying, ‘’We are now in four places and we hope to be in five places. We are in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Maiduguri.
‘’We are thinking of having in Sokoto soon. So for us, we want to be a daily paper that is available in the morning not by 2pm which sometimes is what happens because of logistics. It is at the back of our mind that we have achieved a milestone but the excitement is to see the product in the morning. It is always a joy to wake up in the morning and see that our product is out.’’
Yusuf added that the future of the media is digital saying they want to grow the company in many ways as long as print is there, they would continue experimenting with new products but we feel the future is electronic and we would go that way like everybody else.
‘’We are getting younger and younger directors who understand the digital age and we think that the leadership would go to them and the next 20 years you are talking about is something that they will have to grapple with’’, he added.
Asked whether the advent of the social media would threaten the traditional newspapers, he said: ‘’We have been threatened with such prophecy for too long.’’
‘’When television came they said the same thing. It is true that we have to mind the online because the future is digital and we are well aware of it. The future is digital and there is no two ways about it. You have to prepare before you get there and not when you get there.
‘’This is a business, if we don’t succeed as a business, then we feel that even the editorial product will suffer. Our main challenge is to see that the success is both ways by having a good editorial product that wins you readers and when you win more readers, it wins you more advertisers.’’