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Of Campus Journalism; The Unspoken Truths

Journalism can never be silent: That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
— Henry Anatole Grunwald.

One hot afternoon, I had accidentally run into two ladies by one of our Press Boards on campus. Both of them were Pressmen, only that the younger was a freshman. None of them had noticed that I had been there all along, standing quietly behind them, following the course of their conversation.

“I have changed a lot of things on your article” engulfed with euphoria, the older, who was part of the Editorial board, had said boldly. I had watched with keen interest the drama that was unfolding itself before my eyes.

“It’s better to make your sentences, short, precise and concise. You can take a cue from the Editorial of this week.” She had run her long tongue slowly over her lips, turned her look on her listener to be assured she was following, and then moved on to the left end of the board. Her listener followed her.

“I wrote this” pointing at the Editorial that stole three good hours of my time to wear a shape or a form, worn only by an over-stitched behind of a stubborn primary school’s pupil’s shorts that had suffered from serious countless spankings and careless playful drags on rough surfaces of seats. My eyes and mouth instantly widened in disbelief.

“Deal with one point at a time and move on…” She had added. I had smiled. What if I had produced what she wrote that I had to rephrase all over? Why hype herself by stealing the glory that was for a humble backroom boy?

I had to call it off. I had coughed timidly and they turned. “Hi!” The younger, smiling broadly had said innocently. I had smiled back, looking at the shame plastered on my friend’s face. She stood there like a zombie or a deer in the headlights, said nothing for a brief moment, and then muffled what sounded like “Hoooo!”. “Nice job, you are doing here” I had patted her shoulder calmly. “I have been here for a while…” Just to let her know that I had heard all her lies. Before she could even word any word, I walked away.

Not too long after, something funny happened again during one of our classes. A lady, who had put up her hand to answer a question in the class had begun by saying that she was a journalist on campus. It was hard for the lecturer much like the class, to conceal his confusion at what linked the answer to the question to anyone’s being a journalist.

Nevertheless, my other countless, curious, further observations on this, did not take a different pattern either. My discovery all this while is that we have far more journalists on campus than those who understand what it means to be one, and will die or give up anything to live up to the expectations placed on them. They are disciplined and conscious of how they go about their roles and talk lesser than their works which speak for them everywhere. However, even at that, this category of journalists may share a certain portion of blame much like journalists whose sole stock in trade is mere talks and no works, and the simple over-blowing of their images on impeachable credentials. Very little of what they do can dare stand by the over-blown compliments they shop for. In any case, inactions and actions as relates to the ethics of journalism to an extent are the offences shared by most campus journalists. Some at serious times, when silence should have been ruled out of options and imagination, still embrace it firmly, to dodge troubles, when improper attitudes in the Press that threaten its existence, need to be opposed vehemently and abhorred. This inchoate springing wave of fear and subserviency steals its way through their thoughts to make little their works, always hinged on peripheral concerns. A lot has happened under their watch than they may be willing to acknowledge. Yet it is upon their efforts that the Press strives daily. Needless then to say what the future holds for the Press in the horrible grasps of this circumstance.

In the first place, the custom of destructive writing is fast becoming alive and making many waves within the walls of campuses. Articles that take this form are often aimless, meant to destroy rather than repair, to belittle ideas, people and circumstances without cogent reasons, and via crude methods, and to intimidate as well. They are almost always lengthy and filled with a lot of unnecessary logic, analogies and digressions, that one could at a perfunctory glance read out the holes in them so easily. Much of all these are birthed in the sheer search for laudation, a shadow that rides on the back of honest works.

What makes matters worse, is the spreading commonality of an offhand attitude among most Editors-In-Chief, who out of the force of habit, turn a blind eye at all these. Regrettably, often it is not even the case that they do this deliberately, but that they do not even understand these errors at all. Some of them had by pressing the right buttons brought themselves to occupy this position. Thus, to wonder about the decay destined for a Press Organizations swallowed up in such a situation, is to accept the situation as a mere happenstance, a let-it-be, that has come to settle peacefully without a minute challenge. Most importantly, this kind of persons are the brains behind editing, a permanent occupation they are have taken on without anything meaningful to show as credits, and not the engineers of originality, because to stumble across their works may be one huge reality in one’s dreams. The truth is, there cannot be an estimation to the number of insults showered on the Press because of their acute incompetencies and ineptitudes. In editing, often not only do they print out unpardonable, significant grammatical blunders but end up killing and burying the senses meant to be communicated.

It is equally worthy of note to add too that this issue has its genesis from the ugly politics blossoming in the Press, or perhaps it has been there all this while pretentiously smoothened away into the system as a custom. When batons are passed on editors simply handpick their favourites, or influence the choices of the voters (Pressmen) to their own favour. Merits are thrown aside if at all anyone does care about making any room for it. No thoughts are ever given to the gloom and doom such shoddiness may plunge the Press into. That is what happens when personal interest rides over reason. No one gives a damn as to what could surface much later. More shocking are the premises upon which this crookedness takes its stance: to boost one’s CV; because he/she is from my department, state, region or religion; or even because of a mere effusive coincidental predilection for a person. Hardly are any considerations channelled towards the level of one’s commitment, adroitness, forthcomingness, and skills at people and circumstances’ management. One time, I had heard a lady telling someone happily that she was the VP of a university’s Union of Campus Journalists, and the person had out of shocked surprise asked why he had not been seeing her articles and that killed the
conversation immediately. If she were qualified for that post, her works will tell whom she was. There are like her so many Press executives who have never had any meaningful news or investigative stories, poems, short stories or features to their credit, and yet made their ways through the ranks via the medium of dirty politics to pilot the affairs of the Press, they themselves are an ignoramus too. What makes this painful and indeed pathetic, is that the Press is thus, freely disabled of the strength and will to fight against any kind of illness in the society, while it remained severely beleaguered by that same disease or worst more. Therefore, the capability to stand for the truth at situations such this, may never even exist.

Furthermore, the fast-growing show-off spirit in the Press ridicules and mars concrete efforts to achieve anything worthwhile. This attitude is like a shadow around the we-know-it-all journalists, who think themselves as the be-all-and-end-all in any Press organization, and will not settle down to pick corrections (which they regard as insults). They write episodes upon episodes of beautiful digressions wrapped in cruel attacks, with no way-forwards, for a Pressboard that takes not more than twenty pages, and go about vaunting about these write-ups. Pride is their garment wherever they are found, which explains why you will see them invite their friends to the board after each publication to be praised and to savour the delicate pleasure of explaining why they wrote. How I wish sometimes fortune blows courageous people in their direction to speak real sense into their lacklustre heads! For whom do they write? How many people in these times and days can afford in no time, to spare their time and energy to read through lengthy stuff?

These issues take an even much more serious dimension, in that they see to the gradual fall of the Press through varying levels of intimidations that lead to the resignations of members who see the pace set by this people as too fast for them to catch up with. On the other hand, disclaiming of Pressmen at will or on the simple note of their snail-like crawl improvement in writing is also coupled to this. I have not seen a perfect person in writing anywhere, as critics and rejoinders always spot certain ills or deficiencies even in write-ups by established writers. Besides, everyone had a starting point. Some of us were even worse than the talents and skills we seem to be destroying without compunction by pushing them away from the Press. At one time I was presented with a list of persons about to be disclaimed to screen, and all of them were what we had as the beaming future of that Press Organization. The stupid complaint was that they were “bad writers”. I had cringed in shock and had immediately refused to approve of the process without any second thoughts, and with no further explanations, the issue died down perhaps as quickly as it was carelessly engineered. All of them in spite of the complaints levelled against them were 100% committed, and could even measure up to those who had felt that they are had no use for the Press. I had instead taken time and energy to aid their sudden rapid improvement which had left all us dumbfounded for days.

In truth, the simple truth upon which the Press stands always is the telling and standing for nothing but the truth, come what may. The Press is meant to direct, to protect, to save, to lead, to free, to support and encourage noble struggles, to right the wrongs, to be the voice of the voiceless, and to tend towards making living meaningful for everyone. The call, therefore, is for every Campus Journalist not to lose foresight of all these, otherwise one’s being a journalist will be a real wasted mission. On that note I rest my case with the quotation from Confucius:

“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

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