Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Friday, June 23, 2006

State radio, community newspapers and entrepreneurial rumour-mongering

Oh... hello there. You surprised me in the middle of poking my head through the broken window of Pangolo Junction, where I have once more come to eavesdrop on the goings on between our three friends. Well, since you're here, you might as well join in...

(Max, Nat and Zack are seated at a table. Max and Nat are engaged in a discussion, while Zack is abstractedly listening to something on his headphones.)

Max: ...and quite frankly, that's why I think that children as young as six should be sent out to work right away. It's a sheer waste of energy, creativity and ingenuity to keep them in school at that time. Or what do you say, brother Zachariah?

(Zack continues to stare into space listening on his headphones.)

Nat: Hm, it's very unusual for Zack not to have risen to your bait.

Max: Abeg, are we safe? What on earth can he be listening to? Let's find out. (Reaches forward and yanks the headphones from Zack ears. He is rewarded with a howl of rage as Zack jumps up and seizes Max's hands in a bid to retrieve the headphones. After a brief struggle, he wrests the 'phones from Max.)

Zack (angrily): Idiot! What is the matter with you? Why can't you behave like a mature adult for once in your life?

Max: I find behaving irresponsibly much more fun. You should try it sometime. Anyway, why are you behaving so anti-socially today? Don't you know that it's bad manners to be listening to your personal stereo in the middle of stimulating company?

Zack: If you must know, I was listening to the news.

Nat: The news? On state radio?

Zack: No, the news on alien frequencies. Or do you know any other means through which it usually broadcast?

Nat: No need to get worked up. It's just that you usually avoid state radio news. I seem to recall you calling it "a glorified audio diary of the state governor's daily itinerary inflicted upon us by a bunch of brown-nosing bootlickers".

Max: Yes, and I think that was one of your more polite descriptions. So what's up with the sudden interest? Have you been made a commissioner?

Zack: Don't be silly. I heard a rumour about the retrenchment of some workers in some of the state ministries, and I wanted to confirm whether this was true by listening to the news.

Max: Come on! You're more likely to hear confirmation from the story if you listen to the gossip here. In fact, I think if you listen well, you can hear them discussing it at the table in the corner over there. (Zack strains to hear and Max bursts out laughing.)

Zack: You should be ashamed of yourself, really. A child has more self-respect than you.

Nat: But really, even I am amused that you'd look to confirm this by listening to the news. Why didn't you ask the source of the rumour?

Zack: I wouldn't ordinarily waste valuable minutes of my life listening to reporters drone on about the governor, but nobody else seemed to be able to confirm the story. I did ask my source where he'd heard the story, and he said that he had heard from 'someone high up'.

Max: Which, when translated, means that he heard it from someone who heard it from 'someone high up'. But of course, he couldn't tell you that – because it would diminish his importance in the rumour spreading role. So he must have cut out the middleman.

Nat: And of course, it is possible that the person he heard it from also did some middleman- removal too...

Max: ...or even invented the story sef! I have been known to invent and spread one or two rumours that were even reported back to me. Interestingly enough, the person who 'informed' me about the rumour told me that he had personally heard it from 'someone high up'.

Zack: I don't get it. What is the point in spreading these stories? Don't we have enough to worry about as it is? Why make someone sweat over whether he will be retrenched, or whether there's going to be a petrol shortage, or some other looming disaster?

Nat: Don't be too harsh on them. People wouldn't spread rumours if the government always told the truth and did so in a prompt and consistent manner. When people believe the government, then any person that spreads a rumour is wasting their time, because people will always look to the government as their primary source of news.

Max: You're being quite naive o, Nat!

Nat: Why? What did I say?

Max: Even if the government was as trustworthy as you say it should be, people would still spread rumours! It's not just about the lack of credibility of the government... people just want some stories to be true so badly they'll make them up and spread them. Government- issued stories are simply not exciting enough!

Nat: Well, excitement and truthfulness aren't mutually exclusive. There's no reason why an intrepid reporter can't rove around picking up interesting stories that happen around the country.

Zack: Didn't Newsline – the magazine programme fronted by Patrick Oke, Yinka Craig and later on by Frank Olize on NTA use to do that?

Nat: Yes, they did – but I think it's degraded to... how was it that you described the state radio news again?

Max: "An orgy of slavish fawning and praise-singing dedicated extolling the alleged virtues of our corrupt leadership" I think were the words you once used.

Zack: It's become that bad? That's a real shame.

Nat: Perhaps the solution is for people to take news reporting back into their own hands – to become 'citizen' journalists. Thankfully, there are lots of websites out there where people can post their stories for people to read. There are even sites now like YouTube where you can post any videos that you have filmed.

Zack: That sounds like a good idea, except that not everyone is computer-literate, and not everyone has ready access to a computer. To reach people with your story, you're going to have to set up your own newspaper or radio.

Nat: OK, how about someone establishes a newspaper dedicated to airing the 'voice of the common man'? Anyone who has a news story can have it submitted and printed. And because the stories will be unusual and fresh instead of the usual press releases and stale commentary we get in the regular newspapers, the paper will sell!

Max: You do realise that the newspaper will be full of stories like 'WAEC, release my result', 'JAMB, please release my result', 'PHCN, please give the residents of Ajaniko village light' and 'Governor, please tar our roads'. What might be of interest to your citizen journalists will probably make very booooooring reading for the rest of us.

Zack: You'll probably make more money if you charge people to put their stories in the newspaper.

Max: No hope there, either – who will want to buy a newspaper full of stories of tales of woe? And if the newspaper doesn't shift, who will want to place their story in it?

Nat: Why must you be so relentlessly negative? You've not said one positive word about my idea since I suggested it.

Zack: Look out, Nat – I bet this vulture really thinks it's a good idea, and as soon as he's discouraged you into discarding it, he's going to run with it and make even more money than he already has.

Max: Well, can you counter any of the arguments I've made? If citizen journalism was such a good idea, don't you think that we'd be overrun with citizen journalists by now?

Nat: So are you saying that we are condemned to listen to the stale outpourings from the government controlled news media?

Max: I didn’t say that. There is, of course, another way.

Nat: What's that?

Max: The first law in business is: give the people what they want. And what do they want? Rumour! Lots of exciting, titillating, tantalising rumour!

Zack (aghast): You're surely not going to set up a newspaper with the aim of spreading rumour?

Max: Oh God no, nothing like that. I'll call the newspaper The Daily Speculator. We won't actually spread the rumour – we'll just speculate instead. So we won't run a story like 'The Story Behind Babangida's 25 Billion Naira Mansion' – we'll run something like 'Could Babangida's Mansion Be Worth 25 Billion Naira?'

Nat: It won't work. What you gain in sales you'll lose in lawsuits.

Max: Ah see, who's being negative now? Of course they can't touch me – is it a crime to speculate about someone's wealth?

Zack: And it won't even just stop at lawsuits. You'll find yourself speculating in hospital with broken bones if you go ahead with your plans.

Max: Of course I'll choose my targets carefully. I'll probably run a story like 'Zachariah Kwashi – Could He Be A Homicidal Maniac?' and I'll accompany it with a picture of you in wild-eyed rage. And of course, you dare not touch me, because then you'll just be giving the rumour teeth.

Zack (laughs): You're not serious. But I don't think you should dismiss Nat's citizen journalism idea out of hand altogether. There may be a case for community radio and community news for local affairs. I think there's a newspaper in Ikorodu – the Oriwu Sun – which has been in publication since 1985, although I'm not sure if it is still publishing.

It probably wouldn’t cost that much to set up a news media organisation with limited circulation. It would be easier to travel round and get news stories just for the area. And for the money minded like you, because it is local, it will find it easy to source for advertisements from local businesses because they know that the paper will be distributed to people who live in the area and are therefore likely to patronise their businesses.

Max: Hm, Zack... you've given me a better idea! I'll set up The Community Speculator – "Your Reliable Purveyor of Local Rumour" and run headlines like "Could Mama Bomboy be having an affair with Papa James?" and "Was The Black Goat Of Mr. Uwio Killed For Ritual Sacrifice?"

Zack (shaking his head wryly): Max, this your relentless quest for money will cause you trouble one day o!

And so we leave them debating animatedly about Max's latest money making venture. I'll be back with some more tantalising rumour and gossip from the Junction soon.



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    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 25, 2006 12:14 pm  

  • The whole inventing and spreading rumor analysis got me laughing.

    Nice one as usual!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 28, 2006 9:40 pm  

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