I Want To Be Remembered For Investing In Young Journalists- Kujenya
By Olabisi Olaleye
Executive-in-Charge/Founder, Media Mentors Leadership Academy, Ms Joke Kujenya disclosed that mentoring young journalists is innate and would like to be remembered for that investment.
“I was once a young journalist and I know what it means not to have a mentor. Based on my experience in the industry was why Media Mentoring was established”.
Fondly called Mummy J,she said that her adrenaline is in mentorship and mentorship alone.
Now a freelance (Senior) Investigative Journalist with a national newspaper, she speaks on this and many more.
What is media mentoring about?
Media Mentors Leadership Academy is solely about assisting young professionals find their bearing in their chosen career path. When we all come into any career or profession, we come in as freshers, not knowing how to find our ways. We get tossed here and there, being lost to the arena and often oblivious of what is expected of us. Instances as this informed the birth of Media Mentors. It was born out of experience of after a few years of trials-by-errors, one puts the lessons learned together and then, we began to help guide, in our own little ways, younger journalists who were equally struggling as one had once did.
We did this by organizing training sessions, one-on-one pep talks; this we do more for those who are shy and would rather want confidential talks, share professional books with some to go and read and then, come for us to discuss it and many others. There have been seminars, workshops and conferences. Media Mentors is able helping others gain professional knowledge and confidence needed to excel in chosen career paths, especially in the area of Mass Communications.
How did the passion for mentoring journalists start?
Passion for mentoring others, not just in journalism, has always been innate. When I learn a new thing, I always wanted to know if others knew it. And if they don’t, I would ask if they would like to know it. But it took shape when I entered Journalism and had a stint with the Independent Communications Nigeria Limited (ICNL). I met Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, current publisher of the Premium Times. Because of his Investigative Journalism slant, I wanted to learn that. So, I asked him and he began to put me through. That bits I learned from him greatly inspired me. I gained confidence to then go all out and began to assist others. I started reading widely and attended series of leadership training and workshops both in Nigeria and abroad. I started asking questions, kept learning and growing because I wanted to be sure I was passing the right kinds of information to those I am privileged to share with.
At what point did you become fed up, what and when did the breakthrough pop up?
Got fed up? I can’t recall getting fed up. I am being honest. I had a focus and I was bent on pursuing it. All my life, I commit my aspirations to God in prayers and then, kept at it. Yes, main media management in Nigeria can be frustrating in terms of the ways journalists are treated. However, as I always told many younger journalists; which media outfit I was working for, for me, it is a marketing platform. I was the product whose services : my journalistic reports are being marketed through my publications. Though I had series of unpleasant experiences, I kept on working at my profession which altogether enable me to travel to 13 international countries across the world apart from a few African countries.
What we can call breakthroughs, though for me, career growth is continuous, came in different phases. I don’t know if the international trips can be called breakthroughs. But the first one came in year 2000 when I was chosen among 15 other journalists across the world to participate as a pioneer Fellow of the International Center for Journalists in Washington DC, USA. It was a project jointly held with The Freedom Forum. And after that, several others followed which cannot all be listed out here.
From your count,how many journalists were you able to mentor till date and what impact has this made to you?
To count that on the tips of my fingers? Wow! That’s gonna be pretty difficult. On a note of pride, though with a high sense of humility, you, my darling Olabisi Olaleye, Tessy Okoye now Igomu among others were one of our early products. And we are proud till date to have been opportuned to play our modest part. Altogether, I can say, we have touched over 200 lives since the year 2004 when the Media Mentors commenced on a sketchy footing. Recently, in our WhatsApp Group Chat, I celebrated how a young chap just wrote me out of the blue appreciating how I was the one that mentored and guided his journalism reportings. He talked about how one of the stories I guided him to write won him a place in a Fellowship opportunity I linked him up with in Kenya and how part of our lessons had inspired, gave him boldness to plunge into life headlong and today, he is a PhD holder in Bio-Chemistry.
In fact, he’s the fourth PhD holder the Media Mentors has produced. Yet, we didn’t set out to do that. But it has happened and we are thankful to God.
What was the difference between today’s journalists and that of your generation? Is it comparable and what is the way forward.
This is a very tricky question. Journalism is journalism from generation to generation. It is solely about gathering and reporting a piece of information either as a few paragraphs’ news or lengthy Features reporting. However, opportunities so much abound today that time-and-time again, I always wished I could be younger again to start all over. Global journalism would fill my effect. I mean it.
Sadly, with all these loads of opportunities, only a fragment of today’s journalists challenge themselves to be self-tasked into doing extensive journalism that could earn them a pride of place on the professional dais. Moreover, media management in Nigeria is so much commercialized and merchandized that it takes guts for those who want to do the job as thoroughly as it should be, to have the courage to go the extra mile.
Any attempt to compare in my view would be unfair. That’s the way I always think about it. My reason is that, no matter how bad things get, it doesn’t stop you from doing what you need to do. No manager can ever help you to pass or fail, it is an individual responsibility. It is you, it is me. For those who chose to stand out, it was a personal choice. Same stance go for those who chose to stay without growing career-wise.
Can you describe your life as a core reporter and what assignment or report that you wished you never did or wrote?
I was a restless reporter. I looked for better encouragement than I got. I always wanted to work. Just say I was insatiable ambitious. And I thank God that it paid off. I honestly cannot remember if there was a story I wished I never did. In my world, “A journalist is born, not made.” So, I was your regular “Iya (Mother) Reporter”. Even when I was supposed to be eating; I wanted to write something, always looking for stories, always asking someone else what’s up when I have writer’s block. I had the privilege to work with lots of good hands in the industry to work with in my much younger days who put me through. It got to a point, I began to be assigned story ideas I initially considered higher than my level back then. But, I was encouraged that I could do it. And then, I wrote my first cover in TheNEWS Magazine. And then, I began to be recognized, people began to mention my name. I got so many invites to different programmes than I could count.
Even now, I’m not tired. It’s just that we’re in a world in which the society limits you and start working with the younger ones based on your age. Life shouldn’t be like that. One should be able to function as much as your body can take you until one decides to quit by one’s choice.
How did you manage the home front as a young reporter?
Things were not as complicated as they are these days. In my much younger days as a reporter, I had my mother, my elder sister and my siblings. Also then, we never saw career growth as anything that could break up homes. It wasn’t until the days of psyching up “Women Empowerment” that managing homes became a big deal. I knew so much about communal life. Till date, I’m still used to it. We never pushed our extended families away and to me, it’s still the best. What I enjoyed I replicate for my children that are married. I help stand-in-the-gap so they can work and excel without stress on their homes.
What do you wish to be remembered for?
The best investment is what you impact into the lives of others, especially positive impact. Like they say in the marketing world, “If we impress you or make you proud, tell others”. I’m not a money bag. I’m still looking for financial breakthroughs. However, the little, little bits of impacts we make on others and we hear of it, is enough to be remembered for.
What is your advice for upcoming journalists?
Every young journalist, who is sure he or she is cut out for journalism, should learn and understand what his or her strengths and weaknesses are. It’s the first step in clearing your career path. It will help you to determine what exactly you hope to gun for in your career. Then, every younger journalists should be brave enough to enter the business of journalism in ways that will help them find their ways through the news industry’s tumult. They need Mentors to be able to help nurture and encourage them. They should be good listeners and ask tough questions. They should also learn to mentor young journalists and learn as much as they can, about journalism. They should become better in the craft of journalism and be quite savvy in the use of social media tools as well as keep updating themselves with every latest and updated developments that can enhance their trades.
***The Management and staff of Praying Hands Ltd publishing as Gtechnews, wishes Happy Birthday