THE recherché of professionalism entails the serendipitous admixture of myriad formats of knowledge ability. Hence, every profession has its esoteric jargons. The profession of journalism is not left out in this cauldron of normative standards. Today, however, the editor is critically crucial in the newspaper publication industry.
Without slips of prolixity, a newspaper is an alpenstock designed to carry the reader up the mountain of information, entertainment, education etc. It is a daily or weekly publication consisting of folded sheets and containing news, features, advertisements etc. Indeed, a newspaper incarnates the matrix, nexus and praxis of any society. It is the heart of any nation and a good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.
To enhance its functionality, mission statement and the core essence of its fundamental objectives, its publishers employ people or journalist with multidimensional ambience. But the editor is one employee that stands out with singular diaphaneity. A newspaper setting has many types of editors. They are usually categorized and dichotomized along professional or areas of specialization.
It is the duty of the Editor to prepare text for publication by checking, amending, altering and improving its accuracy and clarity. It is also the duty of the Editor to ensure that opinions expressed in the newspaper are in congruency and consistent with the Editorial policy, the religious, political, socio-economic and ideological mission statement of the publisher. Indeed, Editors, especially editors in government owned newspapers luxuriate in outright falsehoods, splendiferous theatrics, and propaganda hypes,
laced with panegyric histrionics.
They can only mirror – out and not mirror –in, like parrots who repeats words after their masters without understanding them.
There are editors and there are indeed editors. Some editors are coquettish with the government and political leaders and are trapped in the business of trading their conscience through penurious inducements. There are also editors in private and government owned newspapers who tell it as it is notwithstanding whose ox is gored.
It is the genre of conscience mortgaging and filthy lucre editors who are slavishly tied to the apron strings of their paymasters that have rubbished the integrity of the profession. At best they are paid hirelings, government area-boys, surrogates and newspaper terrorists. It is this type of negative zeitgeist that propelled essayist Norman Mailer to assert that, “once a newspaper man touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonist”.
The empirical testability and presence of corruption in most newspaper newsrooms remains an inviolable truism. Since what is newsworthy is subject to the capricious whimsicality of the ‘gargantuan’ Editor, he as the Alpha and the Omega decides which Reporter and Correspondents’ reports should occupy the front page and whatever strategic space is in the newspaper. He could even, under the guise of ‘Newsroom Politics’ discountenance Reporters’ and Correspondents’ report if not bribed. He could also decide to publish articles, letters, opinion and reports of his cultic friends, relations and monetary expectations from government public relations agents for appointments or monetary reward.
It must however be conceded that the mission statement of his newspaper as spelt out by his Publishers, Members of his Editorial Board and his Employers determine to a large extent the oscillatory pull of the editors ideas. After all, the man who pays the piper dictates the tune.
Notwithstanding all these truisms, the editor of a newspaper can still conduct and manage his submissions
in such a manner as to mitigate the odium and the blanket of cerebral manacles in which he is cocooned.
We are asserting here with unambiguous clarity, that the editor must be first and foremost conscience-and-duty-bond to the truth and the general good. What will an editor gain when a society and its leadership are convoluted in the altar of despotism, illegal detention, election rigging, police brutality, assassinations, economic injustice, extra judicial killings, tribalism, bribery and corruption?
It is the duty of the editor as part of the watchdog of society, as a member of the fourth realm of the estate and the conscience of society to unequivocally condemn these evils. Our ‘gargantuan’ Editors must note the admonition of Marcus Cicero “Salus Populi est suprema lex” (the good of the people is the supreme law).
They must take note of the fact that, criticism is one condition in democracy and freedom that cannot and should not be compromised. Criticism is the hallmark of intellectual discourse, since it provokes arguments and if well managed, arguments could facilitate the attainment of good resolutions. Again, it is a mere emotive rationalization to expect that because an idea appears so good by its sheer sound or its face value, it should be accepted wholesomely without questioning from our leaders, government agents, publishers and informed members of the public.
The handling of public opinions by most editors must be revolutionized, as most opinions are either edited out of context or not published at all. Every human being in any democracy deserves to be heard notwithstanding his communication deficiency. It is in recognition of the importance of public opinion that, Abraham Lincoln said, “with public opinion on its side, nothing can fail with public against it, nothing can succeed.” The facts are sacred and comments free, but most newspaper editors have traditionally been content to state their own views and rely on logic of their arguments, the force of direction and reasonableness of their advocacy to commend their views and make the public think along their view point. But it must go beyond this. Truth and altruism should rather be their trademark.
Finally, as our inchoate and embryonic democracy metamorphoses into adulthood, the editors of our newspapers have catalytic role to play. They must prove Sidney Haword wrong. He said; “an editor is a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to see that the chaff is published” we want to see, from our editors, more righteous indignation, critical and incisive commentaries, satyagrahi-like analysis and avant-gardism against the rot of our political leaders and the society. Life is not what matters, but the courage we put into it. Wither goeth our Newspaper Editors and the Nigerian Guild of Editors as we approach 2015 elections?
Chief Gbinije is of Mandate Against Poverty, MAP; Warr