Editor of The African Voice, Mike Abiola gave a talk at the University of Lincoln on Monday, November 5th. Speaking as part of the “Journalists Speak out on Journalism” series, Abiola discussed the challenges facing the black African press in the UK.
When Abiola first started out in journalism, he believed politics had no effect on his career and still doesn’t, even today. He explained: “Politicians and politics has not actually impacted my career than what it was when I started.
“Sometimes you look at it and say for all that you care for and all that you write about. It has no impact and you keep wishing that there will be some kind of revolution.”
The African Voice doesn’t class other newspapers as its competition. Abiola explained: “What we call competition is what eats into our revenue. Revenue for us is advertising from mainstream. The closest to us is a fortnightly publication and others are monthly magazines.”
He continued: “We had problems when we went monthly. We weren’t assessing the revenues we assessed now, so we don’t see the other publications as much of a threat.”
The newspaper tried to expand its target audience with a French edition of the publication, though this didn’t work. Abiola explained why: “I think one of the major reasons was that the French editor that we got was not very good at English.
“This meant there were problems getting him to translate the English version to the French, so it felt like a waste of effort.”
One of the topics to arise during the talk was the London riots in 2011 and how The African Voice covered it. Abiola said: “That was a very controversial one for our paper. Initially we were going to say that the black boys that you see there are not Africans. But when we started getting names and we were seeing names that were African names.”
He continued: “It became very embarrassing and we had no choice but to report them. Our judgement is that it’s actually the failure of the government. It’s the government that has caused failing homes so that affects the kids going on the streets.”
Following the recent racism row between referee, Mark Clattenburg and Chelsea FC, Abiola believes that more needs to be done to represent black footballers: “With the number of African players and the number of foreign players in the UK, there should be more representation.
“There’s no two ways about it. The Football Association needs to do something. It’s something we’ve reported again and again and again.”
The next in the Journalists Speak out on Journalism series is on Monday, November 19th with Sofia Shershunovich, who is discussing social media in the Co-op Lecture Theatre. Further details are available on The Linc website.