Not many people know that the Editor of Thisday newspaper is a woman, and a brilliant one for that matter. Only few people even know that she is one of the most respected journalists in the industry today.
Again, talk about one of the most versatile Editors in Nigeria today and her name will pop up. Talk about an Editor who is quite erudite and learned and her name will come up for mention too. This is because Ijeoma Nwogwugwu didn’t just spring up from nowhere to become Editor of one of the most influential newspapers in Nigeria Overnight.
She has paid her dues. If you check out her credentials, it is intimidating and formidable. She came into the media after having worked in the banking industry.
And after joining the Business Desk of Thisday over 20 years ago, she rose through the rank, to the very top.
Ms. Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, a native of Obuzor, Asa in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State, boasts of a background that embraces the private and public sectors as a banker, financial analyst, business strategist, and journalist.
Her public sector experience covers her 4-year stint between 2001 and 2004 as a World Bank consultant contracted to the Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Nigerian government agency responsible for the privatisation and commercialisation of state-owned companies. In that period, she was designated Deputy Director/Transaction Adviser in the BPE responsible for the sale of the National Mint to the Central Bank of Nigeria, Daily Times of Nigeria Plc, restructuring and transfer of New Nigerian Newspaper to the 19 states of northern Nigeria, and review and negotiation of the management contract for the National Hospital Abuja, among other enterprises. Ms. Nwogwugwu also worked on the Power and Oil & Gas Sector Reform Teams of the BPE and the first attempt to sell the state-owned telecoms firm NITEL, in 2001. As the Transaction Adviser for the under-listed government agencies, she sat on the boards of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, Daily Times of Nigeria Plc and the National Hospital Abuja.
Before her elevation in June 2012 as the 2nd woman in over 100 years of journalism in Nigeria to the position of Editor/Divisional Director, Editorial of a mainstream newspaper, Ms. Nwogwugwu was the paper’s Group Business Editor between 1999 and 2001 and had edited the Saturday and Sunday papers under the THISDAY stable from 2007 to June 2012. She has also penned the award-winning column Behind the Figures on the Back Page of THISDAY Newspapers for sixteen years. In addition to her post as Editor, Ms. Nwogwugwu was elevated to the Board of THISDAY Newspapers as Group Executive Director in June 2016. Ms. Nwogwugwu also currently sits on the Board of First Pension Custodian Nigeria Limited (FPCNL), a subsidiary of First Bank of Nigeria Limited and the second largest subsidiary under First Holdings Plc, as a Non-Executive Director.
She possesses a degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos and a Post-graduate diploma in International Housing Finance from the Wharton Business School, Pennsylvania, USA. She has also attended several management and professional training programmes in Nigeria, Europe and the United States.
Ms. Nwogwugwu is a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Nigerian Guild of Editors. She is widely travelled and is an avid tennis player, music and literary enthusiast.
She has also come of age. She turned 50 a few weeks back and City People Magazine Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE who has known her for over 2 decades visited her last week Monday at her Ikoyi home to talk about her experience as Editor of This day and the challenges facing the newspaper industry.
What has been your experience as the Editor of Thisday?
Its been challenging. The industry has a lot of issues stemming from the challenges of financing, quality of personel you work with; we wish it could be better, to ethics of the profession by that I mean to ensure that we maintain standards.
There are also exogenous challenges coming from the society we live in. So it has its challenges and it also has its rewards. Its almost one of the most exciting professions in the world.
It gives the individual a lot of power and clout. It expresses you. You learn a lot. Its been a mixture of good and bad. But I wouldn’t exchange it for any other profession in the world.
You are an Editor at a time when the print industry is facing global challenges, what’s your take on the way out?
I am on the divide of those who believe that the print media is becoming extinct. As you know, we are in the technology age. People can get news on their finger tips. If they are not carrying their phones, they are carrying their IPADS. And soon we have watches that will start offering the same sort of news.
Not only are we contending with on the spot news with online media, we are also contending with Citizen Journalism. Social media has critical role. Social media has a critical role to play but our problem is how can it be regulated and people are not fed misinformation and lies.
Every newspaper in the world is very conscious of the shelf life of newspapers is getting shorter by the day and that is why they are expanding into the digital media. Look at Daily Mirror Online. That’s one of the best newspapers websites in the world, it has millions of hits.
The trend all over the world is that newspapers and their publishers are moving in that direction. If our publishers here don’t seem to understand that then there is a fundamental problem. We in Thisday have moved in that direction don’t forget that we were one of the first to start multiple printing in various locations across the country. After some years so many media houses followed.
Then we realized over time that if we actually do a proper audit of all those printing presses we were operating at a loss. All of us today operate at a loss. But we don’t acknowledge it. Our advertising revenue has dropped. It dropped a long time ago, even before Recession set in If you pick Advertising revenue pick circulation, pick print runs, pick the cost of new sprint you will see that we cannot cover the cost of running this business. Because you are talking of full retinue of staff for each press that you have, from circulation, to the printers, to the engineers. And then the cost of running that press exclusively just to print perhaps maximum 10,000 copies. It is not worthwhile.
What we should have done is something similar to what Fleet Street publishers did in London about 2 decades ago. All the newspapers on fleet street pulled resources together and invested in massive state of the art presses in the docklands. They had minority stakes in those presses, whilst they have a Special Purpose vehicle whereas some private investors took up majority shares and they just put themselves on a kind of queue, so each one knows the time allotted to each one within 30 mins to/hours each title is printed because it is a state of the art press.
We are not been realistic here in Nigeria. That is what we should do. It will be cheaper. It will be faster and more economical. I discussed it with my Chairman before that as President of NPAN he should get others to rally round the idea. That way we would not have to buy newsprint. It will be the Wahala of the printers. Our partners will do that. All we are required to do is to meet our deadline and submit our pages. So that’s one big challenges that we face in the industry. Other than that, digital media has given us a serious run for our money. Most of the stories we publish in our print edition have been read the precious day online. It’s a big problem. If you bring it out, people are hardly interested. They’ve seen it on so many online sites.
So, we should be ready to fortify and improve on the quality of our websites. If not we would have a problem. That is why Thisday went into the TV project with ARISE. Now, we are having studios in Abuja and then Lagos. And we would be broadcasting more from Lagos.
So, what has been your survival strategies. Tell us how you’ve survived all these challenges?
It has not been easy. What I did was to put a lot of pressure both on myself and on my colleagues. So we try to make sure that for the 5 days we are producing we get exclusive, reports that the online media will not get. Exclusive stories attract readers to our brand. Its not been easy, a lot of media houses are struggling. We also keep pressure on our staff to do a lot of investigative reports. And that is also another dying brand. That’s because we are not financing it well. There are so many stories that need to be investigated.
So many. But funding is the problem.
To do proper investigative stories if has to be funded.
What was the attraction that the media had for you? Why go into the media? Why not something else?
Well I got into the media by chance. It wasn’t planned. It was in 1995. I didn’t study Journalism or Mass Communication. I studied Accounting. And I started my career in banking. I had left the job 5 years after been in banking and I was in between jobs. My marriage had broken up, I had 2 children and I wasn’t doing much and a friend of mine said look, Nduka was recruiting for his newspaper Thisday and you could take up a job with him temporarily. It doesn’t have to be a full time job. At least with your accounting background you can join the Business desk. And that is how she introduced me to Nduka and I started and I never looked bank. It wasn’t planned. It was a chance thing.
What made you now get used to the stressful nature of journalism.
It is definitely stressful because no 2 days are the same. Maybe I am not the kind of person that is cut out for the regular 9am to 5 pm job. I am sure if I liked a regular 9am to 5pm.
I would have left it a long time ago. I will say I am a non-conformist, by the time I realized it I was into it and it remains very exciting.
When you have a solid story you are excited. And you want to see how the reading public will react to a good story. The next day you are getting calls. Good or Bad reaction. It doesn’t matter. It is either it has forced the government to do a rethink or react.
Tell us about how your banking experience helped your media career?
I just did straight 5 years in banking once I left school. Because of my background, my chairman, Nduka Obaigbena wanted me to be on the business desk. There were others with degrees in Accounting Banking Business Administration, Economic, Social Sciences generally.
I once covered money Markets, Capital Markets, Then I was moved to Energy. I kept rising on the Energy desk, then they moved me to Abuja when all the MD/CEOs of banks and companies moved. When Abacha said all the big parastatals should move because of closeness to CBN and other financial institutions /moved. Then I rose through the Business desk until I became Business Editor. I was also Deputy Editor, Business. Then I left for the BPE on Leave of Absence. I handled a few transactions there. Then I came back when there was an opening in Thisday. First, was in the Abuja Bureau. Then I became Editor, Nations Capital. Then I went on to edit Saturday and then Sunday. So, I have edited all the titles.
When you look at your career in the media, how does it make you feel?
Its been fulfilling like I said. It has given one the excitement I was looking for. Very, very fulfilling. I have traveled to so many countries because of it. I have also been able to go on a lot of training programmes. It has exposed me to a lot of people. My column has also helped.
How were you able to balance out editing Thisday and writing your column?
That has been very difficult to do. If you’ve noticed of recent, I have not been writing, that in the last 1 year. Last years, in 2016 I probably managed to write about 5 times. I promised myself that this years, 2017 I need to write more, regularly.
My problem in that usually by the time weekend comes I am so exhausted and I write on Monday and all I want to do on weekends in to sleep.
I have to write more. I need to intervene more. A lot of people often ask me why I do’t have an opinion. I do. What they don’t realize is that I can’t write anyhow. My strength is in Business, Finance & Economics. The problem with writing business is you need to read. You need to get current figures, statistics. You need to also read constantly. You are writing to a particular target audience. And if you are writing rubbish, they will recognize it and point it out. Its not like writing on politics or relationship issues where you can write from the top of your head. If I want to write on ANPC for example, I have to get figures and statistics to back up my claim because they will reply me. I have to be sure of my facts, I have to be sure of my figures. So nobody can challenge me and say no you’ve written a curvy thing. It is that extra time to do all these that I don’t have. Its very difficult keeping up. But I have to make up that time.