Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Why I want to be a Journalist

I don't know why the word rolled off my tongue, but I do remember saying I want to be a journalist at the age of ten. In fact, I had never stood back to consider what the job of a journalist might involve. All I knew is I had an overwhelming passion to write, so journalism became a prominent ambition.

In the beginning I only saw the glamorous side of the vocation. Watching journalists such as Christine Amanpour, Rosemary Church and Tom Clancy on CNN held me spellbound. I thought their job was terrific. Then the big dream became to work for CNN as a broadcaster.

It was a dream I held on to even after secondary school. But it wasn't until my undergraduate years that I began to think more deeply about why I wanted to become a journalist.
I thought more deeply about it because I went for an interview with a national daily. There were about ten of us battling for a two-week placement. And it was at that moment, round the conference table, that I began to think more deeply.
Everyone else had a clear, crisp idea of why they wanted to be a journalist. My reason was more of an instinctual desire. It wasn't so clear-cut in my head.

The instinctual desire remains. But now I have a greater awareness of the clout journalists possess. Journalists are a conduit for information and entertainment. They have the ability and opportunity to shape people's opinions and even lives. They can effect changes for the greater good of society.

Having listened to former journalists in my class, I know there are a lot of factors involved. Many times journalists are obliged to patronise the viewpoint of their organisation. It's not easy for journalists to cut themselves free from their organisations reins and act independently.

In addition economics plays a huge part these days. The key to survival for many media organisations is to stay in the competition. And this may have an adverse effect on their news values because they need to think about what will sell. There's more to it than promoting moral values.

Still I believe journalists do have a chance, even if slender, to make a difference. Not many professions have the indulgence of an audience directly and consciously patronising their products daily. I guess that's why I'm in it. I want to help people broaden their horizons - let the West see good things happening in the East and vice versa. Let's find practical solutions to problems such as binge-drinking. Let's talk change.

Probably I'm still viewing journalism through rose tinted glasses. As they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Maybe a few years from now I wouldn't be sounding as idealistic.
I know there will be challenges every step of the way. A man reminded me of that when I was out on my patch news hunting. I tried to engage him in some small talk, but the moment he found out I was a student journalist he switched off. 'There are no seedy stories here', he insisted. The truth is, I felt very disappointed he should view me in such a light. Not every journalist chases after yellow stories.

All the same, I still believe journalism is a unique vocation (some people argue it is not a profession). Only time will tell what tune I'll be singing years down the line, and if this childhood dream of mine will live up to expectations...


A big thank you to everyone who has read this blog. Thank you so much for your contributions and comments, you've made my efforts worthwhile.

How we can act against the corruption of children's lives

I love Guardian's Jackie Ashley. Her commentaries are incisive, thought-provoking and poignant. When she delves into issues, her analysis is balanced and refreshingly optimistic. It is reassuring to know not all columnists are itching to bang the gavel judgmentally, condemning and acquitting 'culprits' in their articles.

In Monday's editorial Ashley tackled matters such as binge-drinking, the sexualisation of children and a sag in the reading culture. Her commentary was titled 'Yes, we can act against the corruption of our children's lives'. And she wrote, 'It is possible to turn back the booze culture, bring back some respect for women, ensure that children read well...'

Her piece was brilliant but it fell short of its objectives. The key remedy Ashley offered was government legislation is needed to combat the unremitting problem.

I will argue that the rise in negative social change is connected to the decline in religion. I believe at the root of the issue is a missing link which can be found in Freud's model of the self.

In Freud's model, the self is made up of the super-ego, ego and id. The id are desires we are born with. They are instinctual. The unconscious desires/drives to eat, sleep, enjoy sexual pleasure are inborn. But I also believe one of these inborn desires is the the desire to experience a transcendental connection.

People want to experience something extraordinary, something beyond themselves. And it is this desire for ultimate pleasure that drives them to explore avenues that might not necessarily be beneficial in the long run.
Unfortunately religion these days is brushed aside as 'the opium of the people' in Karl Marx's famous words. In its place is alcohol, romance, sex, shopping, video games etc.
And as long as that is the case, recycled news reports of a 'buy now pay later culture', binge-drinking, sexualisation of children and so on will carry on blighting the news agenda.

Various studies have explored ways people forge transcendental connections following the decline of religion after the Enlightenment. Daniel Miller (1998) argued shopping was not a mere act, it had cosmological foundations. I will not go into laborious detail about Miller's work. But it illustrates ways people reconfigure the transcendental and set up new forms of religion.

In order to stop the dip in morality I believe religion should not be brushed aside but actively encouraged. The government, media, organisations must no longer mute voices of morality. In the old days the society was much healthier, and religion had a place. Today the reverse is the case.

The big problem is, if we want our youths to behave properly we need to give them a model to follow. And that's the gap religion fills in.
Not that the government should coerce every member of the population into a religion. But it is about time to recognise talk alone will not suffice. If you want to curb social damage then people need a benchmark of morality. People need something to believe in. So fill in the moral vacuum and see if it makes a change.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

'Us' versus 'Them'

As the bus bumped up the hill leading home I wished the passenger on the lower deck would stop barking down his mobile - we were in Britain for goodness sake. Typically newspapers were raised over faces, ear phones plugged in, and a few passengers chatted softly. But the man downstairs hollered non-stop ‘It’s a lie! It’s a lie!’ between spurts of Pidgin English. I could tell he was Nigerian.

I wondered how the passengers felt about a guy belting out Pidgin English on a bus in England surrounded by English people speaking in measured tones. If I wasn’t fatigued I probably wouldn’t have minded, after all I’m Nigerian too. but the man also rekindled thoughts about the undying issue of immigration.

This week in Ireland, important personalities conferred to thrash out a resolution to an immigration crisis. Following an economic boom, Ireland opened its doors to immigrants. Suddenly they had to face up to the reality immigrants were not just units of labour. They also needed education, housing and health facilities.

According to the BBC:
‘The most thorough European survey of attitudes to immigration showed that Irish people were averagely well-disposed to foreign workers, neither unusually welcoming nor unusually hostile compared to other EU countries.
‘But ask opinion on a Dublin street corner, and you will hear plenty of individuals whose attitude is decidedly resentful.’

And that’s why immigration is such a thorny issue. Foreigners coming on to your buses and shouting at the top of their voices – disrupting your conservative lifestyle; foreigners forgetting to say please or thank you; invading your personal space; depleting the number of jobs available to the indigenous population; siphoning your resources: claiming benefits, enjoying free access to healthcare, and in some cases, flaming terrorism.
Though it’s not as simple as that, social structures tend to exclude immigrants. That’s why there have been repeated immigrant riots in Paris and elsewhere. Immigrants are not given an equal standing in society.

But people like Margaret Thatcher felt the British way of life was being ‘swamped’ by immigrants. Enoch Powell too in his infamous ‘Rivers of blood’ speech pursued the same line.
Clearly immigration is often worrying to the host country. Host countries are constantly trying to protect their 'culture’. In Japan, for instance, due to labour shortage the government decided to let in second and third generation Japanese Brazilians. The argument was, because they had Japanese blood they would speak the language, understand the culture and integrate more easily. But the experiment doesn’t seem to be going to plan. The immigrants are not taking to their culture like duck to water unfortunately.

Personally I think the hullabaloo over immigration all boils down to identity. People are afraid of losing their identity. Everyone, I believe, has an identity - a sense of location and position - that gives them a sense of belonging. I’m yet to hear someone say I come from nowhere.
When I say I’m Nigerian it means I belong to certain geographical boundaries. It means I belong to the Igbo tribe; I come from Enugu state, and can trace my roots to Nigeria.

And that’s what makes immigration such an explosive issue. People feel territorial because their land gives them an idea of who they are and how they relate to others in the world around them. It gives them a sense of location in the world and provides a link between them and the society they live in. If they lose their land to immigrants, then what becomes of their identity?

Crucially national Identity pinpoints what we have in common and the ways we are different from others who do not share our way of life.

Kathryn Woodard in her book ‘Identity and difference’(2002) argues 'Laying claim to an identity involves the naming of an ''us'' against a ''them'': identity is always an exclusionary practice'

In a nutshell, she contends:

1. We build identity through difference e.g. flags, uniforms etc represent our difference.

2. We maintain identity through social and material conditions. So if a group is marked as the enemy, that will have real effects because the group will be socially excluded and materially disadvantaged.

3. Identity as a concept uses systems of classification by dividing people into two opposing groups ‘us’ and ‘them’.

There are counter-arguments that identity is not fixed, it is always fluid. Think about the various influences on present-day Britain – the Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Romans, Normans…Identity is by no means static. But in an increasingly globalised world where our lives becomes enmeshed, people feel greater urgency to hold on to what they believe is theirs.
My belief is that we can’t help feeling territorial. We can’t help feeling threatened. We will always want to guard what we believe is ours. Who doesn’t feel strongly about their culture and country?

But however hard we fight to cling on, an aphorism still holds true: the only guarantee in life is change and not permanence.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

'World Aids Day' Rant

Attention! About 22.5 million people living with HIV are in Sub-Sahara Africa


Yes, and Indonesia has the fastest growing rate of HIV epidemic

Oh my goodness! What are we going to do?

Take the figures with a pinch of salt of course. Though the said statistics come from a very reputable body – the Almighty UN – it still leaves behind a trail of unanswered questions. First of all how do they collate the statistics? Hands up, I admit many African countries will not win a gong for organisation. If anything, we might be the antithesis of organisation. So where do they harvest their statistics about Aids in Africa/Asia from? They drop into every hospital I suppose counting HIV patients. That’s if the hospital even keeps proper records.

So if you talk about record keeping, it’s a big no- no, then how do they get their statistics?

I am a bit wary of people who present you with convenient sounding figures without verifying their sources. Or maybe its mystery is wrapped in its surreptitiousness.

Happy commemoration!

What is there to commemorate?

Don’t tell me you’re so ignorant. Never heard of World Aids Day?

Oh, that. Well I’m having second thoughts about the whole thing.


Because when they say ‘World’ Aids Day I honestly can’t tell which world they’re referring to. At least that’s the impression I get reading through the various articles on offer from media organisations. In their books the ‘World’ falls into two categories. The first category is the world which is the epicentre of devastation, suffering and dysfunctional systems (South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia appeared in most news reports – since when did the world shrink to these regions?)
In the second category you have organisations mainly from North America and Western Europe taking the recalcitrant HIV bull by the horns. They are the ones fighting to raise awareness and pushing for the availability of drugs. So honestly, I think December 1st should be renamed. World Aids Day is surely not a befitting appellation.

What are your suggestions?

Since it is a case of the developing world being the 'suffering one' and the developed world the 'saviour' churning out initiatives to save the dying world. Maybe we could try America/Europe come to the Aid of HIV-stricken Africa/Asia Day.

That sound’s too long and clumsy. Something more sensational might be fitting


Come on! Keep the sarcasm out of it

Okay okay let’s have an African Malaria Day instead


Food for thought. I won’t elaborate on it.

Isn’t it funny how people can pull out a few statistics and conveniently tuck away the rest?

What do you mean?

You know I was telling you earlier how the World Aids Day focuses on developing regions.


A little mole told me that the developed world have their share of woes

I like a bit of gossip, indulge me.

Hum, it’s ironic but I heard The rate of new cases of HIV/Aids in the UK is one of the highest in the European Union


Yes and the UK has the third highest rate of new infections behind Estonia and Portugal. Sadly though they can still come out self righteous by blaming it on the black African community and gay men

Why am I not surprised? I noticed feature articles commemorating World Aids Day were mainly centred on black faces

True, but I won’t let them off lightly. The little mole also tells me UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe. Do you know there have even been proposals for school girls aged between 12 and 13 to get vaccinated against cervical cancer


Really. Simply put, no one bags the blame for HIV. We are all accomplices. So let's have more equitable reports.

Well spoken, friend, well spoken.

So I’ll end on this note

World Aids Day is a reminder once again of media imperialism. Those who have the means dictate the news agenda

World Aids Day is a reminder once again of McDonaldisation. A country says from December 1st 1988 we will commemorate Aids, not malaria or any other killer diseases, and the ‘world’ follows suit

World Aids Day flags up globalisation. The ever shrinking world growing more and more homogeneous. But concomitantly the chasm between the have’s and have not’s widens.

But I know there’s more to this issue than my simplistic rant explores. All the same, it’s World Aids Day, let’s commemorate!