The T.O I know: A Passion for 'Responsible Journalism'

The T.O I know: A Passion for 'Responsible Journalism'

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 11:54 pm

by ‘Bode Modupe

A budding relationship between Taiwo Obe, who to some like me is fondly ‘Uncle T’, but who most people call, ‘TO’ began about two decades ago. Nearly, all of my career life! It was way back in James Robertson, Surulere, Lagos, at the Media Review office.

Having found myself among his circle of friends, I made an effort to stay close. I simply, believed there was something unusual about this media personality.

Taiwo Obe (m) flanked by Bisi Ogunbanjo, Group Arts and Cartoons Director of This Day (l) and Charles Aigbe (r) of the UBA Group, at the Summit on Functional Social Networking for #NGJournalists (Capital Edition) in Abuja on June 25, 2014

Taiwo Obe (m) flanked by Bisi Ogunbanjo, Group Arts and Cartoons Director of This Day (l) and Charles Aigbe (r) of the UBA Group, at the Summit on Functional Social Networking for #NGJournalists (Capital Edition) in Abuja on June 25, 2014

You couldn’t miss the huge sense of humour, craftsmanship of the English language, love for culture and unassuming personality that is the rich blend of the individual called T.O.

But I haven’t remained a friend for so long by my own staying power. TO, has a natural ability to sustain relationships and qualitatively too.

A man uniquely endowed with the gift of adding value to you in every way possible without taking advantage of your friendship.I have gone from that level to become a part of his family.

From time to time as if being prompted by a timer, he picks up his momentarily phone and rings you up to know how you are fairing. “Bawo l’ewa o…!” Never was it complete without leaving a stress on the ‘o’.

Before we came to know networking as a major social and business buzzword, I guess one can say, the word was etched in the heart of TO.

He kept his friends close and kept an open door for newer friends if only to make the world a better place.

One of the things I have grown to admire most about the man is his sheer love for the profession- an ear for news and a heart for it too. An encyclopedia of some sort, I would say.

He makes everything that is news his business and believes news can be made of everything, with a right attitude.

Rarely have I seen such passion and consistency in other journalists, perhaps only in a few others.

Today, he remains for me a role model. He believes that the media must be professional and ethical at all times and must act responsibly despite the poverty in the land.

He has, over the years, expressed optimism that journalists can live better and do better without the obnoxious brown envelope (gratification).

TO, was to get the entrepreneurial itch and with like-minded friends, established TaijoWonukabe Limited, a marketing communications agency.

They had fire in their bones and made chickens speak with their client: Tastee Chicken. Soon Adeniran Ogunsanya would hear the chickens, as they testified: “They Do Us Right, at Tastee.” I loved that ad!

The challenge of ethical conduct and practice remained a major cause of concern for TO even in the world of marketing communications because it depended on the media to make it happen, I guess.

On his 50th birthday, a few years back today July 16, T.O declared his one heartfelt desire by announcing the birth of “Everything Journalism,” a social trust limited by liability that would help to further the cause of responsible and ethical Journalism in Nigeria, while providing sponsorship and training for media people.

It was also to create a forum for discourse on advancing the profession. He believed and encouraged all who would dare, to believe that journalism can be practiced responsibly.

“EverythingJournalism” may have remained just a dream going by the vagaries of the Corporate Affairs Commission having insisted it can be anything else but not “EverythingJournalism.”

But “EverythingJournalism” was what T.O dreamt of, and soon the embers of this vision was roused.

The dream came alive on Linked-in, a social media platform for professionals, which has recorded a membership of more than 1000 since. T.O, understands the power of networking and has consistently encouraged journalists to take advantage of its rich gains.

It didn’t take too long for him to develop an idea that will be of even greater gains and of more enduring value through “TheJournalismClinic” @Clinic4Journos. And it was on this platform that the first social media event for journalists was organised in the city of Lagos on February 20, 2014, riding on the back of the UBA Group.

In his initial mail on the event T.O wrote: “He chose a good day to make his entry: the second day of the year (2014). And, being unannounced – and unexpected – when he did, it was like Mars came down to Earth.

“I am talking about when Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, joined Twitter on 2 January. Within hours, he had amassed a followership (of men and women from all walks of life, as they say, including the founding Managing Director of GTBank, Fola Adeola) that almost equalled the day Bill Clinton joined Twitter.

It’s remarkable what he said to welcome his followers: “….Let’s KEEP the CONVERSATIONS GOING.” ( caps mine).

On 20 January, he tweeted thus: “Looking forward to robust/engaing discussions on youth employment initiatives, Africa rising and entrepreneurship.””Yes, indeed, it is about CONVERSATIONS and DISCUSSIONS.

“I believe that the PR minders of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had advised him to be on Twitter during the 2011 electioneering campaign.

But, by May 2013, the former vice president had stepped up his engagement on Twitter. I can bet that he is having fun, even when some of the tweets at him may be discomforting. He currently has 102,000+ followers.

Atiku’s major reason for hanging out on the social media, particularly Twitter, is instructive: “It has allowed me to listen a diverse array of Nigerian voices WITHOUT FILTERS.”

The success of the event gave life to “The Capital Edition,” held in Abuja on June 25, with a whooping attendance of media people and indeed anyone who wanted to latch on the social media advantage.

The event was held on June 25, 2014. I remember a discussion between T.O and Mr. Richard Ikiebe of the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, the moderator for the Abuja event, on how to foster a learning advantage for Journalists in Information Technology.

I remember in particular, at the time, Mr. Ikiebe saying there is so much that can be done with the BBM. That was way before we came to know about the Android phone in this part of the world.

On June 25, as fans prepared for the crucial match between Nigeria and Uruguay in Brazil, the Media’s ‘Who is Who’ in Nigeria, converged on the second floor of the Chams City Building along Ahmadu Bello Way, Abuja.

The aim was to discuss #SocialMedia and the Future of #Journalism It was entitled: “Summit on Functional Social Networking for #NGJournalists ”

On that day, in the middle of this grand event, news sneaked in about the Abuja bomb explosion at the EMAB shopping mall, which claimed more than 20 lives and left many injured.

Some of the participants at the “Summit on Functional Social Networking for #NGJournalists “ held in Abuja to discuss social media  and the future of Journalism in Nigeria

Some of the participants at the “Summit on Functional Social Networking for #NGJournalists “ held in Abuja to discuss social media and the future of Journalism in Nigeria

Of course it first broke on Social Media. But that is a matter for another day.

Various facilitators, vast in their own rights, held the rapt attention of participants during the sessions that ran quickly, a major issue that was on everyone’s  lips  before the close of the day was ‘Blogging.’

And guess what the question was: Can bloggers be called Journalists?

That is certainly an issue that concerns ethics of the profession.

When is breaking news indeed news that can be trusted going by the tenets of responsible journalism?

Of course, social media does not change the principles of Journalism. And so a journalist must ask always: Is it factual – having an obligation to the truth? Is it fair to all sides? Is it accurate? Is it objective? If Journalists must cut a niche for themselves as Bloggers can they indeed avoid sensational news that says don’t let the fact get in the way of a good story?

This event certainly left no one in doubt that “Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built–context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate.” Who more to make such an event happen but TO! Happy Birthday ‘Uncle T’.

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