Lucy Danjuma Chindaba graduated as an Economist with high hopes of working in a bank or Accounts Department of any organization she would find herself. That dream was seemingly dashed as she found herself in the Newsroom as a Journalist. However, with over 20 years practicing as a Journalist, she says with all excitement: I love every bit of my being here!
My name is Lucy Danjuma Chindaba. I was born on the 23rd of April, 1967 in Dilla village Pankshin Local Government Council of Plateau State, North Central Nigeria.
I started my primary school at St. Thomas Primary School, Sabongari Kano, in Kano State, North West, Nigeria after which I went to Federal Government College, Odogbolu, in Ogun State, South West, Nigeria. Then I proceeded to School of Preliminary Studies, Keffi, Nasarawa state in North Central Nigeria after which I went to the University of Jos, in Plateau State, Nigeria where I obtained a B. Sc Economics.
My hobbies include reading, watching movies, making friends, among others. I am a Civil Servant working with the Plateau State government in one of its parastatals – the Plateau Publishing Corporation, publishers of the Nigeria Standard Newspapers as a journalist. I am the Business and Economy editor of the paper.
I am a member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and was a two term National Secretary of the female arm, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ).
What has been your experience in journalism?
My experience in journalism has been wonderful, though of course there are always challenges wherever you find yourself. Initially I did not train or want to be a journalist even though I always admired them and their work. I used to love seeing them cast news, present their reports and the likes of them but it never crossed my mind that I will one day be one of them. But when I applied to my place of work and I was employed, I went to see the then General Manager Sir Joseph Ari, and he said to me: ‘I know you read economics but I will not post you to the accounts department, I am sending you to the news room’. I said news room? And he said yes! That something tells him I will do well there and that was how I came into the journalism profession. Now more than 20 years down the line what can I say: I love every bit of my being here. I have a lot to talk about my being in this profession but most important thing is the fact that you keep people abreast with happenings around be it entertaining, informing, educating, or whatever it is makes you feel good that you are contributing something to your community and society at large.
What are your interests and how has practicing satisfied these?
Well, my interests so far has been in the area of women and children issues. And I must say some level of progress has been achieved as there is now more attention towards women and children’s issues the entire globe. For example, even in the journalism profession there has been a shift in the traditional way it was perceived that it was a male dominated profession, today you see that that is not the case. There are quite a number of women now in journalism and the stereotype associated with women only covering health, women and children issues has since changed as women now cover a wide range of beats spanning sports, crime and judiciary, and the likes of them.
What constraints make your job more difficult?
The constraints that make my job difficult is basically associated with the fact that I work in a government owned media which is characterised by self censorship and reporting mostly government activities in and around the state. For example in the political dispensation that we are in it is difficult to publicise the opinions and activities of political opponents of the serving government as they are always seen and referred to as the opposition. There is also the issue of working tools as government parastatal such as my office are not financially equipped to handle some of the purchases needed to make the office operate optimally. For instance imagine a newspaper house without a functional Wifi, I mean how can you perform well when everything has now gone digital, with news breaking per second. Also, lack of adequate training and retraining, or upgrading of our skills as journalists to keep up with contemporary practice in the profession, is a big challenge. These are just a few out of the problems and challenges we face as journalists in this part of the world.
Could you please compare the practice years ago and what is obtainable now?
Well, you cannot compare. There are quite a number of differences. One thing stands out; technology has made a lot of differences in the practice now and before. In those days we used to go for assignments, write with notepads or record with a recorder and then come back and write our stories, hand written, you transcribe and then take it to the news editor, he edits and takes it to the typist who uses a type writer to type and then it is taken back to the proof readers who then proof read make corrections and then when the final copy is made it is taken to the paste up artist who then arranges the stories and puts the pictures, etc. all that takes a whole lot of time and energy and the likes of them. But all that has been made easy with technological advancement, such as the internet, as these have continued to be veritable sources of news and information to both Nigerians at home and abroad. I remember when I was in India for studies it was easy to get news from home as you find the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), AIT, Channels, etc. online, so it was as good as reading a Nigerian newspaper. Much of the task being carried out then, is done faster now, saves time and energy. The major difference is speed and timeliness. But there is also the fact that it has made some journalists a bit lazy. You find out that nowadays journalists do not do much of investigative journalism as most of the information can be found on the internet so journalists prefer to copy and paste rather than go through the rigours of investigating themselves.
What is your assessment of Journalism standard and press freedom in your country and Africa at large?
Well on journalism standard and press freedom, to a certain extent our journalism standard is not really where it should be, it has fallen, and as for press freedom there is some relative freedom but not fully. This is because whether we like it or not you cannot compare the standard here in Nigeria or even Africa as a whole to that of what obtains in the developed countries. One way or the other there is always some form of compromise either to favour one party or the other for personal reasons. I remember attending a workshop about two years ago and it was realised that most journalists write their reports from a perspective of giving their own personal opinion and not really what the public needs to know. And linking it with press freedom one can say there is relative freedom in Nigeria but in countries like Gambia, that is another story altogether. In Nigeria as it is, the press cannot be said to be completely free, this is because with Nigeria being in a democracy, most of the stories carried in the newspapers are in favour of the government in power with little or nothing on the opposition as some who have dared to do that have either ended up in jail and in some cases even killed as in the case of people like Dele Giwa and many others. So in other to play safe journalists end up compromising. Ownership of media organizations in Nigeria and across the continent has interfered with the standards of professionalism in journalism.
Looking at professionalism and ethics, what could be done to maintain best practices in the region?
Most journalists in Nigeria do not adhere to the ethics of the profession, more so now that every jack and Jill who wakes up and does not have a job, the next thing you hear is that the person is a journalist. So many people are just starting media houses because they have the money and do not know where else to invest it and so they either start up a magazine, a newspaper or radio, television as a business so in a case like that where does professionalism or ethics come in? There are a lot of things that can be done to maintain best practices; one of them is to get training from older or experienced journalists or journalists in advanced countries. The issue of media ownership needs to be looked into, which in most cases encourages self censorship, media patronage, amongst others.
The emergence of the internet provides a great opportunity for media development and a daunting challenge to best practices in journalism, what’s your take?
There is no doubt that new media technologies have transformed journalism practice as the internet provides access to a whole lot of information. Like I said earlier, the emergence of the internet has been a blessing and continued to be a veritable source of news and information and has made research and other writings much easier but it also has its own challenges. For instance the issue of citizen journalism has turned everybody with a smart phone into a journalist and there is little or no way of authenticating the information that has been uploaded. And because people are now hungry for the latest news whatever breaking news they see they begin to share and before you know it has gone viral with or without a viable source and because of the speed with which this is done, it is now very difficult to retract some of this information when the damage has already been done. Journalists need to go back to the drawing board; let professional journalists take hold of the internet space and ensure that authentic information is put on the net so that people are able to know the true situation of things on any subject matter.
How do you see the future of news (fusion of the traditional and new media) and its implication for the traditional news media in your country and Africa at large?
For a long time, there has been a debate about the impact of the rise of internet technology on traditional news media, such as newspapers. A fusion of the traditional and new media will be a good combination as the traditional ways of getting, sourcing news materials by either one on one interviews, being on ground to talk with the people, can still be adapted to make it authentic and can also leverage on the wide audience of the new media, its wide source of online information, its speed and even the audience participation advantage that the new media offer can be a source of new opportunities for journalists by offering possibility of enhancing their work. Most journalists in Nigeria have since caught the burg of the internet; however there are still quite a number of journalists that have decided to stick with the traditional media as they have little or no knowledge on how to even use a computer or laptop.
What is the most important thing an upcoming journalist should know?
To answer this question I will quote from the Nigeria Press Council code of ethics for journalist. “Journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. In the exercise of these duties, a journalist should always have a healthy regard for the public interest. Truth is the cornerstone of journalism and every journalist should strive diligently to ascertain the truth of every event.”
Conscious of the responsibilities and duties of journalists as purveyors of information, it is the duty of every journalist to observe its provisions, therefore for every upcoming journalist the code of ethics for professional journalists issued by the Nigerian press council is a good starting point as it serves as a guide or manual for one to succeed.
What sacrifices have you had to make to succeed in the field of journalism, and do you feel the sacrifices were worth it?
Well, for one to succeed in anything in this life you have to make sacrifices. One major sacrifice I made was that because I had read Economics in the University, I wanted to either work in the bank or in the accounts department of any office, but like I mentioned above the then General Manager thought otherwise and here I am today although I am the Business and Economy editor of the newspaper. I remember when I started working as a journalist, because of the old system of news gathering, reporting and all that, we used to go for assignments, go back to the office to file the report and before you know it you are closing from the office very late. And as a woman, I have a family to take care of and it is not easy combining these responsibilities, so in the process one side must suffer at some point or the other because you will not always be in control of what happens. So my family suffered at the beginning but with time I was able to come up with something that ensures no side suffers at the expense of the other. Apart from that when I was serving as the National Secretary of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, I used to travel a lot going from one state to the other and even to some African countries, my family suffered in my absence as I remember one particular incidence when my daughter was not picked from school and she had to stay till evening before the school principal brought her back home, in fact she just reminded me of the incident recently. So basically it was my family I sacrificed, but am happy all that is over now that I have found a balance.