Societies all over the world develop through debate and dialogue but not diktat and dogma, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Media Trust Limited Malam Kabiru Yusuf said in Abuja yesterday.
He spoke at the 9th Daily Trust Dialogue titled “Politics and the Media” held at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel. He said without available means of communication within the polity, rumours and the rancour, will take over.
He said without the news media, “certain people in power may prefer to hear their own voices, or that of flatterers. But no one has yet succeeded in shutting out those voices from below.”
Explaining the theme of this year’s dialogue, Yusuf said “in previous years, we beamed the searchlight on others. This year we are turning it on ourselves. As the media redefines society, we should ask that it defines itself.”
He quoted Vanguard publisher Uncle Sam Amuka Pemu, who once described a newspaper as a small town hall meeting. He added, “This is what sustains us. Every morning, we convene a small town hall meeting through our newspapers. Our accountant assures me that many of you here regularly attend. I thank you very much. But even before we started receiving such reassuring financial report, we committed ourselves to a bigger town hall meeting, in which it is we who pay the bill. Freedom of expression is at the heart of our business, and we are often amazed that this passion makes business sense.”
The Media Trust chairman said “traditional media such as newspapers risk becoming forums where the elderly gather to moan about the past. The young have moved to newer and more vibrant communities, where they chat and blog and tweet, terms that did not exist 20 years ago.”
“Should we regret the slow withering away of the old media, or can newspapers and radio reinvent themselves? How can we prevent the excesses of the traditional media from moving on-line and going viral? Who is to filter the content of digital media that has gone beyond town halls into the bedroom of teenagers? Is the media in general guilty of sensationalism, or are we blaming the messenger and not the message?”
He explained the dialogue has been organised to address the bourgeoning challenges facing the media currently, adding that “our panel of speakers and I have no doubt they will do justice to it. They were carefully chosen and I am glad that most of them are here with us.”