The rate of tragic fatalities of media men who cover activities of Government Chief Executives and, at times, the Senate President and Speakers of the Legislative Houses, is getting so high nowadays that something very drastic has to be done to check more deaths of journalists on duty.
Can any practising media man today guess the number of his colleagues that have died this year, so far, in crashes involving press corps covering one government personality or the other? Or how many that have been maimed for life as a result of their being in a bus carrying journalists and crashing in a convoy accident?
Our highly valued journalists need not die so periodically.
To begin with, reporters on an assignment to cover an event should stop travelling in one vehicle.
In fact, apart from the clear and present danger of many of them dying in a smash up, it is inherently unethical for non-government reportorial team to travel in a government supplied bus to cover an event involving a government functionary.
Unless it is a Public Relations guided tour for a specific purpose.
Otherwise, reporters from independent news media ought to ferry themselves to the venue of an event that their news editors consider worth covering.
Travelling independently gives a reporter the freedom to assess issues dispassionately and report according to his ability and competence.
A reporter in a privately-owned media house cannot pretend to maintain any measure of objectivity in filing his dispatches if he is a passenger in a transport supplied by the subject he is covering; especially when such kindness goes with the supply of meals and the inevitable “brown envelope.”
If our media houses can return to old fashioned journalistic practice, in which a reporter sacrificially transports himself to a possible news source, meticulously observes and makes his jottings of the happenings in and around the venue of an event, and quickly returns to write his story, we shall begin again to enjoy good journalism, unaffected by any encumbrances.
One is not unaware of the sterile interviews that media men rush to conduct with a man who had just addressed a press conference and fielded questions thereafter.
Because some poorly trained reporters believe an interview must be done, they make a mess of themselves and the person they set out to interview by asking questions that had been answered in the course of the press address or during the question-and-answer session.
Rather than rushing back to their offices to ensure a timely submission of their reports, modern reporters now hang around for food and drinks after an important news event
Media houses that send reporters to an assignment should adequately mobilize them to, and from, the event so that their staff members are not reduced to beggars waiting for a lift or hand outs to enable them to return to their offices at the end of an event.
Some editors are even alleged to demand from reporters if any monetary gestures were extended to them by the authorities involved in a press event.
This is shameful and ought to be thoroughly condemned.
An editor diminishes his authority and personal integrity if he succumbs to mundane actions of demanding a share of what a reporter is given while out on an assignment.
Media Consultants and Events Managers go directly to editors to see them.
It is even wrong for such things to be given through a reporter or a third person.
If a governor, for instance, is scheduled to commission a major project completed by his administration, it is entirely left to a newspaper to decide whether to send a reporter or not to cover the occasion.
If a reporter cannot be conveniently sent, the paper can rely on the News Agency or Press Release from the Government House Press Corps for a report of the ceremony.
Reporters should learn to go for news away from Governors or Governments.
Hard news and human interest news abound everywhere waiting for observant reporters.
Hanging around Government functionaries like Commissioners, is not the best way to hunt for news.
The unnecessary fights between journalists and security details at Government Houses or other venues where Governors are, would be reduced if reporters kept their distance from where they are not invited.
A foraging reporter should locate and exploit good news sources and come out with brilliant dispatches that will get even Government officials looking for him and his paper.
Our reporters are getting so lazy and dependent on Government that their reports no longer carry that spark and authority of exclusive stories.
Unfortunately many media houses cannot afford to employ enough qualified reporters because of the state of the economy.
Hardworking reporters can make do with Agency tickers and even radio news bulletins to complement the efforts of the few personnel in their establishment.
All that is required to make the difference is the creativity of the individual re-write editors and sub editors.
Not every movement of a Governor is worth covering and risking the lives and limbs of reporters of private media houses.
Government has press corps that should normally give out releases to media houses.