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Telos' Blog

Oct, 2021

The power of journalism according to Toyosi Ogunseye of the BBC

“Politicians will always want to get on well with media owners and influential journalists because they think they will get fantastic reviews on the papers or on radio or on TV”.

This sounds like a description of what is happening in Italy, but it is not. This observation comes from Toyosi Ogunseye, a Nigerian journalist, head of the BBC World Service for West Africa. It’s just human nature! It sounds like an obvious comment but, apparently, it is not.

We met Toyosi at the second live event in the Shall we Call Power Odd and Scary Beast? series, organised to present PRIMOPIANOSCALAc's publication the collection TWO. A conversation dedicated to the power of journalism and its role in controlling politics, and not only that.

You can find here the video with "the best of".

The problem of loss of authority in journalism is a worldwide phenomenon. It also happens outside Italy that politicians own media or that journalists consider their work as a privileged gateway to politics. In this way, politicians can count on a de facto benevolence towards them from the press, which is supposed to control them. At the same time, journalists wishing to enter politics can rely on a wealth of visibility, a valuable currency in the election campaign. Then, once elected, on a network of contacts within the newsrooms. From Toyosi Ogunseye's point of view, the result is disastrous for the very credibility of a profession that is supposed to protect citizens: “If journalists, and government officials or public service holders continue to have this close relationship with the media, the audience doesn't respect you, the politicians don't respect you, and at the end of the day you are gonna lose out.”

Toyosi's words convey the concept of the importance of trust. Citizens must be able to trust journalists and their ability to report the news, whatever it takes. Otherwise, we would not need them and could rely on social media alone, where we find content that is true, false or dramatised by a lack of proper contextual interpretation. And we will end up believing that Batman entered the White House, even if it was 'only' a man with horns. But at least the media have explained why.


The next 'Shall We Call Power Odd and Scary Beast'? live event is entitled The Power of Voting. On 14 October at 6pm, on our YouTube channel, we will be joined by Jason Brennan, author of the best-selling 'Against Democracy' (Princeton University Press).

The power of journalism according to Toyosi Ogunseye of the BBC