by Abigail Anaba
In my first year in journalism school, we took the course ‘English for Journalists’. The course was basically a reminder of most of the English and Literature lessons we had had in the last three years of secondary school.
We took topics on grammar, lexis and structure and studied basic literary terminology. In that class I learnt what a satire is. A satire is described as
1. a literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision or wit or
2. Irony, sarcasm or caustic wit used to expose folly, vice or stupidity.
I want to believe that the Sam Nda-Isaiah owned and Azubuike Ishikwene led Leadership Newspapers is made up of well-trained journalists who have spent years in journalism practice, so there is no way on earth they would not know what a satire is.
Ishiekwene himself once worked as Editor at Punch Newspapers. Therefore, when The Scoop published a piece in which The Leadership Newspapers allegedly demanded an apology for a satirical piece appearing on The Guardian Newspapers, I chose not to find it funny.
Perhaps we should reconstruct the scenario that could possibly have led to the writing of that letter of protest to the Guardian Newspapers.
Someone must have read that Guardian piece, and finding it not amusing must have drawn the attention of The Leadership’s leadership to it. Now, the person would have also found it in bad taste and must have then asked someone else to draft the letter. After the letter was drafted, some must have ratified it and then sent it on its way to The Guardian. I want to believe that at least three people were involved in this and possibly their legal team was involved. And yet, none of them chose to read the rider “a laugh at serious issues”.
But perhaps these journalists are not to be blamed for being thrown off the trail. We live at a time when most of the ‘serious issues’ Nigeria faces are reduced to a ‘laugh’. Perhaps if the word ‘satire’ was used somewhere on the Guardian page, they would have been forced to remember that they once attended a class tagged English for Journalists or whatever variation it was named in the school they attended.
Or maybe, if any of them had bothered to do a little bit of content analysis, they would have discovered that the column has been running for at almost two years on the Guardian and is exactly what is said at the top of the page “a laugh at serious issues”. They probably would have found various tall tales and unbelievable stories that have been spun out of new pieces they are all too familiar with. They probably would have found that ‘A Pinch of N(u)ews’ is styled after other satirical news presentations like The Spoof, The Onion and Private Eye.
When journalists commit this type of laughable errors one begins to understand why investigative journalism is dead in Nigeria. We get a clearer picture of why there is a lack of objectivity in reportage. We understand why certain newspapers cannot be used as a yardstick for measuring good grammar and a sense of stylistic excellence and why just anything goes. That letter to The Guardian Newspapers is a clear representation of everything that is wrong with journalism in Nigeria. And it screams clearly “we are part of the problem”. Why will there not be continuous streams of verbicide? Why would headlines not be cliché?
Or wait, maybe The Leadership hasn’t lost its way. After all, in 2012 the online version of China’s Communist Newspaper fell for an Onion Satirical piece naming North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as the Sexiest man alive! Or just maybe they did some research and found the case of The Dallas Observer in 1999. Need I explain my attempt at sarcasm?
The Editorial Board of The Leadership Newspapers ought to be ashamed of themselves and they really ought to put their house in order lest they be crowned the CeeCee of the Year.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Anabagail