PTCIJ’s Campus Reporter- Transforming the Lives of Young Journalists

Eyes shining, smiling widely, Kabir Adejumo walked forward to receive yet another award, his third of the night. Though he was sitting less than ten steps from the podium, the thrill, euphoria and awe that comes from bagging three awards in one night turned ten steps into a thousand miles, at least according to him. This last award was for the best campus journalist (male) and it is indeed the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Kabir’s hard work had paid off as he was nominated in almost all the award categories and won three – Most Prolific Writer, Most Active Campus Reporter and the Best Male Campus Reporter.

Adejumo Kabir’s Background

Growing up in the streets of Badore, Ajah in Lagos State of Nigeria, young Kabir understood hard work, picking up his first job at 15 after his secondary school education to help provide for his family. Having always loved to write, he decided to polish this talent by enrolling into the Obafemi Awolowo University to study English.

“After a semester, I was listed among 50 people that transformed OAU in 2016, and after a session on campus, I was named Association of Campus Journalists (ACJOAU) Newcomer of the year and won the OAU Award for Best Campus Journalist”, noted this young prolific writer.

Despite his recognized capabilities, Adejumo Kabir was excited at the opportunity to join the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism Campus Reporter initiative. He understood that his skills still needed to be sharpened and recognized the unique opportunities the initiative will give him, especially the privilege to become a published writer/reporter. In describing his experience since joining the PTCIJ Campus Reporter Program, jocularly, he said: “I am now a better professional”.

Adejumo Kabir’s story exemplifies the mind of many other campus reporters whose lives have been transformed through the PTCIJ‘s Campus Reporter initiative.

PTCIJ’s TIM -Bridging the Gap between the Town and the Gown

Over a year ago, Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism brought together stakeholders comprising professors of journalism and communication, as well as media practitioners to discuss the problems bedevilling Nigeria’s journalism and media industry. At this meeting, all parties agreed that while measures to salvage the media landscape is important, it is equally important to preserve the future of the industry. This decision birthed the PTCIJ Campus Journalism Initiative.

In April 2017, Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), launched the Campus Journalism Initiative with TIM as its mandate- Training, Internship and Mentorship of campus journalists. PTCIJ’s vision for the media is one that is truly independent and advances fundamental human rights, good governance and accountability in Nigeria through capacity building, open data and investigative journalism and this vision it sought to further enhance through the Campus Journalism Initiative.

This program is designed to bridge the gap between the teaching and the practice of journalism and set up future journalists on the right foundations for the effective practice of the profession. So far, over 500 students from nine institutions have benefitted from the program. These institutions are Bayero University, Kano, Federal University of Technology, Minna, University of Jos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Lagos State University, University of Uyo, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and University of Ibadan.

At the Awards Ceremony, Mr Joshua Olufemi, the Program Director PTCIJ said the journalism curriculum in Nigerian schools was not adequately preparing students of journalism for the real world practice of the profession as well as catering for the new trends in journalism, and one of the things that PTCIJ sets out to do is to “bridge the gap between the town and the gown”.

“We decided to build a program around the basic skills that are lacking, which of course is to ensure that students understand the nature and practice of today’s media, the new trends of data journalism and fact-checking, as well as to integrate other digital tools. We also created practical scenarios where students, during and after their course of study, can interface with different newsrooms and learn what the real-life situation is all about” he said.

The Program Officer of the Campus Journalism Program, Adedeji Adekunle noted that it is a next-generation project aimed at growing a new crop of journalists for the industry and have a set of people coming into the industry, who understand it, capitalize on its strengths and build on its weaknesses.

One of the strategies adopted by the PTCIJ team was to work with existing campus journalism structures in departments of communication and journalism across tertiary institutions, as well as to create a mentorship approach where the lecturers in the schools, as well as other media practitioners, guide the budding reporters.

The other strategy deployed by the team was to keep a community of practice through Whatsapp groups in order to build and provide resources to students who have been trained.

“We also made sure that in terms of retaining the skills that were learnt during the capacity building, two online platforms were built. One is the mobile app called Campus Reporter, more or less like a template to ensure that the writing components of journalism were catered for,” noted Mr. Joshua, “the other is a website developed for them to showcase their writing and to also find a platform for even existing newsrooms to continue to interface with them and see how they write and see how to engage them after school, this will also serve as their reference after school to seek other jobs”, he concluded.

An internship program funded by Ford was also initiated to send students who have participated in the program as interns into different newsrooms in Lagos and Abuja. Mr Adedeji explained that “ten students have already commenced internships with Daily Trust, Order Paper and Premium Times. We are trying our best to keep creating more internship opportunities”.

According to him, the internship completes the program cycle especially for those who have completed their course of study in the university, although the team intends to still be in touch with them and monitor their growth.

The ex-president Nigeria Union of Campus Journalists (NUCJ), Ibrahim Jide Alawode, who is currently an intern with Premium Times, Lagos, said that the training and internship will give him more opportunities. Halima Yahaya, another intern said, “one thing about PTCIJs Campus Journalism Project is that it is a continuous learning process where everything learnt can be effectively practised”.

Mr Joshua Olufemi believes that the strategies deployed by PTCIJ in carrying out the project are working with obvious results; some of the students are already working as interns, the Campus Reporter website has stories written by these students, and these students have also been used for various accountability projects such as the tracking of Primary Health Care centers and capital and constituency projects across Nigeria. A notable result is that for the first time in history, the elections in Anambra state was monitored by students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; they observed the elections to ensure that the election was not stolen by some interest groups.

PTCIJ intends to take the Campus Journalism Program across all the tertiary institutions in Nigeria and has put plans in place to take on at least 10 tertiary institutions in 2018.