Written by Cletus Offor of Olisa.tv
The last two weeks have been terrible for journalism in Nigeria. Yes, I know what you are thinking: “Was there ever a time that was good for journalism in Nigeria?” Well, it wouldn’t do to go into what many say was the golden decades of Nigerian journalism, that time before the Millennium when excellence was the mantra of many a pen pusher. These days, as any truth speaker knows, journalism can comfortably be said to dwell in the gutters around here.
See ehn, there is no point playing the ostrich. I’ve been a journalist for seven years and a handful of moons. Let’s tell the truth, most of what we call journalism around here are unmitigated trash. In the last two weeks particularly, we have been treated to embarrassing displays by journalists who have come to embody the dearth of professionalism in the sector.
First, it was Azuka Ogujiuba making a complete dog’s meal of the interview with Tiwa Savage. The interviewer was so devoid of passion that you wouldn’t be blamed if you made the mistake of thinking Tiwa was talking to a life-size doll. I’m one of those who believes so much more could have obtained from that interview if it had been expertly handled.
Some say the interview was stage managed; a PR masterclass, and this would explain why Azuka was that passive. I cannot confirm this, but even if it were true, the affair though bleak, wasn’t a funeral, was it?
Azuka’s performance is also a lesson in knowing your limits. No matter how hard you try, you cannot possibly do everything. Azuka is perhaps one of the most influential entertainment journalists around but she is a trained print journalist. She is not a broadcaster. Even if she had helped to facilitate the interview, there is no rule that says she must be the one to conduct it. Pulse, who ran the interview, has a crop of excellent onscreen journalists. Azuka should have allowed one of them to handle the interviewer. It would not take anything from her, really. And if she wanted it, she could be given credit as the facilitator.
While we were still dissecting the disaster that Azuka’s performance was, I woke up yesterday morning to yet another terrible performance from another journalist. It was the interview of singer Omawunmi on the programme, “Da Chat” by Zinnia. The interview was so disastrous I felt moved to scratch out the interviewer’s fake accent through my computer screen.
The interviewer, Zinnia, probably woke up on the morning of the interview, painted her lips, applied eyeliner, did her hair, practised her fake accent, but forgot to enrich her brain.
From the moment she opened her mouth, one just knew she did not do any research before walking into the studio.
How could a journalist get the opportunity to interview an A-lister and the first real question she could muster was one about the paternity of the artiste’s child. To say I was shocked would be euphemistic. Questions in my mind included: Are Ogbanjes doing meeting in your head? Did you chew a fat stem of Osun igbo before the interview?
Yet Omawunmi though obviously pissed off by her line of questioning controlled her emotions nicely and responded in a charitable manner but not before clearly warning her that she would not tolerate that manner of questioning. But this interviewer was deaf to gentle rebuke.
The interview suddenly had the trappings of an inquisition. There were no real questions about her career, what she was doing at the moment etc. instead she proceeded to ask her why she has not had collaborations with artistes from around the continent – a question that actually exposed her as a proper Olodo, because as Omawunmi pointed out, she has had a recent collaboration with two of the biggest names in African entertainment, The multiple Grammy award winning performer, Angelique Kidjo, and Selif Keita.
Of course, our interviewer didn’t know about this. Because she never bothered to do the most basic of research before the interview. It became clear that all she wanted was to scandalise the singer when she continued with her vexatious probing.
She went on to set a trap for her guest Omawunmi, by first asking her if she believed she should be a role model to young people. When apparently she didn’t get the response she was expecting, she moved in with the most demeaning thing I’ve heard on TV recently by trying to tie the singer’s alleged drinking and smoking habit to her ability(or inability) to be a good mother!
Of course, the singer gave her a piece of her mind and a thorough dressing down before walking out on her.
We could tell that she never expected the clap back from the artiste because hard as she tried to hide her embarrassment with her faux accent and plastic smile, one could see that she was dying inside.
You are the host of an entertainment show, not an investigative programme, digging into the misconduct of public officials or crooked businessmen. You should fashion your questions to reflect that. She is a private citizen, and you have no right to dig into her privacy more than she allowed you; on national TV.
Besides, what kind of journalist bases her entire interview on rumours?
What Zinnia has done is effectively sabotage her own show. Now tell me which self-loving artiste or entertainer will agree to come to her show after that debacle. Asking silly questions has never made any journalist a star, instead asking well-researched questions in line with the theme of your programme make you appear more professional and eventually successful.