Ignore the social media at your own risk

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jul 12th, 2014
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 Tony Icheku reports on the ‘Summit on Functional Social Networking for Nigerian Journalists’ recently held in the nation’s capital for Abuja-based journalists.

Even as the powers- that -be wrestle with whether or not to regulate the feral spirit that is the social media, a firm message recently came from the cyberspace to journalists in the nation’s capital, Abuja and the northern hemisphere to “Embrace me and flourish; Or ignore me and become extinct.”

That clarion call was the thrust of the talk-shop on social media sponsored by the United, Bank for Africa (UBA) which held in Abuja penultimate week and titled “Summit on Functional Social Networking for Nigerian Journalists: The Capital Edition”.

As seminar facilitator, Taiwo Obe, a senior journalist, business communications expert and Commonwealth Professional Fellow, 2014 declared in his opening remarks, the session is akin to the planting of a mustard seed which at maturity would nest an army of journalists exploiting the un-utilised bounties of social media for personal and national development. It thus aimed at arousing journalists yet to tackle the barriers delaying their foray into the cyberspace.

Much like a digital age evangelist, Obe was accompanied by a select group of like-minded aficionados from Lagos. And their mission was to warn journalists in Abuja, of pitfalls ahead if they continue to spurn the challenges arising from the explosive growth of citizen-journalism.

The issue was tackled from different angles by passionate resources persons – journalists and non-journalists alike.

One of the topics which had listeners asking for more was The Nation’s Online Editor, Lekan Otufodurin’s “Online Editing: Tips, Tools and Take-aways.” Presented in a breezy style, the topic was technical, informative and functional.

Otufodurin, who has seen all perspectives of the profession, having started as a cub reporter, dared journalists to go the extra mile if they desire excellence. He recalled how his lack of access to internet facility in 1998 (the only functional internet was in the Editor-in-Chief’s office) didn’t stop him from being internet savvy, arguing that “Within our limitations, there are opportunities.”

He enjoined the audience to follow people who matter in their fields, and be aware of what is trendy online. “There is simply no excuse to fail in today’s world. If you don’t have a social media handle as a journalist, it implies you have not been functionally active,’ he submitted.

Shina Badaru, Founder/Editor of the online newspaper, Technology Times also scored with his topic ‘Its On The Internet, So….’

Badaru, former IT Editor at THISDAY belongs to the generations of journalists who embraced the digital age early in this part. A keen watcher of Information Technology, IT trends and lifestyle, he urged his listeners to acquire a ‘digital mindset’ even as he reels out figures for them to meditate on. Nigeria’s 63 million internet subscriber base; a certain breaking news from the country that was read 16 million times via mobile phones only; a certain song composed by a Nigerian, recorded only on the internet that was downloaded 3.5 million times within three months. He enjoined his listeners to think of these figures in Naira terms, reminding them that one caller tune on a certain network costs N50/download.

Badaru also counseled journalists to ‘Beware of plagiarism,’ explaining that plagiarism in plain terms means stealing of other people’s intellectual works.

Before Otufodurin and Badaru, Pelu Awofeso set the tone for the day with an aptly titled topic ‘Social Media 101’.

Awofeso, a CNN/Multichoice African Journalists Award winner reminded the audience that the social media community currently celebrates over one billion cybernauts or voyagers, and continues to grow. He also said “the social media is about building a community, bonding, sharing customer service, agitation and money-making.”

He explained that the social media comprises the facebook, twitter, Linked–In, email, blogging, instagram… and more and urged the journalists to “start something on the social media today, and build your personal, unique brand.”

In between, there were other speakers, who spoke on their areas of strength. ‘What’s Your Apptitude?’ queried Emeka Azuka Okoye, a Software Developer and CEO, Vikanti Nigeria Limited; while Lara Wise, who found a pot of gold on facebook titled her topic: ‘Facebook Is Good For Me.’ Wise is a Television anchor and author of the book: ‘Lessons of Life.’

A young journalist, Abdulwasiu Hassan, who is gradually carving a niche as an online broadcast journalist also talked about his work. He is currently deputy online editor, Media Trust, publishers of Daily Trust newspapers.

Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo, a social media economy specialist, multimedia content producer and thought leader who abandoned medicine for the digital world titled his lecture “Social Media: 10 Questions The Travel Industry Must Answer.”

After a heavy lunch, it was the turn of the zestful Dapo Olorunyomi to tickle the audience and lead them to an excitable finale. Olorunyomi, Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of the fast-growing online newspaper, PremiumTimes spoke of ‘Ethical Traps And How To Avoid Them’ tackled from constitutional and legalistic points of view.

He named the three big issues in journalistic ethics as revolving around factuality/truth, balance/fairness and accuracy, while the fourth and fifth – Impact/Community and Transparency are the five big issues in social media.

‘’The province of ethics helps shape the boundaries of right/good and wrong/bad, and the reasoning that informs our judgment about these boundaries.’’

Earlier in the day, it all began on a light note, when the first speaker, journalist/columnist, Segun Adeniyi, described himself as a social media alien.

“I’m not on social media; anybody claiming to be Segun Adeniyi on facebook or twitter is a fake,’’ he told his shocked audience. He rationalised his indifference to social media, but cautioned that his works are nevertheless circulated online and commented on.

The event, chaired by Richard Ikiebe, Senior Fellow, School of Media Communications, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, attracted other media top guns like Malam Garba Shehu, former President, Nigeria Guild of Editors, and now of the Atiku Media Office; Tony Ojobo, Director, Public Affairs, Nigeria Communications Commission; Jonas Agwu, Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Danlamin Nmodu, Editor-In-Chief, Newsdiaryonline.com; Dan Akpowa, Publisher/Editor-In-Chief, Abuja Inquirer and several others.

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