Monday, May 20, 2024
Ignite the mind.


My Media Journey: Journalism is not a Tea Party, Competence and Integrity Matters – Stella Iyaji, Managing Editor

The Nigeria Media landscape unarguably is a male-dominated field. From the era of Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba published on November 23, 1859 by Rev. Henry Townsend to recent reports that shows men occupy 84% of the top leadership, ownership and decision making positions while women only occupy 16-18% with a seat at the table. It is no wonder women entering the field of media and journalism have their work cut out for them.

In this Special Exclusive Edition of Nigeria Women in Media Project by LightRay Media, we sit down with Stella Iyaji, the Managing Editor at the Daily Trust Newspaper where she also liaise between reporters and management. Her responsibilities cuts across commissioning stories and ensuring they are delivered while constantly monitoring publications in the Daily Trust Newspaper to ensure that are in tandem with the ethics of the profession and core values of the paper. Her work requires that she also liaise between the company and other media organisations and clients, including sorting out trainings and nomination of staff members for training, amongst others. As secretary of the editorial board, she also helps coordinate editorial meetings and editorials.

But what is backstory to Stella Iyaji’s amazing career? We ask her exactly that.


At what point did you discover journalism was going to be your passion and career?

I have always loved to read and write since when I was in primary school. Reading is my hobby and I have a quest for gathering knowledge and information; the quest to always know what is happening around me. I am a natural critical thinker who doesn’t take something just at a surface level. The need to dig deep into issues has always been in me.  However, it was while studying English Language at the university that I knew journalism was for me.

What incident or experience helped pivot the course of your career?

Immediately I started journalism, which was during my service year at the Imo Broadcasting Corporation. Each day presented something new. You never know what to expect, so it was exciting. The adrenaline rush in journalism can not be found in any other profession, in my view. And as I grew into the profession, it got more exciting. So, I will say from the beginning, I knew it was different.

Stella Iyaji: I never imagined that I will be Managing Editor. I never imagined that I would win the Media Trust Chairman’s prize for Integrity, a highly coveted award at the Media Trust Group . . .. I feel very humbled and blessed with the journey so far. It can only be God Almighty. And all of these keep me going, they make me to want to do more.

What were some of the struggles for you in the early stages of your career, and how did you overcome them?

I will say that right from the start, I discerned that the profession was viewed as a male-dominated terrain. So I knew that if I had to grow, I had to work twice as hard. And that was what I did. I never could let myself fail at a task because I didn’t want to be perceived as not good enough, and that put pressure on me. I made sure I gave my all to each task. It was not a walk in the park.

Do you still have any current challenges you’re trying to overcome?

No, not at all. I no longer have those challenges, except of course the usual day-to-day grind or unexpected things that could crop up in day-day activities.

 Would you say there’s any barrier preventing you from hitting the career target you’ve set for yourself?

Actually, I think I have hit my career target. I say this because my target was just to be very good at my job and at the top. And, today, I can tell you that I am very good at my job.

Any career projections you’re still considering?

(She pauses). Career projection…hmmm. At this point, I am almost at the peak of my career, so I pray to get to the peak. Then, I want to start grooming young journalists. I want to teach all that I have learnt on the job, because for me, nothing beats giving out knowledge from a practical perspective.

What training programmes or short courses have you attended, which you applied on the job that made the most impact for you? 

I have attended a lot of training in the course of my job, as my company places emphasis on training and re-training of staff members.

What suggestions will you give media owners or heads of media business to help boost morale, effectiveness, and reduce toxicity in the workplace?

My advice to media owners will be to always place premium on competence. I am a beneficiary of that policy. Media companies should encourage people who are ready to work and give them due recognition. Promote people who deserve promotion. Do not place people in positions based on requirements other that competence. There were times I got recognitions/ awards I did not even see coming. But that made me understand that people are watching. Also, they should pay staff as and when due.

Stella Iyaji: Gaining additional skills in very important. If you are working for print, learn to write for the online, learn to work for television, even radio. That is the only way to longevity in the industry.  For the media houses, be known for something: is it factual reports, documentaries, features, etc. You must do something that separates you from others.

Were you to reimagine your career, what would you do differently, starting today?

Actually, there is nothing I will want to do differently. It has been a beautiful and fulfilling ride so far.

How would you describe the media landscape and the disruptions that will affect the role of Women and men in the media industry?

The media landscape has changed and anyone who wants to be in the industry must learn to think outside the box. He/ she must be ready to work across platforms. Gaining additional skills in very important. If you are working for print, learn to write for the online, learn to work for television, even radio. That is the only way to longevity in the industry.  For the media houses, be known for something: is it factual reports, documentaries, features, etc. You must do something that separates you from others.

How and what can women in media begin to do differently and better to hold their own space within the media industry?

Sadly, the profession is still tilted towards the men. The women have to prove themselves that they can do it before they are taken seriously. Therefore, women must show by their work that they deserve a seat at the table. Journalism is one area where competence does not hide, just as incompetence is very visible. So, only your work can speak for you and women must recognize that right from the beginning. As women in journalism, you cannot afford to think that anything will be given to you on a platter. Don’t forget, it’s a business for the owners and only those who can deliver will be allowed to handle certain duties.

Tell us about some of your accomplishments that continues to inspire you to do more?

Hmmm. Well, some of my accomplishments…? I never imagined that I would be Managing Editor. I never imagined that I would win the Media Trust Chairman’s Prize for Integrity, a highly coveted award at the Media Trust Group. And before now, being Deputy Editor of the Daily Trust on Sunday and Deputy Editor of the Daily Trust. Only recently, I was named among the 25 most influential female journalists in Nigeria. I feel very humbled and blessed with the journey so far. It can only be God Almighty. And all of these keep me going. They make me want to do more.

Any tips in personal development, career pursuit, network strategies, and wealth creation you would advise other women in media, including men, to tap into?

I will advise journalists to read a lot and enjoy the job. This job is tasking, so for you to do it well, you must love it. There are days you will be in the newsroom at 3:00am. There are days the paper is about to go to press and something will break and it, and it changes everything. You then have to stop the press and start working on the story that just broke. Only passion gets you through such days. Not to mention special periods like elections where you prepare like you are about to go to war, because coverage and production of news at that point is like a marathon – but this is different from an actual marathon – because you really don’t know how long it will last. Election could start, it could get cancelled in some areas, it will be rescheduled, etc. You are expected to be on top of it all. So, my major tip to journalists or aspiring journalist, love the job because it is not a tea party. However, it is very rewarding, as you get to know things before others and you are able to provide information that is needed. You are also able to hold people to account for their actions and in the process cause change.

Stella Iyaji: Gaining additional skills in very important. If you are working for print, learn to write for the online, learn to work for television, even radio. That is the only way to longevity in the industry.  For the media houses, be known for something: is it factual reports, documentaries, features, etc. You must do something that separates you from others.

How do you balance your personal life, work, and family expectations?

This is a tough one because often times I cannot attend family functions, although I always send my apologies. And whenever I have time, I make up for it.  I try as much as possible to use the little time available for friends and family.

Tell us something about the media industry you would like to see change for the better?

I will like to see the media taken more seriously. I will like to see government treat the media as partners in the Nigeria project. Individuals and the government should not see media practitioners as enemies, who want to do harm, but people who are out there to inform and correct ills.

In the next 3-5 years, where do you see yourself?

I will like to be at a higher position in the profession.

Now, a little tease: how do you relax, unwind, or de-stress from a mentally demanding job?

(She wears a girlish smile). Well, I watch movies a lot, read novels a lot as well. I also work out. Actually, exercise is what keeps me sane and whenever I’m stressed, I go for a run!

Written by ERU.

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