Have had the good fortune to work with Dele Olojede on the founding of NeXT, a start-up newspaper in Lagos, Nigeria. The city can be called a challenging environment to start up any business, at any time, but a recession makes things extra challenging.
Despite this, NeXT launched as a website in December, and in January debuted as a a Sunday edition (printed in London, distributed internationally, and flown in on Saturdays). I was honored to assist with each step, doing intensive staff and organizational training (the 150+ staff was hired entirely from scratch, recruited internationally, some with little or no news experience but all with ambition and high hopes for the cause of a free press in a corrupt country). Now I prepare to head to Lagos in a few days, to assist with the next big step: the launch of a daily print edition Aug. 3.
Here I share an excerpt of Dele’s column of this week in the Financial Times:
“The deck is stacked against us. We had to pick 55 youngsters from 13,000 applicants and attempt to turn them into reporters. We are trying to run a 24-hour newsroom on diesel generators. We have some old-style newsroom editors we are seeking to convert to the digital age of constantly updated stories for the web, tweets, and blogs.
“Our situation resembles that of Ferdinand Foch, the French general at the Battle of the Marne, who reportedly cabled Paris: ‘Hard pressed on my right. My centre is yielding. Impossible to manouvre. Situation excellent. I attack.’ “
An inspiration to anyone around the world who think that THEY have drawn the toughest card in journalism fortunes. Good luck to Dele and his hard-working crew.
Postscript: NeXT Multimedia, sadly, was an experiment put forth at a difficult time. A few years into its launch, the worldwide recession hit, and in a very fragile market, the absence of advertising – particularly from African powerhouses like banks and cel phone companies – means life or death. NeXT folded operations around 2011. Best wishes to the talented photographers, writers, artists and editors who committed to this enterprise and now are engaged in good work elsewhere.