Ace broadcast-journalist and publisher of Nigeria’s burgeoning online integrated media platform, ALEDEH (www.aledeh.com), Sulaiman Aledeh has spoken on the credibility of some online news platforms in Nigeria.
While many are of the opinion that the Nigerian cyberspace is filled with fake news channels, Mr Aledeh in an interview with Temmy Balogun, maintained that a few online platforms in the country have shown they are credible.
Mr Aledeh, a seasoned broadcaster, who left Channels television in March 2017 to set up an integrated online platform www.aledeh.com, also spoke on how people can use media contents to develop themselves.
In this interview with Temmy Balogun, Sulai, as he is fondly called talks on media influence, challenges as a presenter, online news platforms in Nigeria, his childhood, life after Channels TV and more.
Read the excerpt from the interview below:…………………….
Greetings Mr Sulaiman Aledeh it feels great to have you on Temmy Balogun Motivates, let’s get close up and personal; kindly describe your real personality asides who we watch on TV and give us a brief summary of your journey in the media industry.
Happy to be here as well, to answer your question, I think it will be very difficult for me to describe myself fully because I see myself as ‘work in progress’ on a daily basis, there are still many sides of me am yet to discover.
But to explain the little part of me I have uncovered, I will say I am eclectic in nature because I try as much to do a little bit of everything thing.
In addition to that, I have been a broadcaster all my life, but I didn’t study mass communication, I studied philosophy from one of the best universities in the world, University of Benin.
I started my career in the media has an undergraduate, because of the passion I have for it, this compelled me into settling for it has my profession, and now it’s a part and parcel of me.
So describing my personality will mean looking at me from different perspectives, that’s Sulai; as a philosopher, and a broadcaster.
Thanks for that. If you weren’t a media personality, what else would you have done?
I would have been a Muslim teacher. I love my faith, so I will love to teach my faith. The main reason for this is that a lot of people don’t understand Islam.
I went to an all-boys Christian secondary school, so we listen to the sermon every Monday which gave me an in-depth knowledge of Christianity.
Then I was opportune to meet one of the greatest preachers of all times, to me he was the first and only one I know to be called papa before others started using it that’s Bishop Idahosa, I had dinner with him then before he started getting set for Christian Women Fellowship International (CWFI), as a young student at the University of Benin and learnt a lot from him.
So far I have learnt a lot about Christianity and will be happy if people learn my religion as well, so misconceptions can be eradicated.
I have read many books about the Christian and Islamic religions, so I have in-depth knowledge of both, and I believe to be a better human, you need to understand all religions, then choose the side you want to stay with.
This will also allow you understand other people better because you can see things from their perspectives.
You have been in the industry for over a decade now, so you are aware of how it has evolved to this present age, amidst all eras, which would you say is best for quality information dissemination and why?
I have been in the industry for over two decades, I’m old, smiles.
Talking about era, it should be this, because of the emergence of new media, but with what we suffer at the moment, that’s fake news to borrow a word from Trump, which has become rampant; on a daily basis information that are untrue are put out to the public, so people need to decipher what is right from wrong.
Apart from this issue, this era is more dynamic, and better because information travels faster.
I have been privileged to use the reel to reel in the 90s to read news on the radio, then cassette, to CD until we then found ways to digitalise them and compress them into something better.
I understand all we had to go through while moving through the eras so I prefer this because it’s growing.
Though the risk of almost everyone with an internet access phone becoming news persons is there, I believe that will be corrected as we move forward.
Many online platforms are owned by individuals who are neither trained journalists or graduate of relevant media courses, so a large number of them don’t know the ethics around disseminating contents, in fact from our observation a large number of these platforms prefer sharing contents about celebrities which they know drives traffic to their pages and sites, so most youths tend to feed on contents that aren’t so helpful to them, as an expert in this field, what best approach can be used to provide meaningful contents and still drive traffic?
Like I explained earlier, I am privileged to have done almost all parts of the media, I moved from radio to television and now online media, one thing that stands any true media organisation out is; trust, accountability and giving people truth irrespective of what it is.
But in as much as it might seem harsh, it has to be said, we have so many people operating in the online space who are untrained in journalism.
When we started Aledeh.com, I told my team constantly, we are not here for traffic, we are not in the business to break news, though we have successfully broken some stories, an instance; is the story of Nigeria’s former Vice President Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, we were the first among few that made the public know he was still alive when others said he was dead, so talking about traffic, this story gave us traffic, because people realised that was the truth, and when he finally died we reported it as well.
We don’t report fake news to get traffic, just like few others in the online space as well. As I speak we don’t have an AdSense account, we rather want to get the physical adverts, we want to know the individuals, corporate bodies and organisations, putting an advert on the site, and build a business relationship with them.
But most in the online space, just happen to pick up stories and colour them, so they get much traffic, that’s because traffic translates into money for them, some are also in the game to blackmail people, but all these aren’t what the media exist for.
I was trained to always get the other side of every story before putting it out to the public, so if you make effort but didn’t get the other side, you should state it. Most in the online space even some big names are not bothered about the other side but rather just one side, which they go ahead to report whether it is false or true because they believe it will enhance traffic.
They also make use of misleading, screaming and fake headlines, sometimes when you read the headline of a story and go into the body you won’t see anything related to it in there, these are their own ways of making money, which isn’t right.
But I think people are beginning to have a rethink on the incursion these people are making into the media.
Facebook is working on something to control fake news, Google also and am happy Nigerians now understand the game these people play.
The new media is something that will be very interesting as we move forward because many are trying to put in place structures that will make the reading public differentiate real news from fake ones.
For us in Nigeria, am a member of the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, we are having a big-time conference in February 2018, which will focus on how to bring sanity to the online space and help the Nigerian public, recognise fake news when they see them.
But in a nutshell, to give meaningful contents and drive traffic, online media platforms need to be creative, develop contents that are in line with their platform’s goals, and will be interesting to their target audience, this will surely drive traffic.
It shouldn’t be contents like those seen on Instagram and Youtube where people are asked a question like; ‘where is your oesophagus and they get responses like ‘it’s under my feet, it’s in my brain and all. Yes, they may drive traffic to media platforms doing them, but such contents portray Nigerians as dumb people to the world. Funny enough 9 out of 10 of those contents are make-believe and not real, but how many people out there know this?
If you are a comedian, let us know you are but it isn’t right for a media platform to try portray us as unintelligent people to the world.
As a news platform, get reporters; don’t be at the corner of your home to get news, and when you get news from anyone, credit the source you got it from.
Media is about objectivity, truth, trust, and real news as against what we see now on most online media platforms.
I beg to disagree that the online media are not acting as the fourth estate of the realm, though we might have issues, but some online media have acted well as watchdogs of the government. An example is Premium Times who recently won an award for their investigative journalism work, also The Cable.
And the media is one, we are not different I see us as Trinity; all three are one, electronic, print and online, and all have been acting well, the main objective of media is to disseminate information and that’s what those in the new media are doing as well, only that the fake news has taken over them more because we don’t have a properly regulated system that verifies practitioners coming in , the traditional media aren’t exempted from this as well.
So I will say it again, the media is one and if you check media organisations that have stood the test of time, you will discover that the founders are veterans who will never join the bandwagons to put out the misleading news. Some of which are; John Momoh of Channels TV, Founder of Premium Times, Founder of The Cable amidst few others.
But to correct the fake news aspect I believe constant training should be done for those people who have hijacked the media, because they aren’t professional, not because they didn’t study mass communication or journalism, I didn’t either but have been trained, many haven’t been trained and don’t understand the ethics.
Veterans who know the ethics should constantly talk about what makes a better media, so people can understand when they see fake news and won’t be swayed by them.
The media theory of hegemony, explains how content from the media influence people’s decision unconsciously, these would have played out in many who spend most times online this present age, how can people screen out contents that are useful to them amidst all available?
I think it’s a matter of choice, that’s why some platforms will ask you to subscribe to what you like. So it’s a matter of choice, go for what you want.
Then for the youths who aren’t decisive, I think we have to go back to our educational curricular and tweak it in a way that youths are groomed to be decisive. Our culture also contributes to this by retraining youths from asking certain kind of questions from the elderly ones, this ends up affecting them in school and even when they start work.
Abroad, kids as young as 9 are already decision makers and takers, because they are trained to ask questions. I was trained to ask questions, I ask my father questions that pop into my head and he would answer me, now that am grown I got to know he wasn’t happy about some of the things I was trying to know then, but he answered.
Helping youths have sound minds and enlightening them, will make them differentiate what is right from wrong easily, this doesn’t mean they don’t need guidance.
But really Nigerian youths are getting wiser by the day and they know what they want, I’m happy they are getting more informed in governance more than before, they are very interested in who governs them, and they are asking questions.
What are the three best things people can gain from media?
Like I mentioned earlier, the media has a singular objective which is to disseminate information regardless of how it is presented either as entertainment or news. To state the three you asked for:
1. An informed mind is a powerful one, so the media gives power.
2. You know little of everything through media, which gives you the access to become decision-makers in your community.
3. It opens the door of opportunities; as an enlightened youth, there’s hardly any door you can’t open, no one wants a dummy around his or her enterprise when you are informed you can have good conversations with great people and they get to see how broad your mind is.
In addition, the media can either burn or build a nation, so we in this space should be careful of the content we put out there.
Now let’s deviate from our topic a bit, what led to you leaving channels this year, how long did it take you to make that decision?
It didn’t take me long to make the decision. Then talking about the reason I left, I’m aware many who call themselves investigative journalists have put out coloured news online about this, but the only media that I spoke to and who never coloured the news was Premium Times.
If I have to say anything, I will start with, I’m not fighting anyone, like I said to Premium Times which is still very much online , the reason I left was because I was bored and needed to move on, if my boredom, it was as a result of some other things underneath, and I’m not talking about them, it’s because of the respect I have for a place I still have trust and faith in what they do. A while ago I mentioned my boss’ name, as a leading light in the electronic media especially television, not because of anything but because it’s the truth. And yes he is still my boss, I don’t refer to any of my bosses as former, once my boss, always my boss.
Also, there haven’t been any friction since I left and we are very much in talking terms.
I believe it naive for anyone to go out and bad mouth any place he or she has worked before.
Leaving Channels TV, ten months ago, was the best decision for me, because I have realised that there are so many things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I were still on television because of my workplace policies not because anyone hates me.
Now things are more flexible, I can support whoever I want with my activities by endorsing or creating awareness of their issues, these are things I love to do.
This year has been an interesting one for me, and have been able to realise my potentials.
Share with us few challenges you experienced as a presenter. What would you say you did differently as a presenter that made you have super fans out there? What would you like aspiring broadcasters to learn from your journey?
People through social media, like attacking presenters directly, Nigerians will leave the important issues you are talking about on air to insult your parents. On Twitter, they will tweet at the presenters directly, for instance, one day; someone tweeted to say, look at your hair, please comb it, I’m not used to combing my hair and I don’t look unkempt with it.
But amidst all these I said to myself, I won’t be emotional on air, and I told my colleagues then, I will stop reading tweets during programmes until I’m done. So I will say one of the challenges is having uninformed people, making an incursion into an informed programme, trying to distort or ruffle the anchors.
Another challenge was due to the programme I was anchoring then, which was focused on news and current affairs, Sometimes I am not able to do enough research when a story breaks, and also getting people ready during this situation was an issue. For instance if we were going to talk about fuel scarcity and we already have our guests all set ahead of 6 am, the next morning, then late in night a new story breaks, like a bomb blast with great numbers of casualties, it wouldn’t be appropriate to carry on, we have to change our topic and get another set of guests, this was a challenge, so as an anchor you have to be ready always, infact that’s why we stay very late before going to bed, to keep track of breaking news. But this profession is very interesting as it keeps one informed and makes one’s adrenaline pumps. But amidst all these, we had a great working condition.
Then to answer the question on what stood me out, I do a lot of research, and this makes me well informed, then I try to speak right and well. I don’t form ascents but rather talk well.
For aspiring broadcasters, you should study and train yourself frequently even if your station isn’t doing it. Take short courses while you are on holiday, so you can stand out in your field.
Let’s flash you back to your childhood, can you remember a time you were punished for a wrongdoing and why?
I can’t remember, not because I was perfect but I was always indoor, I only had one friend which was my bother and when he left to study outside Nigeria, I was by myself.
But to give the closest answer to your question ; one day my dad wanted to hit me with a cane, but I dodged, so the cane hit the calendar, and it tore badly, I immediately started crying without being beaten because I was wondering how it would have felt if it landed on my body. Can’t remember what I did then though. Laughs
For those looking up to you, share the three personal ethics that have helped in the media profession you so far?
If you don’t love the profession don’t come close, I loved it from afar and loved it more when I started it. So first you need passion.
If you love the profession, you will want to know more about it and become better, which is very important. So you need to study very much, read frequently and broadly, it will give you residual knowledge. Do lots of research as well.
Your advice to budding media personality
As much as you love your work, there would be a time you might get bored of doing the same thing over again, so don’t be afraid to explore, the media is broad, learn other new things.
You can also get a role model within your area of interest, whom you will understudy, to be better and not to imitate. Avoid getting emotional on air, and be real.
Above all, each individual has his or her own style, mine might not work for you, but there’s one that cuts across always, that’s to always study and be dynamic.
Are you available for mentorship? How can your prospective mentees reach you?
Yes, mentorship only.
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