The Guardian new editor, Martins Oloja, to grow paper’s online platform

Mr. Oloja plans to steer the paper away from its traditional past and make it a leading player in digital media
Mr. Oloja plans to steer the paper away from its traditional past and make it a leading player in digital media

The Guardian new editor, Martins Oloja, does not see his new career assignment as extraordinary, but merely “more work, rewarding hard work”.

But for all it’s worth, if vital changes must come to this newspaper, seen by many as conformist,  new and digital media, a staple of the twenty first century readers, must be the way forward.

And Mr Oloja, former Abuja Bureau Chief, named acting editor on Tuesday, said revving up the paper’s online offering is his immediate priority.

“It’s to get people to do the needful; to do what the readers want,” Mr. Oloja said of his new position and plans for a turnaround.

What the readers want comprise increased digitalization of news reporting, the very evil Mr. Oloja admits has haunted conventional print media for years.

The breakneck speed with which news are broken and shared, the swift and consistent attention they draw from readers, and their interactivity and graphics, are provinces the print can barely veer into, he said.

A comeback will rightly be a radical deviation from the traditional print habit of putting to bed stories for the next market day at night while the online goes abuzz already with them the minute it happens, Mr. Oloja said in an unscheduled interview on Friday.

A switch, he said, should require increased web presence; from having a well designed page to frequent updates, to more multimedia functionalities, he said.

“You can’t run away from the challenge,” he said. “It is the direction I think journalists should go in more.”

Mr. Oloja’s elevation surprised many media watchers, departing from a well-known traditionalist ranking structure The Guardian has preserved for decades, with individuals remaining on the same posts for several years, leaving room for little or no upward mobility in the newsroom.

Mr. Oloja, a respected veteran journalist, will take over from Debo Adesina, who led the newspaper for the last 14 years, an era observers believe saw The Guardian experiencing its steepest plunge. The paper will turn 30 in February.

“That is the setting there; one cannot question the structure,” said Daka Terhembe, a staff. He welcomed Mr. Oloja’s new role as “a well deserved elevation having been in the industry for over two decades.”

From its days of campaigning for chieftaincy titles to be replaced with “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in news reports, to having some of its finest reporters jailed by a murderous military regime, to turning down obituary adverts, to its publisher being targeted by assassins, The Guardian fell from grace, says an insider, who does not want to be named.

“Our paper has been living on its old glory for years,” he added.

With the regression came editorial slip, critics have said.

But that’s a point the new helmsman, Mr. Oloja, would not concede, although he acknowledges the nation’s media generally is at its most threatened phase.

He blames that on the influx of the new media – online news, blogging and the social media. Ethically, he blames a dismal capitalization that has seen several news organizations owing staff for several months.

Part of the efforts to arrest the decline reportedly informed the recent rehiring of Lade Bonuola, the paper’s pioneer editor and later Managing Director.

That envisaged reform is what Mr. Oloja, a member of the U.S Association of Black Journalists, elevated ahead of superior colleagues last week, must drive.

But he said it was nothing “extraordinary”.

“I always say the reward for hard work is more work,” Mr. Oloja said.