We must innovate or we die, NUJ President Chris Isiguzo says as more media houses sack journalists

National president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Mr Christopher Isiguzo has sounded a wake-up call to journalists across the country.

Isiguzoro spoke against the backdrop of mass sacks of journalists by employers in the media industry due to Covid-19.

He said that although the pandemic started as a health challenge, it has created a socioeconomic problem not likely to go away soon.

The NUJ Number One Citizen who spoke to Jungle Journalist Media Limited in an exclusive interview, agreed that the sacks have become a major problem which media owners are forced to put up with because they are no more making profits.

He called for innovative journalism among employers and journalists alike, to avoid losing the entire industry and not ending up losing the complete industry.

“The development is really troubling. These are the ones we even know about, what about the ones that are done underground that we don’t know about? There are so many issues of sack going on in the media industry, and one thing you must know is that these are private interests, and that’s why it’s a problem.

“These private interests have something driving them, and that’s the gains, the benefits. You must also agree with me that these are not the best of times for some of these private concerns.

“We at the NUJ have tried to engage many of them, and all we do at this time is to continue to appeal.

“We are also discussing with the presidency concerning possible stimulus packages to rescue the media industry. We write the President and made it clear the situation is now a very precarious one. If something is not urgently done, you will wake up one morning and discover that the private broadcast stations have packed up.

“The level of patronage at this time is very poor. Most of these media houses, how do they survive? Patronage. Adverts. Events. But now all those things are not taking place. Most of the time, you see them organise award ceremonies, they also want to make money and pump into the company. But now, those things are gone.

“Go and pick a copy of any of these dailies now, and you will see how tiny they look. Sales you will agree with me have also substantially dropped. People are not buying. Am looking at it now from a realistic point of view.

He also said;

“I think this is the time for us to innovate. We can’t continue with one strategy and expect a different kind of result.

We must come up with new ideas on how to sustain the media industry.

The Covid-19 started as a health challenge, but has now become a socio-economic challenge. That’s the reality. In an event this thing repeats itself, everything will be grounded.

“The retrenchment, salary structures and downsizing is not peculiar to the media industry. It’s also affecting other sectors. Until the economy is reopened fully, this thing is going to continue, and even when the economy opens up, its not going to pick up immediately.

“I buy copies of newspapers everyday, even in this pandemic era. Two days ago I was driving out of my house to buy papers, and a neighbour said ,’you are driving out?’ I said yes. He said ‘haba, can’t you read it ok your android phone?’

“So you can see that many people have left the buying paper approach and now concentrate on their smartphones. If you want to get authoritative information, you talk about the print platform. If you want to get reliable information for references, you talk about the print. So there is nothing that can make it to fizzle out anyway, but the quantum of patronage will continue to go down. That is clear, but we must ways of innovating. Journalists must also get off from press release kind of journalism, because people want to know what the government has done.

“No newspaper house likes to publish just press releases. If government has decided to reach out to media houses just through press releases, journalists must find a way to get other kind of news.

“That’s why I said we must put on our thinking caps, otherwise we are done for.

“Microsoft are doing away with human elements and are now making use of robots. Does that not speak volume? Assuming the human element is completely phased out, that means we are all down and out.

“We must put on our thinking caps and begin to innovate.

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