Joseph Edgar is a Director at Katunga Media Limited, a 360 degree marketing communications outfit with deep African roots. Edgar has over 20 years experience span across different sectors of the Nigerian economy. He shared in this interview, views on how Nigerian media can help stem the issue of fake news that pervades the Nigerian media space. Excerpts…
Looking at media landscape in Nigeria, as a media practitioner, how do you think media can contribute to the Nigerian democracy?
The role of media is very critical to national development because of the traditional role of disseminating information. So, media will continue to play a very vital role in national stability and creation by continuing to push for qualitative reporting, deepening human capacity amongst media practitioners putting them in a better position to understand the dynamics especially at this few months to 2019 election.
Some Nigerians believe that there are set of journalists who are political or biased in their reports, what do you think Nigerian journalists should do towards implementing or evaluating Nigerian politics as well as setting agenda?
To answer this question, I want to divide Nigerian media into certain sectors. They are mainstream media which are the traditional media and the new media mostly powered by younger people. In so doing, I would not want to say that those who you can find in the traditional mainstream can be said to be biased in the way they do their jobs because of the level of their exposure, training and professionalism in their reports.
Again, we are in a digital era where you see the reach of ‘underground media’, the social media. For example, you will find out that the largest circulating national daily I don’t think is doing fifty thousand copies a day while somebody from a press of a button will be reaching a million people.
You will find out that, that somebody who is reaching over a million people on social media does not have necessary training that professionals in the mainstream media have. These are things that make the observers think that there are certain levels of bias in reporting. But there are major influencers that influence government policies, corporate policies, policy formulation and policy execution who I still believe hold very dearly to the strong tenets of professionalism in performing their duties.
This brings us to the issue of fake news, in comparison to what is happening in other parts of the world, do you think Nigeria is leading in fake news dissemination?
Nigeria has a very huge population of semi-literate people. I don’t think we are leading in the issue of fake news but I don’t think we are too far from whichever country that is leading. I thank God that government is beginning to look into it very seriously with the campaign being circulated by Ministry of Information to see how we can further educate people to identify what could be fake news.
Besides government, do you think stakeholders in the media industry such as NUJ, Guild of Editors, APCON and the rest have done enough to help stem this challenge?
I don’t think they have done too well in trying to stem this challenge. But then, they are handicapped. Like I said earlier, you see the reach of what I want to call the ‘Guerilla Journalism’ far outpaced the combined reach of media that could be regulated by these bodies that you have just mentioned.
For example on my way here, an issue happened between a staff of a huge financial institution and some of their customers. Before you know it, the incident has gone viral and over two million people have seen it. The brand manager of that institution is struggling to curtail that news who is talking to the mainstream media that will wait till next morning for their papers to come out before they can bring out the bank’s position on the matter.
As we are speaking this particular news is going viral. So, the regulatory authorities you have just mentioned are particularly handicapped by the very nature of the media terrain that we have as at today. They have to look for ways to spread their tentacles or regulatory powers far beyond the traditional boundaries to operate into these newer boundaries and see how they can pull in those who have access to those who want to cause social media influencers. We can do all of that through capacity building and lots of trainings.
In Nigeria today, do you think that the consumers of news believe the secondary media (social media) than the primary media (traditional media)?
That is where we have to keep dividing this country into two. We have those who are literate who understand issues perfectly and their meanings and we have those who cannot do some of these things. It is very clear that the person that the traditional media is reaching is that person who can understand these issues and who can ask himself a simple question. But the funny thing is that these set of people form a minority while those who form the majority do not have that ability of some these things. We are itching towards two hundred million people and the level of illiteracy is increasing every day rather than decreasing.
Literacy is not being able to read and write alone. Literacy is by understanding the issues in the sense of discerning if this is a true story or not. We have seen that telcos in this country are recording sixty million, hundred million subscribers on their platforms. Now when you check huge numbers of illiterates, you will see that it is a tragedy waiting to happen. We are seeing this on a daily basis as we move slowly towards 2019.
Recently Katunga Media struck a deal with Brand Journalists’ Association of Nigeria (BJAN) and Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) can you tell us what that deal means?
We notice very quickly that there is a need for us to bring together media practitioners in the areas of capacity utilization so that there will be a better understanding between all the stakeholders with a view to deepen the market and to support corporate organizations and the government in providing a very conducive environment for everybody.
That is why we have put together this seminar working closely with BJAN, the umbrella body of journalists who report brands and marketing communications to see how we can provide a platform for a continuous interaction and engagement of all the stakeholders for better understanding with the hope that some of these issues such as fake news could be dealt with for the growth of the industry.
It was gathered that the first phase of the training took place some months ago, kindly share some of your plans for the second phase of the training?
The first phase had a lot of industry giants such as Mr. Feyijimi Awosika, Vice Chairman of TROYKA Holdings, Mr. Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, Group CEO of CMC Connect Burson-Marsteller, Mr. Steve Babaeko, Chief Creative Officer of X3M Marketing Ideas, Mr. Oare Ojeikere, Group Chief Marketing Officer of Dangote Group and Mr. Eniola Bello, Managing Director of Thisday Newspaper.
This time around, we are going to shift a little to regulators such as APCON, AAAN and people from the FMCG sector. The first phase had a lot of people from the financial sector and this time we are trying to push the message far beyond the marketing communication industry as possible as we can to see how we can achieve a better understanding of the issues that pervade our environment which is very critical to the economic growth of our country.
We have people such as Mr. Emeka Opara, Director of Corporate Communications & CSR of Airtel and Mr. Charles Aigbe, President, Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks have confirmed to be in the faculty for the second phase. The event is scheduled to take place on October 12, 2018 at Leadway Hotel, Maryland, Lagos.
In terms of sponsorship, what are your plans to reach out for more sponsors?
I would like to thank Fidelity Bank for their supportive role in the first phase of the training. This time we are hoping to get support from other conglomerates. At the moment, we are beginning to get positive feedbacks from major corporate organizations based on the success of the first phase.
This time we are targeting between 100 – 150 people. Like I said, it is a capacity building for journalists but them again; we have seen brand custodians who have shown interest in attending the training. This time around, we are going to have two sessions -morning and afternoon. Each session will have a major speaker with four panelists.
We are very confident that we will get the level of support that will bring forth very powerful sessions which will position the event as top notch. . We are already working in partnership with Leadway Hotel at Maryland to use their facility for the event.
What is the impact of training brand journalists on your business?
For us, there is no material gain for this. In fact, it has been tasking for us but what we are trying to achieve is better understanding on both sides which will help our business by supporting our clients better. What really brought about this is the fact that we were not getting the level of understanding especially on the brand custodians’ side. We are talking to brand custodians who really understand what we are trying to do as Katunga Media. The impact on our business is not material but is more of professional maximization of our adjectives.
What do you do at Katunga Media?
Katunga Media is a 360 degree media marketing communications firm. It is quite tough for new players in this industry because we have been around for about four years now and we have not gotten the level of expected success that we desire. But in the last 24 months, we have shifted our focus towards capacity building and we have been getting some mileage in that area.
What are the major challenges that you face in training journalists?
One of our major challenges is timing because journalists are very busy people. Ability to put everybody in one room for as long as you want is a challenge. If I had my way, this training would have been like a five day programme. Media people are very busy people their time is very crucial to them. So, since we cannot get them to sit down as long as we want that is why we have made it a day event, It will be very intensive and highly interactive sessions.