By Lolade Nwanze
If you must publish, be original. If you must copy, give due credit. Stop milking the system!Today, I write as a journalist afraid for her profession. Afraid not because of the predicted uncertainties including the extinction of the print media stemming from the emerging new media – it’s been a decade of Facebook and lesser years of blogging in Nigeria and we’re still here like we still will in another decade.
Rather, my fear stems from the actions of ignorant people and the inactions of trained minds like mine who’re sitting down and watching the ‘show’. Simply put: My institution is endangered.
When every Rolake, Haruna and Nkiru owned a chemist or ran a drug store once upon a time, a certain Amazon, Dora Akunyuli (now late) went after them and cleansed the system to the best of her abilities.
I am afraid that many people do not realise that journalism is a profession as sacred as medicine. Perhaps more delicate sometimes. For a people to milk the easy availability of our products and prey on the weakness of our structure as an institution is sheer opportunistic, to say the least. Plagiarism is a phrase I do not expect the unlearned to understand. But if you meddle with journalistic reports in the name of a blogger or website manager/owner, then it becomes your responsibility to understand the term.
I have toyed with and discussed with some colleagues on the need for instituting a class action lawsuit against these opportunists who rob original work owners of the only lasting gratification a journalist has – relevance, in the face of his staggered and inconsistent pay-cheques. It is bad enough that many professional writers around here contribute to several e-platforms for free simply because many Nigerian Internet ‘newspapers’ do not know why they should pay these writers. Ask Femke. But it is characteristically fraudulent and institutionally stifling for you to aggregate content without permission or mention. Simply put, you kill a journalist and her medium every time you publish her without credit.
Let me explain. No, you are not giving him/her platform. Mba! That platform cliché is so old school. If she wants your platform, she would ask. Then it becomes your decision to publish or not. And this goes especially for PROFESSIONAL journalists. I spent five years in a professional institute learning the ‘trade’ and six years in mainstream media so I should know. I remember asking a company executive who wanted to recruit professional writers to write newspaper columns what her budget was and her response was, ‘columnists write for free every time’. I was both livid and shocked. Tomorrow, the same ‘benefactors’, ‘charitable’ writers and news consumers will nag about quality control when every single party is culpable. But I digress.
So it was, that when news broke yesterday that a Nigerian via Google had orchestrated the removal of plagiarised posts on Linda Ikeji‘s blog, I was DELIGHTED! Not because I have scored any personal points rather because of the long-term effect that continuous sanctions on erring bloggers generally would have on my profession. Now I do not know if Linda and this Nigerian have any history, and quite frankly I am not interested. The point for me is the effect of this move on my victimised profession – Journalism. Granted we have lots of rot in our system internally (Refer to the Nicholas Ibekwe VS Simon Ateba pieces on Journalism and monetary inducements, as an example) yet if we must perish we do not need outsiders to nail our coffin. I am one of those who believe that sanctioning the biggest fish in the ocean is the best and most effective way to teach a lesson to other sea creatures. Hopefully, other bloggers and guilty ‘news’ site owners learn.
If you must publish, be original. If you must copy, give due credit. Stop milking the system!