Was journalism a path you wanted to explore?
First of all, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity. That’s a really thoughtful question. I think I have always known but I didn’t just know there is a name for whatever I wanted to do. I just report what is happening and make sure it’s always media for development for me. I just decided to report what’s happening and figure out the people who needed to hear the stories could hear them and that has just been a priority for me until when I get into the university. I had passed the interview in my first year, I was curious and then I passed. There was an interview for Assistant Editor in Chief position, which doubled as the managing editor and I passed the interview and that just solidified it for me: what Journalism was and what I wanted to do.
My first year all along, I have been telling stories but nobody could really explain what it was all about and I was just a nobody. People who read the news, those who wrote in the papers and I can’t just get how to get into it. I was studying Communication and my first year was my first experience in a newsroom and that could solidify for me that this is what I really want to do with my life.
Have you in any way experienced sexual harassments, online harassment, or threat to life on the job? Any solutions to drastically reducing this?
I have definitely faced all forms of harassments and threats to life. I don’t want to talk about it because I am very careful about it being the headline of my career. Female journalists face this daily and we always have to make tough choices between leaving the profession, staying on and reporting your abusers or in cases where they are too powerful, finding other legal means of justice or coping. We need more spaces where female journalists can speak up without fear of being blacklisted or shut down. There are no tips around harassment except to say that we need stronger anti-harassment laws.
When did it strike you profoundly that your job was no longer just about showing up?
I have never really seen my job as something I show up at, the reason is: journalism is not like the profession that makes you the richest person in the world. For me, it was really critical especially when I joined the News Agency of Nigeria. It was really critical that I was sure within myself that this is what I wanted to do. I think it dawned on me how important it is that journalists write for people and advocate for them and tell the story that needed to be told.
In my third year, I had written a community development story that had raised a very important conversation in the community where my university was (Samuel Adegboyega University, Edo State). Just the process of helping people to understand what was going on and just giving meaning to something you are trying to understand. Beyond just covering the news, just developing media to a place where that access in which people don’t really have the information that helps them make better decisions, just that access to helping people, I have realised that media is their friend and is there to help them, I knew that is what I wanted to do.
I have had to go from been a reporter to be an investigative journalist, to be a data journalist which is like my core profession is data journalism. I’ve had to be like a media manager and currently a media business operator. I had to do this pivot but at different places in my career because the most important thing for me is that stories have to be told. The right stories have to be told. The right people have to be telling the story. The industry just has to be the place that supports those who tell the stories. We have to expand and cover the very important nuances and all of these need development. So I needed to go through the roadside. I like to joke with my team members about that. There is hardly anything in journalism that I haven’t done and right now, there is hardly anything in media that I haven’t had to do.
So far, I’m developing a story to audience’s engagement, finding money, managing to craft, and expanding and so I pivoted that every time I felt like there is something I needed to learn and I haven’t learned, I just went and get the certification for it, and practice day and night, just to figure it out.
And that is what happens, I find used cases and case studies in the places I want to build up in the industry. I just figure out how to learn those things as much as possible.
Any struggles or challenges you’ve experienced in your career?
Struggles I had was at the beginning of my career. I think just not being taken seriously was a big one because I started with entertainment journalism after university and then, a lot of people see entertainment journalism as not serious, especially within the industry. Then, it was really difficult to break through and I pioneered the use of data in reporting Nollywood that was a big project I needed to show the industry that we can report entertainment in such a deep way, that it is not just about project announcement.
I think another challenge is like having men take decisions for you based on what they think that as a woman you will be more comfortable with. I have always resisted that so much in my career. Don’t take decisions for me, don’t assign me to a beat because you think or see me merely as a woman, and so, that’s where it will work for me.
It’s also a struggle of trying to find a balance between telling stories and trying to manage the stakeholders involved in the story. But in terms of overcoming them, I learnt very quickly how to stand up for myself, how to navigate and be clear unlike what it is I wanted with people and what is it they should expect from me. And when you make these distinctions very early, people will call you names like that person is difficult. But everyone is clear about what they can bring in front of you and what they can’t. I wish more women in the profession are very clear about, it because if you let people decide, they will tell you what they think your career should be.
Currently, my challenges are more focused on scale. I’m obsessed with media scale. Like how does a scale get bigger, how does it run more efficiently and expand better. As a professional, the challenge I have is I don’t know why a lot of people don’t understand why I don’t want to be an investigative journalist full-time anymore. I think it’s jjust a male perspective thing. But I also realise that there is a lot of work to be done to teach people that the business of media matters and it matters because you need the right model to do the work that needs to be done. So, I’m trying to overcome this by teaching, like I enjoy teaching a lot.
Anita Eboigbe: Female journalists face this daily and we always have to make tough choices between leaving the profession, staying on and reporting your abusers or in cases where they are too powerful, finding other legal means of justice or coping. We need more spaces where female journalists can speak up without fear of being blacklisted or shut down. There are no tips around harassment except to say that we need stronger anti-harassment laws. PC: Anita.
Another big challenge is finding time. They don’t teach a lot of us most times how to balance work and finding time for ourselves. I’m like a balance advocate, always trying to figure out how to do the best possible work in the most efficient way, how to find the pleasures of life so that we don’t look back and all we can remember is all that we struggled to do.
Do you feel there were other barriers you had to navigate due to the nature of the job?
I don’t look at things that look like barriers in the profession. It’s either it’s not for me, or it’s not yet time or I’m not qualified for it and it’s okay. I’m not afraid to shoot for the moon, shoot for the stars. I can always acknowledge when I’m not qualified for something yet and do the work to be qualified for it and then try again.
I’m not so great as a technical target, which a lot of people find strange considering that people will say I have had a pretty great run in the media space. And it is also because I recognise the career as a wing that you prepare immensely for, like you figure out what has to be done and then you push through to get it done, and that opens another frontier. I have pioneered a lot of things in the industry, so my career target, I have paved paths which I haven’t seen people pave and for me, it’s the best challenge I have had to do as my career target. I hardly see people in the Nigeria space do them. I have to figure some of these out on my own, do them by learning across the aisle, or by doing them by unconventional learning, unconventional experimentation to get ahead of them.
What training programmes or course path did you pursue with a view to help you pivot, scale or leverage?
I have an MBA from Ahmadu Bello University. I had wanted to do Masters in Media development, then I realised it did not quite capture what I wanted to do in the industry. I wanted to find an intersection between business structures and models, stability models and the media work itself. So I went and got an MBA instead. I did a short course in media product, a sort of fellowship from the New Mark J school in the city of New York. I also did a couple of investigative journalism courses, and data journalism courses, like for everything I have done for my career, I have done courses for them. I like to be prepared, I like school, I like learning and it helped. I had a first degree in Communications, and I have applied for them. I got the MBA so I could understand the business better and then currently apply it as a business operator, and data journalism courses. My base is data journalism work. I have also done a lot of leadership courses. I became an editor very early, so it was important for me to learn how to lead people and not traumatise them for life because they had me as part of their journey.
Having stepped into leadership role so quickly, what advise do you have for media business owners?
In terms of suggestions for media owners to boost media operational effectiveness, I have had to meet a couple of media owners and one thing that is always evident in the Nigeria space is that a lot of people do not have plans, so I’m always asking what is the vision and plan here, what is the philosophy behind this environment you have created, this media house you have established, and usually, I get a blank step. People do not know what they want to do or how they want to do it. So what I will advise is that people should be clear about what the philosophy is all about. In the beginning, at every point, everyone within your organisation should be able to say this is why we are here, this is what we are doing, and this is why we do what we do. What I do is that even in the low times, people can say this is the bigger picture and this is why the bigger picture matters. You also want a situation where people are bought into the process because they have seen the way you have worked through the process as well. To reduce toxicity in the environment, you want to be fair. Fairness is something I am always happy about. You are not going to be perfect as a media owner but you are going to be fair.
Say, you reimagined your career, what would you do differently?
If I were to reimagine my career, what will I do differently? That’s a trickish question because I don’t know. Everything I have done in my career, even at a time when I was sitting in it and it didn’t make sense, makes sense now and that sounds like a funny thing to say. I think the only thing is that I would have probably shared I have learned and been more public because I live a very private life. If I had started to feel the balance between having a private life and sharing my work, I would have shared my work more in the early days. I still don’t share my work, I’m a very behind the scenes person, but I would have shared my work more.
What can women do differently in the media space?
I think they should figure things out for themselves. I think they need to not feel like the allowances always need to be provided and because a lot of times when people within the media space say they are providing allowances for women, what they are doing is just reducing your ability in order to drain you. I don’t know how to explain it but it’s like you are working through something and someone is trying to say “Hey! you don’t have to work as hard!” But essentially, such opportunities go to another person. So she must ask herself: “Am I okay with this opportunity, is this what I want for my life now?” I think we need more women in the media to be more decisive about what it is that they want to do with themselves and how they want to do those things and these decisions will go a long way in how people treat you and how you treat yourself.
Share with us what you think are some of your most outstanding projects or accomplishments
I think the biggest thing is just pioneering the use of data in reporting the Nigeria Film Industry. This is the big thing I always like to refer to. It is big for me because we have more empirical data. Number two is just figuring out business models within the industry, which I went out to acquire a training for at New markJ+School on Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms Course. That is also a big thing for me. On accomplishments, I think I’m very stressed think I’m very stressed about those.
I think another thing is developing courses for media products which I enjoy doing very recently. I’m just doing my best just to ensure that space so people understand some of the basics of how they can do better as business owners or do better as people who want to understand media models. I like teaching, so that’s a great thing for me as well. I think those are the three things that I’m proud of.
Also, I’m constantly inspired by the fact that, because I did not have a lot of people to look up to, like the things I specifically wanted to do in the media space. I’m inspired by the fact that people need people to look up to. I’m not interested in shining alone, I’m very interested in training people to be people that they can look up to and other people can look up to them. For me, that’s the biggest thing.
Any tips in personal development, wealth creation and network strategies you’ll like to share?
If something matters to you in your career, and it’s going to make you happy, and it’s not going to bring down someone else, go and fight for it, and make a case for yourself. People should be able to learn not to sell themselves, especially women. You need to also be kind, it looks like a very simple thing, be kind to yourself and be kind to others.
Also, in terms of network, I just feel like you need community. I don’t know if that’s another way of saying it. You need to be very intentional about building a community and that’s super important. As you are growing, you need to make provisions for every bit of your life, your family, work, spirituality and everything. You need to build community around and that’s a piece of advice I will always give you.
How do you balance your personal life?
I just schedule everything. Schedule everything and don’t assume that you won’t forget anything or you won’t offend people, or you won’t make a mistake. Just outline what your goals for each of these things are and schedule everything. Treat it with warmth. Spend time to want to know people better even if you have known them for years, just spend time to want to know them better. Just schedule everything and you start to see that they are important. Don’t leave it to chance, I find it very strange that we schedule meetings and work, and you won’t schedule a time to spend with your family, or see your friend, so just schedule everything.
Anita Eboigbe: If something matters to you in your career, and it’s going to make you happy, and it’s not going to bring down someone else, go and fight for it, and make a case for yourself. PC: Anita.
What would you like to see improved upon in the Nigeria media industry?
I think is seeing more people getting an understanding of the philosophy. I spoke about it earlier, why are you starting where you are starting and how is this thing going to sustain itself? Why is it important that every other person support what you are doing? I think more people need to answer these questions. It’s something I want to see change, I want people to get the training that they need, and not just do things in the media just day by day. Media is too precious for the fabric of society, that you don’t get to do it on a day by day basis. It’s a calling, you get to invest yourself and don’t be dishonest with yourself about the reason you are doing it. Once you find your purpose, just key into it and do the best that you need to do.
Where do you plan to see your career trajectory say, in the next 3 to 5 years?
In the next three to five years, I don’t know what I will be doing now five years ago, so I don’t know. But one thing is certain, whatever it is that I’m doing, it’s going to be contributing immensely to making the African media space and ecosystem thrive; like that’s my motto. I just want the African media ecosystem to thrive across the board. So, whatever I’m doing, however simple or complicated it is, it’s going to just contribute to that.
If you had to unwind, what activities will you engage in?
I watch a lot of stuff, documentaries, and films. I like to laugh, I like to hang out with my friends and family and I like to sleep a lot as well. I found out that people do not prioritise this and it stresses me a lot when people don’t find time to sleep. People are always saying that they don’t have the time to rest, you can find the time if you want to find the time. You just need to schedule time for everything, so that there is clarity in what you want to do and how you intend to do it.
Written by ERU.