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Voice of America Media Development in Nigeria

Location

Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press index states that only 14 percent of the world's citizens live in countries that enjoy a free press.  In the rest of the world, “governments as well as non-state actors control the viewpoints that reach citizens and brutally repress independent voices who aim to promote accountability, good governance, and economic development”.[1]As more countries experience tumultuous and dynamic political situations, the need for true, independent media to explain what is happening both inside and outside the country is essential. 

This case study examines the goals and efforts of an American agency—the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)—in providing informative news to countries lacking their own free media.  This study specifically examines a single case carried out by the Voice of America (VOA), a branch of the BBG, in Kaduna, Nigeria to train Nigerian journalists and journalism students specifically on the importance of different technology outlets for reporting as well as entrepreneurial and business journalism.  The subject matter for this specific workshop was chosen in response to a statistic concerning the state of entrepreneurship in Nigeria:  the number of businesses almost doubled to 35 million in recent years.[2]As a method of helping businesses and entrepreneurs to grow in Nigeria, journalists need to know how to accurately report on such matters in addition to journalists understanding how to become entrepreneurs themselves in their practice. 

The members of VOA who traveled to lead the workshop in Kaduna learned the following:

  • Challenges that media in Nigeria face
  • Journalism students as well as journalists were extremely eager to learn about new technology, better interviewing and reporting techniques, and about entrepreneurship in Nigeria
  • Not all participants admitted to benefitting from the acquired skills of the workshop
  • Workshop was well received and extensively covered by local and national media

BBG and VOA

The BBG is an “independent entity responsible for all U.S. Government and government-sponsored, non-military, international broadcasting”.[3]Several radio and broadcasting services exist within the BBG, one of which being VOA, which broadcasts “accurate, balanced, and comprehensive news and information to an international audience”.[4]Although not explicitly stated, the ultimate goal could be construed as supporting or promoting democracy through the promotion of independent or unbiased press.  The Office of Strategy and Development (OSD) promotes the BBG’s mission through a “wide range of projects that strengthen free and open media worldwide to provide accurate, objective and balanced news and information to audiences overseas”.[5]As part of this larger mission to strengthen media and inform audiences, OSD arranges for journalist training in a multitude of countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Balkans, Burma, Haiti, and Zimbabwe and covers a variety of subjects, including general techniques, ethics, safety, production and technology, corruption reporting, economic reporting, and health reporting. 

Actors

The BBG’s OSD, in collaboration with Professor Sam Swan from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Communication and Information, created the training curriculum.  Training was mainly led by Professor Swan and BBG’s Joan Mower (Head of Development) and Inna Dubinsky plus Kaduna State University’s resource experts:  Dr. Ayodele Babatunde Joseph (Head of Mass Communications Dept.), Dr. Hellen Andow Afang (Head of Dept. of Business Administration), and Dr.Sani Bello (Senior Lecturer & Former Head of Dept. of Media Arts).  Salisu Hassan (Editor-in-Chief & Webmaster of online publication Mujallar Duniyar Computer) and Muhammad Usman (graduate student at the School of Communication at Bayero State University in Kano) trained participants on the use of smart phones and other new tools for multimedia reporting.

Project Description and Timeline

Description    

As Head of Development, Joan Mower plans and organizes journalist training workshops throughout the world with the assistance of her development team.  Cities such as Kaduna and Abuja in Nigeria hold a special place in Joan’s heart, as she was able to live there for a few years as a little girl.  VOA has conducted various workshops in Nigeria and Joan felt another workshop was in order.  The Business and Entrepreneurial Journalism training workshop—funded by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja—took place at Kaduna State University (KASU) in Kaduna, Nigeria from July 12th-16th.  Thirty-five participants took place in this five-day workshop.  Participants included journalists, producers from radio, TV, and print media organizations, and KASU journalism students. 

Timeline

Day One (July 12)

Day One was filled with opening remarks from the Abuja U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer, Ellen Peterson, in addition to Joan, Inna, and Professor Swan.  Joan explained the goal of the workshop to the participants:  “introduce journalists to entrepreneurial reporting with a view to expanding entrepreneurial capacity among them and their immediate communities”.[6]

The challenges that media in Nigeria face were discussed:

  • No business or entrepreneurship programming in media
  • No access to information and sources on entrepreneurship
  • No access to officials and experts on business
  • Lack of editorial support for entrepreneurial reporting
  • Lack of financial resources and equipment
  • Lack of media platform for entrepreneurial journalists

Participants’ expectations of the workshop were to improve:

  • Reporting and interviewing skills
  • Use of new media tools for reporting and coverage
  • Audience reach and engagement

The first day ended with a roundtable discussion facilitated by Joan about the role of journalists in entrepreneurship development.  Topics discussed included the public’s need to know about resources for entrepreneurship, how people use the print and electronic media to get information, and what makes a good business and entrepreneurship story. 

Day Two (July 13)

Day Two was divided into two sections.  Professor Swan began by giving a lesson and covered the following topics:

  • Writing news for radio, TV, print, and online
  • Writing guidelines
  • Writing to tape/video and using sound
  • Organizing stories and story structure
  • Turning radio and TV stories into Web and social media stories

Salisu Hassan then introduced the participants to using smart phones for reporting:

  • Using iPhone/smart phone for reporting/newsgathering
  • Capturing audio, video, and photos
  • Useful apps for journalists

Salisu gave participants the opportunity to practice.  Small groups selected a story on business and entrepreneurship and utilized iPhones and tripods that VOA donated.

Day Three (July 14)

Following Professor Swan’s lecture on Business/Economic Reporting and proper interviewing techniques, participants engaged in role-play scenarios and performed mock interviews.  Dr. Ayodele Babatunde Joseph then got into the specifics of entrepreneurial journalism in Nigeria, the need for business data mining and analytics statistics, and how journalists can make sense of numbers and economics in order to properly report on such matters.  Day Three ended with hands on training in group planning and production of pilot projects, i.e. story angles and approaches. 

Day Four (July 15)

Day Four consisted of a “Video Journalism” Field Trip.  The participants got into their small groups and practiced filming and recording with smart phones in various markets, shops, and small stores throughout Kaduna.  Salisu Hassan and Muhammad Usman offered their assistance with techniques, angles, and approaches when needed.  The participants then learned to edit the audio and video of their reports.

Day Five (July 16)

On Day Five, the participants continued to work on the editing and production of their pilot projects.  A Graduation Ceremony was held for the participants where they received Certificates of completion.  The completed stories/projects covered the following subjects, which were unique to Nigerian culture:

  • Textile industry
  • Female drug addiction
  • Poultry farming
  • Carpentry
  • Retail businesses

Unfortunately, Day Five and the workshop ended much earlier in the day than expected after various security concerns came to light one day before the Islamic holiday, Eid Al Fitr.  The U.S. Embassy in Abuja advised VOA that it end its activities early.  Details of these security concerns were not disclosed. 

After the Workshop

Because the pilot project stories were not completed at the conclusion of the workshop, the completed stories were later posted to a Facebook group page that the participants created.  Additionally, the KASU Department of Communication planned to select the best stories and have them shared over KASU FM radio broadcast and on their on-campus TV program.  The VOA Hausa language service also chose to publish selected stories on its website. 

Lessons Learned

The Business and Entrepreneurial Journalism training workshop was well received.  In addition to KASU airing the participants’ stories, the national and local media covered the workshop in detail.  Radio and TV programs on NTA, PR TV, Radio Kano, Kebbi Radio, Freedom Radio, and KASU FM broadcasted both live and pre-recorded interviews with Ellen Peterson from the Embassy, Joan Mower, Inna Dubinsky, and Professor Swan.  Several newspapers, including the national newspaper LEADERSHIP, also published articles about the workshop.[7]Positive feedback and coverage such as this is encouraging for VOA and BBG as well as for the independent media in Nigeria.  Evaluation surveys were distributed to the participants for VOA to receive feedback on the workshop.  All 35 participants “intended to use and share with their peers their new knowledge and understanding of entrepreneurial journalism” and 29 participants claimed to have benefitted from the newly acquired skills of mobile reporting.[8]

Although challenges to Nigerian media—listed previously under Day One—came to light, Joan and Inna described the trip to Kaduna as very delightful in that all of the students and journalists were eager to learn what VOA, Professor Swan, and the KASU experts had to offer.  Joan and Inna were especially pleased when all the participants claimed they would share their new knowledge with their peers.  They believe that a follow-up survey or report from the experts at KASU should be in order as a method of measuring long-term success of the workshop, but this has yet to take place.  VOA and OSD believe that this workshop, in addition to other workshops hosted by VOA or other sectors of BBG, contribute to furthering the goal of helping to develop independent media in countries where press is partly free—in this case Nigeria—or not free at all.  Below is a picture of Joan, Inna, and Sam Swan with their colleagues and participants at Kaduna State University, Nigeria.  

Works Cited 

"About 'Freedom of the Press'" FreedomHouse.org. Freedom House, 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

"About VOA." VOA. Voice of America, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

"History." Broadcasting Board of Governors. Broadcasting Board of Governors, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

"Media Development." BBG. Broadcasting Board of Governors, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

Travel Report: BBG/VOA Training Programs in Nigeria. Broadcasting Board of Governors.  July 2015.


[1]"About 'Freedom of the Press'" FreedomHouse.org. Freedom House, 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

[2]Travel Report: BBG/VOA Training Programs in Nigeria.  Broadcasting Board of Governors.  July 2015.

[3]"History." Broadcasting Board of Governors. Broadcasting Board of Governors, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

[4]"About VOA." VOA. Voice of America, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

[5]"Media Development." BBG. Broadcasting Board of Governors, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

[6]Travel Report: BBG/VOA Training Programs in Nigeria.

[7]Travel Report: BBG/VOA Training Programs in Nigeria.

[8] Ibid.