Hadiza Gabon and talk show journalism, by Yakubu Musa
By Our Guest Author
Hadiza Aliyu (Gabon), a Kannywood a popular Kannywood actress has recently set tongues wagging following her successful diversification from dancing in front of camera to a career in talk show journalism. The critics of Gabon feel that she’s making an affront to a profession that she has no background in it. Some even went to the extent of raising ethical queries– despite their failure to defend the charges.
Talk show hosts have now become an essential part of the media landscape, from the iconic Johnny Carson to contemporary hosts like Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. Many people assume that to be a successful talk show host, one must have a background in journalism. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
Former Business Editor of the Pittsburg Press, Steven N Czetli, put this debate into a proper perspective when he opines that, “A journalist tries to accurately convey truthful information in an accessible and efficient way. A talk show host’s first responsibility is to entertain and be likeable. They can also inform, but they make no promises their information is unbiased or even accurate”.
Yet, Donna Halper, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, sees it from a similar perspective.
“… a journalist is someone who goes out and gathers the facts, and then reports the story. Journalists strive to be fair and accurate. They do not offer personal opinions and if they don’t have facts that can be verified, they don’t make any guesses. Most talk show hosts, on the other hand, tend NOT to be reporters. They are usually commentators, who mainly offer opinions. Some talk hosts are more reputable than others. Some talk hosts actually try to provide a balanced discussion. But all too often, talk hosts are provocateurs, who give partisan and inflammatory commentary and invite guests on the show who agree,” she observed.
All said, there’s no doubt that while some talk show hosts do have a journalism background, such as Oprah Winfrey, who began her career as a news anchor, many others come from a variety of backgrounds, including comedy, acting, and radio hosting. In fact, some of the most successful talk show hosts have no formal journalism training at all.
One of the most famous examples is David Letterman, who hosted Late Night with David Letterman for 33 years. Before becoming a talk show host, Letterman had a degree in telecommunications and worked as a weatherman and a radio host. He used his background in comedy and his irreverent humor to create a unique and successful talk show.
Another famous example is Steve Harvey, who hosts The Steve Harvey Show and Family Feud. Harvey’s career began as a stand-up comedian, and he later worked as a radio host and television host. His humor and relatable personality have made him a popular talk show host, despite having no formal journalism training.
Even Gabon is also said to have fashioned out her popular progarmme from Karan Johar’s Coffee with Karan. Little surprise as the Kannywood itself is built around Bollywood’s “reverse engineering”.
Yet like what Malam Ibrahim Ado Kurawa said in a riposte on my Facebook page, Gabon needs our support not our unnecessary criticism. Of course there’s a lot of room for improvement in her interview skills but the best way to handle this is not to bare or fangs against her deliberate diversification. Not even Letterman became successful at first attempt. In fact it takes an outlier to achieve that feat. But outliers are not born. They are made.
Mr Musa writes from Abuja