Shamusudeen Kareem Babatunde is a fresh graduate of English Education and immediate past Editor-in-chief of the Union of Campus Journalists, University of Ibadan (UCJ UI). He shared his experience and thoughts on campus journalist with UCJ UI.
UCJ UI: Seeing that you were once a E-in-C of UCJUI, can you tell us how the journey into campus journalism began and what motivated you?
My campus journalism adventure is paradoxical. Many had thought I had started my childhood reading and acting Shakespearean plays like Soyinka. The truth however is that I never fancied detailed reading and writing until I became a Uite. So, I had never fancied campus journalism. However, I found ultimate pleasure in journalism when I decided to take the challenge by joining a local press in 200-L. What motivated me really was the dire need to hone my writing skills and use my creativity superbly. Ever since then, I have grown along with the practice; unlearned and learned; collaborated and perhaps competed. This is why it is now difficult for me not to practice journalism or establish myself in the literary world.
Are there any ways campus journalism was instrumental to your personal growth or vice versa?
Of course, there were ways. Campus Journalism greatly influenced my reading. And as it is said, one cannot be a good journalist without reading widely. We had (and still have) a plethora of campus journalists in UI, so there was the need to stand-out. To do so, you must do things differently. And one cannot do things differently by merely leveraging what you’ve known years before. With the practice of campus journalism came immense confidence and great interest in intellectual discourses. It even surprises me when I now know extra-details. This has greatly helped me; it even got me freelance jobs. I can read and read and write and write. This just didn’t happen; it was the practice of campus journalism that placed me on this pedestal.
Journalism, irrespective of how we try to explain it, requires asking the hard questions. How do you think campus journalists can do this without putting their studentship on the line?
You can always ask hard questions. What’s important is the way you ask it. Campus journalists who are ethical know how to go about the obstacles of turning a blind eye to authority’s inefficiencies because they don’t want to go home. A CJ must be bold and most importantly, intellectual enough to ask sensitive questions in ways that don’t sound brusque to the university management. Whatever the case is, questions must be asked.
The notion that Campus Journalists are anti-management, how true is this?
That’s a silly notion, I dare say, because even the management itself is anti-management. It is just a low-grade lesion to intimidate CJs from doing their work. When you suddenly expose administrative issues, you suddenly become their antagonists. CJs should continue to do their work and hold authorities to account.
As the E-in-C, what were the challenges you faced in balancing academics and discharging your duties?
It was tough combining both. Since I knew what I signed up for, I was able to scale through. Challenges faced? Uncountable! The chief of them all was the laziness and care-free attitude of CJs and even pride for a few of them. Like I had once posited, many who bear the tag campus journalists don’t know what it takes to become one which is why they become unproductive and overburden the editor. Another challenge is trying to instill ethics in CJs. I, along with the rest of the executives, did our best on that but what happens at the end. I had no problem with my academics being a CJ. I did well academically even when I didn’t get the grade I wanted.
Now that you are out of school, do you plan on pursuing a career in journalism?
Yes. The ambition is still very much alive.
If you’re, in what ways do you think being a campus journalist during your undergraduate days can influence your journalism career?
The good thing is that campus journalism is taking a different trend and as such, campus journalists are not limited to their campuses. Campus journalists now publish in national and international media organizations. I think the ethics that bind CJs are what also bind mainstream journalists. Hence, campus journalists successfully transit into the mainstream media.
The environment of the University of Ibadan is unique. Do you think it was instrumental to the success you recorded as a campus journalist? How?
If you can succeed in the University of Ibadan, you can succeed anywhere (in the world). The atmosphere in UI was somewhat choking and gave little room for freedom of speech and expression. I however found ways to bring pressing issues to the fore without the fear of intimidation.
What changes do you expect from the subsequent executives of union campus journalists?
I don’t know if by ‘subsequent executives’ you are also referring to the incumbent executives. But what I’ll say is this: just like Fasilat has posited, there’s a need for short-term and long-term plans for the Union which the executives would work with. The missions and visions of these plans should be clearly defined and must be keyed in by the executives. This, I believe, will give the union a clearer structure. The core of these plans at all times must be the focus on journalism and by this, I don’t mean ‘campus’ journalism only. Our CJs too should be able to publish in local and international media. For example, one can see how Tobi’s vast experience in mainstream journalism is changing journalism narratives in the university.
What do you think campus journalists, at the University of Ibadan specifically, should do more?
I think CJs in the university should do more of investigative journalism and feature writing. Most CJs only want to write opinions and poems. These forms of writing don’t make the needed impacts and are sometimes overtly critical. CJs should be encouraged to do more investigative journalism because it is more impactful and possibly the core of journalism itself. (You can read Tobi Odeyinka’s winning investigative report to start with). Thumb-ups also to Adebayo AbdulRahmam, Tijani AbdulKabeer, Olawale Olaogun and others who are doing well as regards this.
Did you at any point in time earn opportunities for being a campus journalist?
Yes. I had opportunities being a campus journalist. Some came with learning; others came with earning.
Finally, Your advice to every campus journalist ?
To become successful CJs, you must be ready to pay the price. Some of the campus journalists you romanticise now didn’t become successful overnight; it was a deliberate, conscious process. As CJs you must give your all and must be ready to take corrections. The truth is that no one can teach you how to write these forms of journalism. Blueprints will only be given with which you are expected to build upon. Practice brings perfection and CJs should be ready to take the gauntlet at all times!