Journalists still working with Abuja based National Accord Newspaper cannot understand why their publisher did the unthinkable last month .The newspaper apologized to President Goodluck Jonathan and ex President Olusegun Obasanjo after it had culled and published an interview Newsdiaryonline.com had with Sam Nda-Isaiah,publisher of Leadership newspapers.The interview conducted by Danlami Nmodu,publisher/editor in chief of Newsdiaryonline.com was titled ‘Jonathan is very very incompetent’.Nda-Isaiah also called ex President Olusegun Obasanjo a crook.
As soon as it was uploaded online, Jide Fashikun who was then editor of National Accord thought it was a good one and he proceeded to do a front page story out of the interview.Inside, the paper also ran three pages of the interview, with a pledge to its readers that the last part of the interview would be published the following Monday since the first part hit the newsstands on a Friday.
But second part of the interview was never published as promised.In fact events took a dramatic turn as Tom Chiahemen came to the office and upbraided the editor for daring to publish such an interview.Worse still, the ‘management’proceeded to do an apology to President Jonathan and ex President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday May 14,2012 the day the second part of the interview ought to have been published..
Strangely, in the apology, management seemed even too scared to mention Newsdiaryonline.com.Inter alia, the ‘management’ said in the apology that “we wish to state that the said interview ,credited to the Chairman /Editor in Chief of Leadership newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah, was filed by one of our news sources and the copy was still being processed when it was wrongly passed and erroneously published without having passed through our normal editorial screening process”
“While regretting the embarrassment the publication of the said story and unterview may have caused our respected President and Commander in Chief and our former president,we wish to assure the two leaders that Management has already taken measures to avoid a recurrence of the error,which resulted from system break-down,”the management said.
But the question now is why would a newpaper apologize for an interview it did not conduct?It merely reproduced an interview published by Newsdiaryonline.com.
In any case, after the apology appeared , Jide Fashikun tendered his resignation from the paper on the 17th of May. He is now an editor with National Trail in Abuja.
‘I Resigned after the publisher tendered apologies’-Fashikun
Here is an interview with ‘Jide Fashikun the editor of National Accord who authorized the reproduction of Sam Nda-Isaiah’s interview with Newsdiaryonline.com.He spoke on Thursday June 14,2012 in Abuja with Danlami Nmodu,publisher/editor -in -chief of Newsdiaryonline.com
Q:As the editor of National Accord Newspaper,you ran the interview Sam Nda Isaiah granted to Newsdiaryonline.com.I learnt the publication caused some crisis.What happened?
A:What happened was that on that particular day and like every editor,we would normally search for news that would make your paper to sell.And one of my regular sources of information is Newsdiaryonline.And I just saw there was an interview with Sam Nda-Isaiah the publisher of leadership newspapers.And I thought for Nda-Isaiah to have spoken to Newsdiaryonline is not a regular thing you find in the media;that another media organization would put the publisher of another newspaper or media organization in perspective.So,we drew down the report and went ahead to edit the report.We ran the report half way and at the same time ,we also extracted news from it which was published in the National Accord.Ironically for myself and my team,the publisher,Tom Chiahemen now called me to a meeting.
Q:When was that?You ran the story on Friday
A:On a Friday,the Friday before May 14th because the apology that followed the report on Monday was on the 14th of May.
Q:Before the apology you said Tom called you for a meeting
A:Tom called me for a meeting that same Friday when the paper came out to start to complain why we had to use the report.And I told him for me,Iam a journalist.I have a particular responsibility as an editor to sell whatever medium that I work for.And I felt that was a good report.And first of all, he was of the opinion that that report was published by an amorphous online agency that is unknown.And I told him ,no,Newsdiaryonline is one that I know has an Abuja address and I know the operators of the organization.And that okay, even if it is an amorphous organization for instance, Sam Nda-Isaiah is alive.He is the publisher of Leadership.Leadership is just some ten minutes drive away from National Accord,we could have reached there to find out whether he granted the interview or not.And he told me clearly he was going to do an apology.Ad I told him Tom you can go ahead to do the apology,he is the publisher.He went ahead, did the apology and issued a query..
Q:He queried you?
A:He queried me and in the query,he was contesting my professional integrity and sense of being a journalist.And I felt very bad and I initially did not want to answer the query.But when I consulted with some other senior colleagues I was advised to respond to the query.I did a six-page response,which I gave to him.After which he never called back to say okay,Iam satisfied with your (answer to the) query or not.
Q:The query came when?On Monday or when?
A:The query was on Monday,14th May, the same day the apology was made because I had finished production of 14th .While I was through with production and I was getting ready to sign off, that was when he came an insisted he was going to put the apologies on the pages.And I told him yes, he has the paper, he can put the apologies.He wanted me to read,I said no, Iam not reading.So, the apology was put.And as soon as I was about leaving for the night on Monday 14th May,I was given a query.
Q:I know you published the first part of the interview and you promised to continue on Monday.You never published it again?
A:We never published the the concluding part.We inadvertently denied our own readers a promise to give them the balance of the first half of the report.So we never published the balance of that report and I replied his query.He travelled for a whole week and returned on a Sunday afternoon,the next Sunday.And as soon as he came, he called a meeting of editors.And I went upstairs with the other editors and the next thing was that he read a riot act that I should proceed on indefinite suspension and that I should hand over production immediately.
Q:So you were actually suspended for using an interview you sourced from an available medium(newsdiaryonline.com)
A:I was suspended indefinitely by his own thinking.And I went downstairs, removed my things and I left.The following morning,I now wrote him a two page letter reminding him of certain things that I think he would have forgotten,part of which was the fact that I had given him a formal resignation on the 17th of May.Because the moment the apology was made , he had called to question, the 27 years that I had invested into journalism and I felt I cannot continue to stay ,otherwise , I must either be desperate or Iam not professionally competent.So I resigned and I gave him a formal letter of resignation.So If I had resigned on the 17th of May and you are suspending me indefinitely on the twenty whatever of May, then something definitely was wrong somewhere.
Q:So what do you think was wrong,what happened?Was there a query from anywhere?Because the apology was to President Jonathan and Obasanjo.Did any of these people or any of their agents get in contact with you or even the publisher that you know?
A:For me,what I gathered was that the newspaper(with the interview) sold out to the level that some vendors even went ahead and were photocopying that interview from the cover,and the continuation page and the interview and they were selling tjis as separate functions of their own.So to me as a reporter, it was one edition of the paper that did not come back with onsold (copies).So I thought yes, we had a good market.Now if at all anybody complained, I never got any complaint from anybody.But Tom Chiahemen went ahead to say that that publication was injuring a strategic business package which they were expecting from government.
Q:From a state or federal government?
A:From the federal government.So it was that strategic business interest that informed why he had to do the apology.But the apology was done in such a way that it called my own professional integrity to question as the editor of the newspaper.So I don’t see any reason why I must continue to remain as a staff of the newspaper.