Why We Organised The Agriculture Boot Camp For Journalists – Olorunyomi, PTCIJ Director

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The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) in collaboration with Notore Chemicals Plc. recently organized a 3-day Masterclass to equip journalists and agricultural communication specialists with the right tools and knowledge they need to put issues of the sector in perspective as the nation looks to alternative sources of income beyond oil and gas.

The Executive Director of PTCIJ, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, spoke with our reporter who participated in the boot camp organized in Abuja, on why it was imperative to put the event together and sundry issues.

Excerpts:

Why this boot camp for agriculture journalists

We have to do this because, one, it is imposable to have a democracy without having a very strong and independent media. And without a democracy, believe me you can’t have a country and the current description if we will be generous, of our media today is to say, it is in very deep crises. From indices all across, media houses can no longer pay salaries, circulation is completely low, even some radio stations are owing as much as N100 million as license fees; where are they going to get this from. So, there is a revenue crisis which has exacerbated and moved into a professional ethical crisis, and if you don’t resolve it, and the only way of resolving this is by bringing new ideas to the table. You have to innovate the whole process in which you understand how this things works. But not even the principals and leaders in the media are thinking about this, they are not even opening up a conversation, and this is the only country that I know where you have such terrible crisis and everybody is in a feel good mood as if everything is okay, but we cannot afford to join that. So, we are taking it as a project we should do for the industry; it is our own duty.

How many journalists have so far been trained by PTCIJ

In the 5years that we came on board until this year, we have trained about 250 investigative journalists. We have been visiting media houses to train journalists. Besides that, we also visit universities to train them because we understand that today in the country, we are the only ones who have data as far as data journalism is concerned and the competence to do that. So, we think it is important for us to do it for the industry because you cannot be the only successful one in a pack; that is a danger if you are the only one successful. So, a lot of energy is required. Nigeria has a population of about 180 million people so, if we have 50 great newspapers in this country, everyone will do well. So we collaborate to execute this.

Initiatives for the media industry

We have a lot of initiatives that we are collaborating with other organizations to achieve. One of them is called theleaksng which we have just built, it’s a data dump for investigative journalism. These initiatives are not exclusive to us, but we now have about 8 newspapers that have signed-in to use them and we are calling on other people to join us. It is our data, but we are calling on other practitioners to come and use these data.
We also have the facts checking platform that we will be lunching in January 2018 and this is a huge project.

So we are doing this agric boot camp for agriculture journalists just like we did that of health during the early part of this year. So, we want to do this every year because there is an opportunity to get agric right. And everybody that is here will get to make decent money for themselves and better professionalism and you will not need to depend on anybody because it is just a simple mental process, it is not difficult.

Expectations from participants

We hope that they will get exposure to first class journalism. You can see the quality of people we brought in as faculties; we brought two people from the United States. We hope that people will see that there is a new way of doing this. We also plan to expose journalists to data journalism because an awareness of it and on how to tell stories with it can also be another way to earn revenue. A lot of our own money comes from data.
Any support

What we get is mostly partnerships. On this particular event, we got partnership with Notore. We also just organized the national symposium in partnership with The Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL. But I must confess that it is pretty difficult to secure partnerships. And this new mantra for people to go into agriculture will fail if you do not communicate it well; so, you need good journalism to communicate it well. And I know that we will succeed in what we are doing because when there is a will, there will be a away.

Task for Journalists

We think that every journalist must help to sound the alarm that there is a crisis in the profession, and there is a need to discuss it. We need to save families, save institutions and jobs because the industry is now endangered. So, let’s join the chorus and get the leaders of the industry to address the situation.