Again, the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) convened a regional media conference – in West Africa.
The conference was held from 13th to 15th November this year in Abuja. With the theme: ‘Bridging Democracy, Development, Innovation and Media Sustainability in West Africa,’ the synod assembled finest journalistic talents, journalism educators, innovators, and other relevant industry key players from not only the region but also around the globe.
The plethora of media professionals and experts discussed divergent ideas that would assist media organisations in the region in navigating through the ever-dynamic media landscape to be able to professionally and effectively serve the interest of the people and hold power to account.
About 250 delegates participated in the conference – in-person and virtual. Several panel discussions around different thematic areas were held; innovations exhibited; papers presented and idea codefest sessions facilitated.
One of the key areas that featured heated debate at the conference is women’s representation and inclusion in media. delegates noted that the involvement of women in the media remains elusive and a challenge considering West Africa’s toxic cultural and social barriers.
Giving women voices isn’t just about fairness; it’s like adding diverse colors to a painting. It makes media conversations richer, ensuring a complete picture of what matters to everyone in society.
Contributing to this discussion, Mr Ajibola Amzat, Africa Editor of the Centre for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ) argued that despite a considerable number of women pursuing degrees in Mass Communication, Journalism, and Media Studies, the proportion of women practicing as journalists remains paltry.
He said more women undergoing journalism education courses in universities, polytechnics, and colleges must make a deliberate effort to start practicing.
While advocating for a radical shift, Mr Ajibola emphasized workplace policy revision, capacity building, and nuanced consideration of the demographic landscape of women journalists.
Similarly, participants called for a revision of journalism education curricula to ensure graduates can effectively use tech tools and produce professional stories.
Addressing the challenges of media literacy, Dr. Rukayya Aliyu, Department of Information and Media Studies Bayero University Kano raised concerns about the underutilization of research recommendations.
She advocated for an environment that fosters innovation, recognizing research as an ever-evolving process that holds the key to staying ahead in the dynamic media landscape.
Media sustainability is vital for ensuring a resilient and independent press that continues to fulfill its watchdog, surveillance, and catalyst for promoting public discourse roles.
To this end, Idris Akinbajo, Managing Editor of Premium Times stressed the importance of business models, strategic partnerships, and continuous capacity development in response to shrinking media finances.
As the curtains fell on the conference, a forward-looking conclusion encouraged media practitioners to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) tools responsibly was adopted to underscore the need to align AI applications with journalism’s core principles of accountability, clarity, and credibility.
The conference further resolved that gender gaps must be tackled immediately, embrace tech changes, and reinforce media sustainability, creating a powerful story for journalism’s evolution in a fast-changing world.
The impact will extend beyond shaping the future of media but democracy in the region.