An aspirant hearing his name mentioned comes forward from the seat, occupies the lectern and awaits questions from presspersons. The moderator opens the floor for questions; fingers fly; chances are given, and questions begin to pop.
Now there is an increased tempo— like an adrenaline rush, everyone begins to bubble with self-righteousness and a sudden surge of intelligence. The aspirant becomes something like a prey, like a scapegoat, like a lab rat, like a litmus paper to be put to the test; the questioners (presspersons) assume the role of a priest, a saint, a flawless sage, an almost all-knowing assessor who would not condone any error of reply.
‘I’m sorry… If you cannot answer a question like this very well, I wonder why you’re contesting for this post. I think it’s better you simply drop this ambition because you’re clearly not fit for it.’ one questioner says.
‘But, seriously, do you mean you really don’t know the difference between those two terms? I mean, like seriously, you can’t differentiate them?’ another snaps.
‘This manifesto is so poorly written, with grammatical blunders everywhere. These are errors that even a primary school student should not make.’
‘I wonder how these guys even got admitted into a higher institution.’ one mutters to another, both sniggering.
The above illustration, quite often than never, is what I personally have observed of some presspersons at press nights in University of Ibadan. This category of presspersons are often quick to forget, or are rather negligent of the fact that we all are learners. They forget too that the most vulnerable side of a conversation is naturally the one who takes questions and, thus, the questioner easily basks in the mirage of superiority.
This way, press nights unfold more like a platform for presspersons to flex their seeming intellectual muscles and express superior intelligence only brought about by context, against the aspirants. The aspirants, on the other hand, become specimens to be dissected in ways that they would most possibly not have been able to pre-empt. Some of these aspirants, who truly may not be satisfactorily prepared to defend their manifestoes, become nervous, as they recoil into stuttering; some others put on a brave face by trying to establish their confidence in manners that might just unknowingly skid into reckless pride.
Whichever way it goes, it remains noteworthy that fellow presspersons need to imbibe restraint especially of the tongue. Sound judgement backed by critical thoughts and unalloyed objectivity is another key quality that has to be inculcated too. These are just few of the many ethics and etiquettes of journalism which we all are meant to not only know but also practise as (campus) journalists. Our emotions or how we feel about someone or something should not be what control our choices of words, because, when that happens, we only give way for less logic and agreeability in what we churn out.
We have got to correct the hasty notion that any aspirant who does not perform impressively during press nights or even manifesto nights is not intelligent or has to go back to elementary school. Well, the bitter truth is that even if some supposed presspersons –especially the perpetually harsh ones— are put in the same situations as these aspirants, they too would most probably not pull any better feat. Why then the need for self-righteous comments that only hurt a fellow person and student who is only trying to learn by grabbing a political form? Even we who ask questions, are we not simply seizing the platform to further learn journalism itself? If we were to be assessed by an external body, do you think they would not find glaring faults in our comportment too? Even an honest self-assessment would clearly confirm that.
Apparently, it is true that there are cases where some aspirants present themselves in a bad light. It is true, too, that there are those who display utter unpreparedness and, at times, cluelessness, in fact. This, however, does not give us presspersons any reason to capitalise on these flaws during press nights. It should not be an opportunity to hurl rude remarks at the aspirants—we are not opportunists of human flaws; we are presspersons, guided by the codes of objectivity above subjectivity, logic above emotion, critical judgement above impressionistic views, and forethought above afterthought.
We do not organise press nights to flaunt our intellect or establish our knowledge— of course not. No one knows it all. We are nonetheless expected to ask critical questions with open minds, not a mind warped by preconceived irritation or disappointment. Simply, whenever we are to ask questions as presspersons, it is only professional that, as much as possible, we steer clear of emotional interferences.
In fact, also, the feeling of intellectual superiority has to be self-checked. Let us take the truth as it is: that one is a campus journalist – or even a public speaker— does not make one intellectually better than someone else who might decide to have a foray into campus politics. ‘Las las,’ we all are learners trying to have a taste of what these things seem like.
Altogether, the aim of this article is to etch it in every pressperson’s psyche that press nights should not be perceived as platforms to throw insults at aspirants, or seen as a means of flaunting knowledge that is only a fraction of another person’s whole; neither should we be too forward to make conclusions about who uses logic or reasons best—because even that can be contextual..
Yours in the fourth estate,
Yusuff, Uthman Adekola (YUA).