Young journalists have been enjoined to maximize internship opportunities around them as the job market gets more competitive.
The encouragement was given at the June fellowship of Journalists For Christ (JFC) held at the International Press Centre, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos recently.
President of JFC, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin in his welcome address gave insight on how internship opportunities worked for him as a young journalist.
“I graduated from the University of Lagos in the 80s at age 21. I had my NYSC in Sokoto after which I returned to Lagos,” he said. The Online Editor and Director of Special Publications of the Nation Newspaper, continued that, “My mother would always pray for me in those days for a good job, then as God would have it, I went to work with an outfit publishing a newspaper called The Contractor. There I would be sent on funny errands such as going to buy snacks and the likes; I was diligent until God brought a job at the Punch.”
Otufodunrin, who was an intern at the defunct National Concord, encouraged young journalists not to be discouraged even when things do not go as expected during their internship. “At the National Concord in those days, it took time to get my stories published but the experienced helped me when I returned to school and it eventually helped too as I was able to pick a job at the Punch after youth service.”
Speaking at the fellowship, a panelist, Blessing Olisa, who had volunteered at The Nation newspaper for six months, narrated how she got to the Nation newspaper.
“I graduated from the University of Lagos, I was just sitting at home, so I went to the Nation newspaper, which is not far from where I live. On getting there, I asked for the HR Manager, who I was told was not available at the time,” she narrated.
Stating further, she told the participants how she, later met the Online Editor of The Nation newspaper, who she knew attends to young journalists. “When I did not see the HR Manager, I remembered Mr. Otufodunrin, a lecturer while I was in school. I met him eventually and he facilitated things for me. I also made a personal effort to enroll at a training on digital marketing at Ikoyi for more certification.”
He asked me to study the newspapers in the office and write Christian news. I was doing this every time and I was learning a lot of things. I was there for six months without being a staff.”
She continued that, “I later went on several trainings by recommendation. For myself, I never thought of journalism, I felt journalists were poor, boring people. Today, I have Google certificates despite my starting without salary for months.”
She however enjoined young journalists to consider internship opportunities through which they could learn more and increase their opportunities.
In his own narration, another panelist at the fellowship, Seun Akioye, stated how he began journalism as a volunteer.
Akioye, a multiple award-winning journalist who writes for The Nation newspaper, began his narration that, “I finished from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ) in 1999. We had no place for internship then and I think today’s young journalists are lucky, some of them even have so many training opportunities and certifications.”
We begged at LTV for internship opportunities, they said no space. We went to a magazine called The Week. I was writing letter to the editor, I later started doing campaign against tobacco. The week gave us N100 per week. Things were tough, no cloths, no money to move round and to take care of ourselves. I later got something doing with Media Rights Agenda. We were given N10,000 per month, it was big money. Later, we started work on tobacco campaign; we would go to IPC, open with them in the morning, close with them in the evening. In those days, internet was not common, we used the opportunity to send emails, it was like our life depended on it. Later, traveling opportunities started coming,” he narrated.
Akioye, who had traveled wide around Nigeria and beyond, added that, “I know you may not have many certifications or degrees, you may not even have transport fare, but do whatever you could do the best way you know.”
Another panelist, Dayo Emmanuel, narrated how he began journalism.
“I was an intern at The News magazine/PM News back then. I feel young people today are much fortunate, back then there were fewer internship opportunities though people were getting spaces anyway. Today, there are mentorship opportunities but during our time as young interns, nobody really wanted to mentor you at least from my own experience,” he explained.
Emmanuel, Administrative Secretary of JFC, narrated further that, “In the newsroom, we were left alone but we took up the challenge to develop, we were not given assignments as much, but we were up and doing. So young interns should look beyond what life brings them but should look for how to make the difference wherever they find themselves.”
Erstwhile reporter at Newswatch Times, who now runs www.newsscreenng.com, Emmanuel continued that, “Chaplain of JFC, Pastor Alabi after my internship informed me Mr. Otufodunrin needed a volunteer on a project. I was engaged on the project and that was how I started working with him on the project and on Journalists For Christ and Media Career Services. Today, more than 70% of my contacts are through Mr. Otufodunrin.”
Narrating how he got the Newswatch Times job, he said, “Publisher of Church Times, Mr. Gbenga Osinaike, whom I also met through Mr. Otufodunrin and the JFC, was consulted when Newswatch was starting its newspaper. He recommended me highly based on what he had seen me do as a volunteer, I got the job and it was a good experience. You must seek for self-development while you volunteer because you may not get money but that experience is needed for your next assignment.”
In his own experience, Publisher of Church Times newspaper, Osinaike, asked young people to look beyond immediate gain and embrace training. “It was different back then, but if you have passion, the money will surface. At the Punch, I was there for three months, I didn’t get paid,” he said.
Narrating his own experience, Abiodun Alade of the Vanguard newspaper said, “My experience is still fresh. I was highly recommended and even turned down a job offer at Akwa Ibom where I had my NYSC experience. I thought I would get to Lagos and just pick a job, but that was not to be. Things were hard then, I remember I would walk long distances because there was no fund.”
Alade, who had volunteered without job said, “Writing for National Mirror newspaper and the Nation online without pay. I studied business writings which I did not learn in school at the National Mirror. I was able to neglect my pay at National Mirror when Vanguard was on me for three months asking me to come over, I later picked the offer. The money may not come first, but it will surely come if you persevere.”
In his own comment, Oluodo Adedayo, who just finished his NYSC service year, noted that though interns need money to operate, but such should not be the focus. “We cannot over emphasise we need money even as volunteers. I understand that while volunteering, you don’t need to ask for money. You must go with the mindset that you will not get money, expecting money would only amount to hypocrisy. These days, it is difficult for a young graduate to volunteer because there are lots of things involved,” he said.
For another participant, Omotayo Alo of CORETV News, the personal character of the intern is key. “Character is one key thing, your character may put people off even if you are good, so interns must be level headed and be focused to learn all they need to learn.”
Gbemile Oluwatosin, a graduate of the NIJ, Lagos, said, “You are not supposed to go somewhere to volunteer with the mind set of getting paid, but your work would speak for you if you are committed.” He also remembered that, “At National Daily where I was a volunteer, I got a cover page story, I was earning N2,000 a week then, but wasn’t focusing on money but for my stories to be published.”
Osinaike stated further that, “There is no way you show passion at a venture and you don’t get paid, you can get stories from your neighbourhood and get to cyber café and send with just N100, it is just the commitment that is needed, you’ll always find a way.”
A participant, Adeyanju Uwala, noted that volunteering should be for even old and experienced people and not for young people alone. “I don’t think volunteering should be for young people alone, I think old people too should volunteer and use their experience for the public.”
Otufodunrin instructed further that, journalists need to create their own jobs. “As journalists, we should try to create jobs, it goes beyond writing, as we get along, things get more difficult, the jobs are not as available as before, go to meetings that can enhance your career, attend public lectures that are free for you to get necessary connections and ideas,” he advised.
Another participant, Lekan Yusuf, encouraged Christians in the media to uphold their Christian virtues. “As a Christian, you have to maintain your Christian ethics. As a child of God, you must uphold your standard, I have learnt a lot from Mr. Otufodunrin and he is a good example of a Christian journalist. I employ young people around him to learn from him like I did,” Yusuf said.
Otufodunrin enjoined further that even when there are no opportunities interns should endeavor to create opportunities. “Even where there seems to be no opportunities, you must keep rehearsing; you could keep writing, someday, your competence will speak for you,” he said, enlightening further that, “When applying for jobs, don’t just list your degrees, say what you can do and what you have done, start writing and let there be evidences. Even if you are somewhere, you are not being paid, send good stories out, send your best shot because you don’t know who is reading.”
Closing, Chaplain, JFC, Pastor David Alabi, enjoined interns to “look for what is not being done where you are volunteering, have it behind your mind there is a gap I can fill and the Lord will make it work for you.