Last Saturday (January 11, 2020), the Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ) of the University of Ilorin, under the leadership of Eze Glory Chika, organised its Annual Induction Ceremony where scores of fresh students and sophomores took oaths to belong to the Union. It was really impressive that fresh students would be screened and only those who were qualified to be members were admitted, a practice of recent years that departs radically from the past when membership was an all-comers affair.
Asked to deliver a keynote address on “Campus Journalism: Ethics and Codes of the Profession”, I noted that I would focus on issues that I considered relevant to them while not totally departing from their theme. Therefore, apart from congratulating them on taking a good step in the university, I emphasised how being student writers and campus journalists would positively impact on their communication skills, examinations and education as well as their current and future leadership roles.
As I deposed, there is no doubt that human beings are the best of the entire creation. This fact is largely predicated on one endowment that only human beings have: language. Though other creatures communicate one way or another, only humans have the ability to use language. So, it is language that makes us unique and sets our species apart from the rest.
The most important function of language is communication and it has five skills that must be developed by anyone who wants to succeed in life, regardless of discipline: listening, speaking, reading, writing and reasoning, with the last encompassing the first four that are usually acknowledged, traditionally. It is when these skills are galvanised that one can function maximally and be accomplished in the current Information Age. It is also with these skills that one becomes full, ready and exact in dealing with life challenges in line with Francis Bacon’s thesis: “reading makes a full man; conference, a ready man; and writing, an exact man.”
Therefore, as one attains exactitude at the level of writing, though one becomes ready at conferences, where listening and speaking hold sway, and emerges full with reading, it is very important that one takes writing seriously. This is where journalism, “the work of collecting, writing and publishing news stories and articles in newspapers and magazines or broadcasting on them on the radio and television or releasing them on the internet” comes in. Campus journalism is practised by students.
Journalism derives from the French “journal” (daily publication), itself a word originating from the Latin “diurnal” (daily). As a matter of fact, the first newspaper ever, “Acta Diurna” (Daily Events), was a handwritten bulletin put in the public square of the ancient Rome to keep people informed about the previous day’s activities of the Empire. Journalism, which serves to inform, educate, entertain, challenge or set agenda for the society, is highly rewarding though if your intention is money, you misfire. This of course does not imply that being a journalist is signing a covenant with poverty because many professional and citizen journalists, not to talk of bloggers, are rich!
Journalism is life and everyone should live it. This is because its principles are relevant to making life more meaningful, peaceful and fulfilling. The cardinal principles of truth, objectivity, balance and fairness that undergird journalism are not only good for journalists but also for everyone. In fact, that many journalists lack the five principles of ethical journalism, which are truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity and accountability, is responsible for the predominance of fake news, slanted stories, sensational reports and biased reportage that fuel conflict and compromise peaceful coexistence in our society.
Nevertheless, it is crucial that campus journalists appreciate that they are primarily students and that attaining academic excellence is their primary assignment in every institution. At every stage in life, there is a primary assignment. Campus journalism is practised usually within the available institutional framework since absolute freedom does not exist anywhere.
So, if you want to be the next Sowore and you launch your “Revolution Now” against your campus “constituted authority”, that is courageous, and you certainly need courage to be a journalist, but just be prepared to be a hero while your mates are graduates!