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Friday, December 7, 2012

FINANCIAL JOURNALISM IN NIGERIAN NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY


   The word 'Journal' gave rise to journalism, 'capital' to capitalism, 'social' to socialism and so on and so forth. But, while capitalism and socialism denote a general movement or a system, Journalism refers to a career, a profession that according to its dictionary meaning connote ‘the work of collecting and writing news stories for newspapers, magazines, radio, television and indeed the internet. Though, most online reporters or writers prefer the name blogger, to mean that they maintain an online web journal accessible to everyone with internet access, or that they have more freedom to write what is on their minds, and the fact that they are not limited by the stringent rules and censorship that is found in both the print and electronic media. It also means that they are moving with the changing world, the era of globalisation that witnessed the rise of modern technology and herald the demise of less sophisticated technologies and systems. But, not every body welcome the century of 'citizen journalist' in particular and social media in general, many old journalists who practiced their trade in a period when the internet is no more than a means of sending and receiving messages see social media as threat to the profession of journalism as they knew it. One of such old school journalist is chief Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun state as well as former managing Director of the defunct Daily Times, who sees the business of social media as “jungle practice”. In his speech during the national convention of the Nigerian institute of Journalism alumni association (NIJAA) in Abeokuta (Sunday 1st December), Osoba rises alarm over what he sees as the growth of social media who poses a threat to the practice of journalism. He observed that some of the practitioners of this internet journalism know nothing about journalism, and therefore, called on the authorities to censor them. But, the real threat to the practice of journalism are people with a mindset such as that of Osoba, because changes such as the one brought by information technology are inevitable, is either you go with it or you perished as many industries have seen. And, Osoba need to be reminded that you cannot censor the freedom of speech in the internet era, as regimes such as that of communist China and Mubarak’s Egypt have seen.


    Coming back to the central topic of this piece as announced in the title, financial journalism still lag behind general journalism that comprises aspects such as political reporting and current affairs. This to me can be attributed to the following factors, shallow grasp of financial literature in particular and economics in general on the part of the journalist, Mathematic-phobia (fear of numeracy), lack of interest on the part of Nigerian public on business and economic news due to poverty and low literacy, scarcity of standard economic and financial newspapers and magazines, poor training and coordination between major economic institutions in the country such as CBN, NDIC, SEC, NSE, economic departments of Nigerian universities and the financial reporters, lack of interest on the part of academicians and professionals economics on economic and financial journalism leaving the business in the hand of amateurs, and finally, media owners lack of interest to invest substantial money in the field. This goes contrary to what obtains in the developed countries where economic and financial journalism is as strong as general journalism competing with it in every aspect. The economic and financial literacy rate in those countries is higher than anything you will expect to get from a country like Nigeria making it easy for papers that cover finance to prosper. The fact that professional economists show much interest in financial journalism there, have contributed to their successes. One of the world best know weekly magazines The Economist of London that started publication from September 1843, has economics, business and finance as it  central themes. Other major international titles includes, Financial Times of London, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes Magazine, and Fortune. As Nigerian economy grow at higher rate, the complexity in the working of the different sectors of the economy is bound to increase making it difficult for reporters with poor Economic and Finance background to comprehend it well, thereby failing to report it properly. In order to avoid this problem there is urgent need for the recruitment of people with economic background as finance and business reporters. Second is the extensive training of the existing financial reporters on the working of more advance economies and complex financial engineering.


   An average Nigerian newspaper usually carries three to five pages of business and financial news, this will not allow for deeper analysis and wider coverage of the happenings in the business world. A lot of the coverage of the reports are limited to news of conferences, annual meetings, and press releases from corporate organisations including a table showing the transactions on the floor of the Nigerian stock exchange. But, what is most needed pertaining to expert analysis of business, economics and financial news is scanty, only seen occasionally and in most cases lack rigor and technical grasp of major findings from world renown economic journals. With the exception of such Nigerian daily newspapers as Businessday, which is a business and finance paper, most papers lack dedicated economic and finance columns with expert contributions. Hardly will you find a good economist, like a university professor being allocated a column where he makes regular contributions on economics and finance. On the part of the Nigerian academic economists there is this tendency to look at newspaper contributions as less than the minimum in his field, preferring to feed his ingenuity and vast knowledge to professional journals whose circulation is limited to the professionals in the field. But, professional economist contributing to newspapers and magazines is the norm rather than the exception in other parts of the world. Some of the world most renowned economists in the world with Nobel Prize to their credit are regular columnist in newspapers and magazines. Most prominent example here is the late Professor Paul Samuelson the first American and the second person in the world to win Nobel Prize, who maintains a regular column in Businessweek. Samuelson is a true financial journalist par excellence who contributed a lot to the development of the field apart from his globally recognized contributions to almost all the major areas of economics from econometrics, mathematical economics, macro and micro economics, to consumer theory. Paul Krugman, another Nobel laureate and Professor of economics at Princeton University, contributed a weekly column to the New York Times and monthly column for Fortune magazine.

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