Home Opinion Like Rotary, media should sustain hope in the world – NIJ Provost

Like Rotary, media should sustain hope in the world – NIJ Provost

18 min read

I consider it a great honour and privilege to keynote this event of recognising journalists and media organisations that have given good coverage to the activities of Rotary District 9110 and clubs with impactful humanitarian intervention projects in the communities in the last year.

This award is interest-specific as it concerns coverage of Rotary District 9110 activities. Be that as it may, it always gladdens the heart to see the modest efforts of the media recognized and appreciated in our peculiar environment of harassment, intimidation and fear.

I am sure John Momoh whose organisation, Channels TV has almost patented the medals for being the best TV station around would attest to the intrinsic worth of every appreciation like today’s. Awards as rewards are spirit-lifting especially for the media. Mr. Lanre Idowu, CEO of DAME (Diamond Awards for Media Excellence) can do the thesis on the value of awards to the media.

The media faces a lot of obstacles in the discharge of its constitutional watchdog role that, oftentimes may be adversarial. Because we probably focus more on the challenges faced by our society than solutions, our media has often been accused of seeing half-empty than half-full cups; being more cynical than optimistic about the public good.

So when we see such efforts as this award, it is a big thumbs up.

The second reason for delight at this engagement is that it is an opportunity to keep the company of a peculiar people- the Rotarians whose network of community volunteers work for the betterment of humanity through various service projects. To Rotarians, hope is a core value that drives members to make a positive impact in their communities. Their spirit of service and collaboration embodies the idea of hope as a driving force for positive change in the world.

Through projects that provide hope to those in need, such as supporting education, promoting health and well-being, providing clean water and sanitation, and fostering economic development, Rotary Clubs help to create a sense of hope and possibility for individuals and communities facing challenges. Since Paul Harris happened to humanity with Rotary 119 years ago, obsessions with goodness and hope have been the signature of the Club. Rotarians work to swap tears with smiles; fears with calmness and confidence and raise hope of a better humanity.

So I take it that this award ceremony is in the character of Rotary – to do good and make an addition to its checklist of achievements in Nigeria, since its birth in Kano in 1961.

I am not a Rotarian yet. But as a journalist, I bear witness to the good deeds of lifting the spirit and giving hope to many by the Rotary Club in the last quarter of a century in Nigeria.

From the End Polio campaign (with partners Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) that saw Nigeria getting rid of the scourge; through the phenomenally successful WASH – Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Projects (with Rotary clubs in Nigeria have implemented various water, sanitation, and hygiene projects to improve access to clean water and sanitation facilities in local communities, to free or reduce water-borne diseases); to the various Maternal and Child Health Initiative to improve healthcare services for women and children; The HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention Programme; to The Education and Literacy Programmes promoting education and literacy through scholarship schemes, school infrastructure development, teacher training initiatives, and literacy promotion campaigns; and vocational training programmes and economic development initiatives in Nigeria to empower individuals with the skills and resources needed to improve their livelihoods through skills training workshops, entrepreneurship programmes, and microfinance initiatives to support small businesses and create economic opportunities Rotary raises hope and redeem pledges.

Just last month, Rotary Nigeria successfully hosted the current Rotary International President, Gordon R. McInally in Abuja, Nigeria between 15th and 18th March during which he presented a fresh donation of $7 million to the Federal Government for disease prevention and eradication. At an exchange rate of $1 to N1000, that is about N7 billion.

Ladies and gentlemen, the post-COVID-19 world, has enveloped humanity with many challenges – from environmental degradation and social inequality to political unrest and global health crises. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the weight of these issues, to succumb to despair and hopelessness in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

These stressors certainly provide a ready feedstock for questioning media. It is all too easy to get caught up in the cycle of sensationalism and negativity that often dominates the global media landscape. Bad news sells, they say. Stories of conflict, disaster, and division are plentiful here. From Boko Haram to banditry, kidnapping, separatist agitations, arson and thuggery, multidimensional poverty, hunger and starvation, it is cupful.

But as much as we have these challenges so also are restorative efforts like the Rotary’s. The question is how much attention we pay to these efforts and promote them as an alternative paradigm.

As we focus on the world’s problems, our problems, how much do the media consciously seek that alternate silver lining that uplifts? How much do we skirt around the excess darkness that surrounds us, to illuminate the path towards a brighter future built on the foundation of hope – that powerful force with the ability to transform lives, communities, and even the world at large?

How much do we cultivate hope in a world that often feels fractured and divided? How much do we nurture optimism in the face of overwhelming challenges and persistent injustices? Just how much?

The answer lies in our collective willpower, our shared humanity, and our unwavering commitment to creating a more just, equitable, and sustainable world for all.

One of the first steps towards building hope is to acknowledge the interconnectedness of our global community. We must recognize that the problems we face – whether they be climate change, wars, poverty, or discrimination – do not exist in isolation, but are deeply intertwined with one another. By embracing our common humanity and working together, we can amplify our impact and create meaningful change.

If we work with the belief that hope thrives in environments of empathy, compassion, and understanding; if we listen to the voices of those who have been marginalized and oppressed, seek to understand their experiences and perspectives, and that we stand in solidarity with them as allies and advocates for justice; then we can change the narrative.

Herein comes the media power and influence. The media can shine a light on the darkest corners of society; and give voice to the voiceless, as it holds the powerful accountable. It has the power not just to report on the world as it is but to envision and create the world as it could be.

For us as media professionals, It starts with the stories we choose to tell and how we tell them. Without necessarily ignoring our usual advocacy to hold the government responsible and put the feet of our leaders to the fire, we should not be focusing solely on the negative. There are a plethora of gripping tales that bleed the hearts, there are also stories of resilience, compassion, triumphs and humanity at its best. There are stories of individuals and communities who are working tirelessly to make a difference, who are standing up for what is right, and who are building a more just and equitable world. Stories that give hope.

Such stories must engage our attention:

1. Tell stories of resilience, stories of individuals and communities who have overcome adversity and made a positive impact in their communities. If we tell these, we can inspire others to believe in their resilience and ability to effect change too.

2. Tell stories that promote positive solutions: Instead of focusing solely on problems and challenges, the media can also lift the spirit by highlighting positive solutions and initiatives that are making a difference in the world around us. Get the achievers club in science and technology, in medicine and arts. Showcase innovative approaches to social issues. That way, we inspire others to take action and contribute to positive change.

3. Tell stories that foster empathy and understanding: The media can foster empathy and understanding among people from diverse backgrounds if we promote inclusiveness and embark on peace advocacy. Sharing stories that highlight common humanity and shared values can promote a sense of unity and compassion in our society.

4. We amplify voices of hope: The media can amplify voices of hope and optimism, including those of activists, artists, and community leaders who are working towards a better future. If we give our platform to these voices, we can inspire others to join the movement for positive change.

Our media must serve as platforms to foster dialogue, bridge divides, and promote understanding and empathy across lines of difference. This requires courage, integrity, and a steadfast commitment to the truth. It requires us to be bold in our storytelling, compassionate in our reporting, and unwavering in our pursuit of a better world.

As we gather here today to celebrate excellence in media, let us also recommit ourselves to the power of our craft. Let us remember the incredible impact that we can have on the world around us, and use that impact to inspire, uplift, and create hope in the hearts of all who are touched by our work.

Finally. to the hardworking champions, selected through the rigorous voting process by the over 140 clubs and fourteen thousand Rotarians who participated in this exercise, I say hearty congratulations. May your wins be like that of Channels TV, year on year.

And to Rotary 9110, a big congratulations for your doubling into 9111 and 9112 from July 1st 2024. This is a remarkable opportunity to do more for the vulnerable and the less privileged in our society and raise hope for a better world. And to Hope District Governor Rotary International D9110, Rotarian Ifeyinwa Ejezie; Chairman Rotary Humanitarian Awards Committee, Assistant Governor Ehi Braimah; Vice Chair, Rotarian Olalekan Otun and all committee members and distinguished audience, thank you for this meeting and the opportunity to mount this podium.

Keynote address delivered by Provost of Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye at Rotary International District 9110 Humanitarian Reporting Awards on Wednesday, 17th April 2924 at Rotary Centre, Ladoke Akintola Street, Ikeja, Lagos

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