By Lekan Otufodurin
One of the ways I spend quality time online is to find out more about organizations I am not familiar with locally and globally. I take out time to learn from the unique programmes and activities of organizations similar to my areas of interest which is largely about the media.
Therefore, when I read about Journalist’s Charity (JC) supporting a project by another UK based Journalists support organization, I was curious about its aims and objectives. I am aware of many organizations supporting journalists in various ways, but I didn’t know any aptly named like Journalist’s Charity.
It turned out that the organization was founded by Charles Dickens – the famous author of Oliver Twist and A tale of two cities who was himself a journalist before the writing fame came in 1864 to help journalists and their dependants going through tough times.
It supports journalists in United Kingdom with advice and guidance, crisis support, financial assistance and networking opportunities. It was really gladdening to read that more than a hundred and fifty years after its establishment, the organization remains committed to providing advice and support to individuals working across the media industry, and even now when journalism and its practitioners are going through tough times.
Journalist’s Charity’s statement on its commitment to supporting journalists is very reassuring and will gladden the hearts of many professionals who feel lonely and unappreciated for the hard work they do. It reads: “We understand that being a journalist can be difficult, stressful and extremely challenging, and that’s before everything else that life can throw at you. If you’re going through a tough time at work, trying to deal with an emergency, or experiencing a crisis you’re struggling to cope with, we’re here to help.”
As I read and listened to some testimonials of how impactful the work of Journalist’s Charity had been for journalists who had dire needs their companies and professional organizations could not help with, I really appreciated the decision to set up this unique organization as far back in 1864 and the efforts that have gone into sustaining the work over the years.
What’s really unique about JC is its focus on personal needs of journalists and not only professional skills which are equally important. When journalists can’t meet their basic needs, they can’t be at their best at work.
Like one of its beneficiaries stated: “ When Work just isn’t coming through and I’m down to the last of my savings. Knowing you’re there to help is the biggest relief.”
More than ever before, journalists globally need support organizations like JC committed to their welfare issues considering how important the role of the media is any society. There is need to ensure that the professionals get all the support they need to perform maximally.
Part of the reasons for the inability of some journalists to meet up with the expectations of the public is the personal challenges they have to cope with. In Nigeria, many media organizations pay poor salaries and even owe for months.
Before COVID-19 media organizations have been having a hard time and the situation has been complicated by the pandemic. Many journalists have lost their jobs and are battling to survive with their families.
Media unions and associations have to really pay more attention to supporting their members in more significant ways like JC does. They have to be more accountable for the support they get to encourage more individuals and corporate organizations to donate more funds for journalists welfare.
I am personally challenged to step up the work we do at Media Career Development Network to support journalists in the country to maximize their career potentials and be there for them when it matters the most.
Otufodurin is Editor Emeritus and Executive Director, Media Career Centre