The women journalists and men, too looking to refresh and learn new tricks for their trade got just that and more in Lagos at the fourth annual Women in Journalism Conference (WIJ 2017) at the Muson Centre on July 6. The highly interactive conference that had Anthea Garman, associate professor of journalism and media studies, Rhodes University, South Africa presenting the keynote, also featured speakers and panellists from a diverse spectrum of the media sector in Nigeria focusing on the theme: ‘Pioneers, Innovators and the Brave New World’.
Among them were Lami Tumaka, a director at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Judith Okonkwo, founder of Imisi 3D; Toun Akerele Sonaiya, CEO of WFM 91.7; Rich Tanksley, former CEO of Pulse Nigeria and Collete Otuesho, head of Accelerate digital content platform. Also on hand were Doja Allen, managing director of City FM; Anderson Uvie-Umegbo, executive vice president at the Chicago Institute of Business and Stephanie Busari, who pioneered CNN’s first digital and multimedia bureau and a host of others.
Garman’s educative and highly inspiring presentation was titled, ‘Innovation’. She began by saying that the future looks like those who make the said future happen. On the slide to illustrate this were pictures of people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zukerberg and more.
She listed her hopes for the future to include being female-centred, community-minded, language and culture sensitive, planet-loving and a host of others. She dwelt on her experience as a teacher and emphasised why play is so important to the birth of ideas that lead to the magic that is creativity. Pointing to the example of Finland that overhauled its education system to enviable results, she said play was the brains most basic way to learn.
“We humans are a storied people,” she declared, while encouraging those present to embrace visual journalism, since that is the one way they are sure to connect with their target audience. Through the length of her presentation Garman quoted her students, authors she has read and people she has met that inspired her, presenting the encouraging example of their lives to the gathering.
It was then the turn of Okonkwo to speak on the theme of the ‘Brave New World’ that daily presents itself with innovations including the 360-degree camera and many other such innovative tools that the journalist present can adopt in their work.
The first panel thereafter took place with Okonkwo, Ajani and Tanksley. Ajani declared that the digital revolution has changed the way news is consumed, while Tanksley said the biggest impact of digital new world on journalism is that it has democratised content since anyone with a phone can produce journalistic content. What he said is now a challenge is how to determine which content to trust. Their discussion touched on the importance of passion, innovation and knowledge to be able to brave the new world and make inroads in the journalism career.
Two other interesting panels took place. One on innovation and the other featuring pioneers with participants sharing their experiences and pointing the way forward for journalists, most of whom came forward with the questions on their minds. At the end of the day, it was agreed that you either innovate or die, that entertainment journalism seems to be the biggest draw to the audience and that those looking to make millions in journalism may be in the wrong line of work. There was also the importance of mentorship, the desire to be open to learning new skills and well as constantly auditing the said skills. Other things the panellists dwelt on were the challenges media owners and journalist face every day, the need to overhaul institutional structures including the way students are taught at all levels and the importance of adopting data journalism in telling stories in order to make news less boring.
Earlier Mr. Yomi Owope, the conference director, talked about the idea behind it; the wife of the Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, who was represented by Dr. Bola Balogun of the Lagos Water Corporation, delivered a goodwill message, saying the time has come for the women journalists to tell their stories. Tumaka lamented the dearth of female journalists in the country, particularly in the north, while Adesuwa Oyenokwe talked about the peculiarity of being a journalist and female.
Sola Momoh, Maiden Ibru, Mo Abudu and Toun Okewale Sonaiya were honourees at this year’s edition for their work in journalism. In all, it was quality time spent in the presence of colleagues, going in the same direction. The one desire on the mind of the organisers must have been that many more journalists would have been present to soak it all in and get ready to innovate.