By Oladehinde Kehinde
Two Nigerian national dailies are said to have applied the scalpel on their staff number in the past week. They are allegedly Punch and Leadership newspapers. According to a source, the PUNCH recently sacked 40 members of staff, including some in the managerial cadre, for various reasons. A senior correspondent with the newspaper anonymously told this medium the purge was consistent with PUNCH.
“Everyone knows PUNCH has a policy of arbitrary sacking. You are expected to prepare your mind for the worst the very day are employed,” says the source.
Another source said the newspaper doesn’t consider human errors and leaves no room for such. “You are a goner once you make a mistake. Even when I am sure there is no mistake when I am leaving work, I must also pray there isn’t any waiting when I resume,” says another senior staff.
The newspaper (PUNCH) is thought to be the highest salary payer in an industry haemorrhaged by low funding and mountainous backlog of salaries owed to workers.
In related development, Leadership newspaper is said to have converted 70 of its staff members to freelance reporters due to cash crunch.
By its action, the Leadership newspaper would scale down money paid to workers and will only pay the freelance reporters based on publishable materials. It is however not clear if the newspapers bargained with the affected workers before their abrupt conversion.
The newspaper and magazine industry is faced with problems of low funding, backlog of unpaid salaries, quackery and corruption.
The advent of the new media aided by the internet has further worsened the woe of the traditional media.
Some concerned about the current ailing health of the newspaper industry have canvassed for a federal government-inspired bailout.
Writing in an opinion piece in TheNews magazine, another troubled magazine, Bola Bolawole, former Punch editor, said that a situation in which ‘a senior editor in one of the outfits last received a salary in October 2013’ is worse than the situation with state governments who could not pay workers’ salary and which compelled the Muhammadu Buhari administration to order a bail out for the affected states”.
Bolawole averred that “a Federal Government-inspired bail out is needed for distressed media houses in Nigeria. We have already established the case for the media as a ‘must have’ in a democracy.”