INTERVIEW: How Technology Has Changed Doing Media and Being a Journalist- Lekan Otufodunrin
Lekan Otufodunrin is the Executive Director of Media Career Development network, he was former Managing Editor at The Nation Newspaper.
He is a media development expert.
In this interview with TECHMIRROR Magazine, he speaks on how Technology has shapened doing media, his evolution to ICT and what Technology means for media business going forward.
TechMirror: For many years, you have been in the media field, how has it been?
Lekan: It has been a very fulfilling experience especially because I set out to be a journalist from my secondary school days and read Mass Communication in the University. Working in some media organisations, especially The Punch and The Nation gave me lot of opportunities which have enhanced my career up till now that I’m into media career development.
TechMirror: The technology and information Technology field has evolved over the years, how has it changed doing media?
Lekan: Yes it has significantly particularly with the tools we use, how we source information and how we publish or broadcast. I remember being a correspondent for The Punch in Ogun State in late 80s and I had to send stories to Lagos using radio or analogue telephone to dictate every word of my reports. Yes, every word and when the person at the Lagos end can’t hear a word, I will be asked to spell out each letter. So, for Ogun, I will need to say O for Oscar, G for God, U for uniform and N for Nigeria.
There were no mobile phones or internet. Today, so much has changed. There is internet, email, mobile phone and many digital tools that have significantly changed the media landscape and the way the media operates.
News rooms used to have a typing pool with reporters submitting handwritten reports that will be typed. We have really come a long way
TechMirror: Many newsrooms are harping on Digital skills while recruiting journalists, would this not affect quality of reportage?
Lekan: No, it should not. What is required is that anyone who wants to be a journalist in this age should have relevant digital skills without which he or she may not be able to do the job effectively.
While digital skills will not make up for the ability for practical journalism skills of knowing how to report for example, it is necessary to know how to use new media more than ever before. Employers may however have to provide trainings for good journalists who do not have digital skills. Quality of reportage can only be better, not less with use of digital tools.
TechMirror: How do you source relevant information online when necessary if you don’t have digital skills. How do you amplify your stories online if all you only know how to do is just report?
Lekan: While some organization can afford to have separate digital staff, many now will prefer to have those who have the combined skills to maximize cost and get the best leverage for their publications.
TechMirror: Many journalists who started doing media before ICT came into Nigeria find it difficult blending into social media, how did you fit into the ICT?
Lekan: I was fortunate to have caught the bug early when new tech was being introduced to media operations. I was curious and learnt how to use the tools. This gave me the opportunity to attend a three-month Advanced Journalism training in Thomson Foundation in Cardiff, United Kingdom.
After the training, where I had a desktop computer to myself and signed up for my first email address, I used the skills and have been updating my knowledge regularly. I have been very active online as journalism practice now has to be multi-media.
TechMirror: Many persons say the Social media has affected doing media negatively, do you share this sentiment?
Lekan: Normally, social media is supposed to be complimentary as it helps to enhance the reach of traditional media. However with the opportunity for as many people to share any information they want to on social media, the platforms are being misused by some persons.
The social media has indeed broken the monopoly of the traditional media in sharing major information, but there is nothing we can do about it. What I think is that more professional journalists should effectively use the social media and become the real influencers there instead of leaving the space to people who misuse it. If that is where many people get their information, we must meet them there.
TechMirror: Online websites are fast taking over news houses, where does this leave print newspapers?
Lekan: It leaves the print media at a disadvantaged position where their usual readers have many other sources of information and don’t need to read hard copies. Even for legacy newspapers that have websites, their content are offered free and they have to understand how to make more online revenue.
My personal projection is that with time, some print media may have to suspend their print editions, while a few strong ones will still be around for some time to come. For how long?, I don’t know. They also have the option of taking their online operations more seriously instead of just seeing it as an appendage without enough investment in it.
TechMirror: Would investigative journalism have been prominent this way without technology?
Lekan: Definitely not. Technology has enhanced sourcing information and making impact with investigative journalism. It has made it easy for as many platforms as possible to publish investigations that have demanded accountability from relevant authorities.
TechMirror: How can young journalists become relevant in the age of Digital journalism?
Lekan: Simple. Get trained as a professional journalist and master the use of digital tools. You have to be passionate about using journalism for the right purpose and report on issues that affects the generality of the people. They must acquire necessary experience and take on major assignments that can make their journalism impactful.
TechMirror: How has media career development network helped journalists evolve into Technology inclined reporting?
Lekan: As a media career development organization, we have constantly drawn attention to the need for journalists to update their knowledge about modern media practice to remain relevant in the profession. We publicise training opportunities and also organize some. During the Coronavirus lockdown, we supported some journalists to participate in various webinar and from the feedbacks we got, they learnt a lot about using new technology to enhance their reporting.
TechMirror: With Technology, where does this leave the Nigerian media in next few years?
Lekan: Like any sector of human endeavor, technology will keep improving on how things are done and this will include the media. The media will need to adapt and innovate with technology to serve their audience better. It’s a adapt or die option for the traditional media and option is theirs.