I was interviewed by THE INK newspaper recently. It was an interesting session. Below is the interview…
In some quarters, especially in the social media, Ifreke Nseowo is a name that rings a bell. The 23 year is currently holding the record of being Nigeria’s Youngest Editor ever. The multiple award winning media wiz kid and top notch blogger spoke with THE INK on a number of important issues some days after his blog was voted Blog/Website of the Year at the just concluded Ntanta Awards. In a nostalgic manner, he recounts how he found his way into the media, his steady and fast rise in the pen profession and his foray in to blogging. It was an interesting session with the soft-spoken young pen heavy-weight who is dubbed ‘Connoisseur’. Excerpts:
May we know you Sir?
My name is Ifreke Nseowo Udofia. Most people do not really know the 3rd name Udofia because I chose to give prominence to Nseowo. I am the last born in the family of 5. I am a 300 level student of the much revered department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo. Currently, I am Nigeria’s Youngest Editor (record holder). I am the Editor-in-Chief of E101 magazine. Until last week I was the Sunday Editor of Pulse Newspaper, but as God would have it I just got promoted to the position of Managing Editor which I see as the zenith as far as print media practice in the state is involved. I have my own blog - www.connoisseurng.com which I am running. I am a consultant for some other media outfits. So basically, that is Ifreke Nseowo; very simple, down-to-earth and very importantly a soft spoken young man. I don’t talk much. I do my talking via writing.
How did your blog come about?
Wow. It was in January 2012 that the blog started operations. But before then, I was nursing the idea of having website that will be updating people on the latest happenings in the entertainment world. So in 2011 I consulted my brother and friend, Mr. Aniekan Ekah who is the publisher of Wetinhappen.com, the first online news magazine in South-South Nigeria. He is also the Online Editor of E101 Magazine. I told him I wanted to start blogging and he didn’t waste time in opening and designing a blog for me. He went as far as registering the domain name for me. Also, with my little practical knowledge of using computers I was able to run the blog. The first 6 months of full operations of the blog, it amassed over 100,000 hits from people in over 48 different countries.
Because of my philosophy about blogging and the type of stories I run on the blog, it has been having series of visits from celebrities around the country.
Back in June last year there was a Dana Airline plane crash. Before then there was an article I published about D’banj. It was actually an April Fool story that I did on April I, 2012. Due to the feud that was going on between D’banj and Don Jazzy, I did an April Fool’s day story that D’banj was killed in U.S.A by unknown gunmen and that Don Jazzy, his former close pal whom he had problems with was fingered. Many reputable websites such as goal.com and notjustok.com do publish April fool stories just to create fun. So, I thought it wise to do that story and publish it on my own blog due to what was happening at that particular time at Mo’Hits Records.
So on June 3 or so when there was that crash, some people picked that story from my blog and published it on their websites without referencing the source and then people were thinking that D’banj was involved in that crash. They just wanted to be mischievous and attract traffic to their websites. Many blogs carried the report that D’banj was actually dead. In the tail end of that report I had actually told the readers that it was an April Fool joke. I never had it in mind to attract traffic to my site when I did that joke neither was I wishing that D’banj should die. It was a mere joke. People started visiting the original story on my site and comments were drooling in, and many who didn’t still understand it were saying all sorts of things and giving me assorted names. But, that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me and the blog. The story caused a tweet from D’banj and many websites carried it and referenced my blog. It launched my blog into national and international scene. As at now, the blog is a year and four months old. It has close to 300,000 hits and still counting. Blogging has brought me added fame.
What made you name your blog connoisseur?
If you check your dictionary, Connoisseur is someone who is good in giving judgment to any work of art, music, movie, fashion e.t.c. I attribute the name to my brother Dr. Uwem Nseowo. He used that name during his high school days and when he graduated and was closer to God, he thought that using a nickname wasn’t going to help his course, so he dropped it. Since Connoisseur relates to what I’m doing I decided to pick it up.
So are you not close to God?
I’m close to God. Papa God knows my relationship with him. The name is not a bad name. I saw it that it relates very well with what I was doing in the media world and I decided to pick it up for use. Since 2008 that I have been in the media, I have been using that name and it has become a very popular name for some reasons. First, it is hard for people to pronounce and, secondly, people do not readily know its meaning. It is a unique name. I have tried to make sure that I turn the name into an acceptable brand. So, basically, that is how I got the name Connoisseur and I have so much enjoyed using it as my brand name. I thought of making it a global brand and turning it into a media conglomerate. In my guest to making it a media conglomerate, I started a newspaper in the University of Uyo, the first to be edited and financed by students of the University. It is called The Citadel Post. Its birth served as a watershed in campus journalism in the varsity. The Citadel Post is the print arm of Connoisseur Communications Nigeria. Then also, as the day progressed, I came up with a radio programme called The Connoisseur Show which I host celebrities on a weekly basis where they come to relax, chose their favourite 10 tracks to be played in a descending order, and this is done intermittently as I interact with them during the course of the radio program. The Connoisseur Show is the broadcast arm of Connoisseur Communications Nigeria. Then finally, www.connoisseurng.com the online arm came up. So as each year passes, Connoisseur Communications Nigeria will metamorphose into a full-fledged media conglomerate. In the future, we will have different newspapers, radio and TV stations, and of course blogs and websites spread across the world.
Let me drag you back a bit. How did you come in to the media world?
Wow! It is a long story, but I will give you the lowdown in a nutshell. My dreams of being in the media started while I was quite younger. I used to go and check out my dad’s shelve where he kept old magazines and newspapers. I used to get those papers to read when I return from school. I usually went straight to the ending pages where there were sports stories. So while in secondary school I used to write sports articles but there was no medium to publish them. I actually had about two or three of my articles on the magazine published for all the technical schools in the state. Mind you I attended a technical college. So in 2008, there is one young man in which I am always going to be very grateful to, his name is Idongesit Essien a.k.a D’Instructor. He was interacting with my brother on the possibility of him writing for Community Pulse Newspaper. He told my brother that he will love him to be writing in for the paper. I overheard their discussion. My brother was not interested but I told him I wanted to be writing for the paper. I told him I could write sports if I am given opportunity. He said no problem, write in let me take the article to office, if it is good enough it will be published.
I wrote an article on Austin Jay Jay Okocha. I sent in but it wasn’t published. Weeks gone, I luckily met the then Editor-in-Chief Mfon Utip who came to my office for a service. Again, I overhead someone calling him editor, so I walked up to him and asked to know the paper he edits. When he told me it was Community Pulse I was so elated. I told him I had written in but my article wasn’t published. He told me he was going to ask the sports editor, who incidentally was Nsibiet John, my immediate past boss. The next time he came to my office, he came with Mr. Nsibiet. I interacted with Nsibiet and he assured he was going to work on the article and make sure it is published. The following week the article was published. You can imagine the excitement of a first timer seeing his article and his name published on a newspaper. From then on, I worked under Nsibiet in the sports desk. He loved me and my write-ups. He even made a case in the editorial meeting that a sports column should be created for me. Apart from God, those are the people I owe my success today to. The other person is the controversial writer, Thomas Thomas. He helped me a lot during my early days in Pulse.
So when the weekend edition of Community Pulse was birthed, Nsibiet John was promoted to the position of weekend editor and I was deemed fit to be appointed as the Sports/Entertainment Editor. I became the first person in the history of the paper to head two desks. It is said that a golden fish has no hiding place. My rise in the profession has been a fast and steady one. When you are good and so talented in a profession or job, you don’t have to wait for so long a time before you get to the zenith. So back in December 2010 I was appointed the first Editor of the Sunday edition of Community Pulse. I was put on acting capacity for a month then after the management was convinced that I can handle the task of editing the paper, the appointment was verified on January 2011. And from available records, that made me the Youngest Editor in the whole of Nigeria. I broke the record that was held by late Pa Anthony Enaharo who became Nigeria Youngest Editor at the age of 21. My appointment as editor came 6 months to my 21st birthday.
From then on, I have been on the saddle as the Editor of Sunday Pulse for more than two years now running. And just last week I was appointed the Managing Editor of the Community Pulse, which I see as being the highest position any journalist could hold as far as media practice in the state is concerned.
But before then, there was a time I was just a columnist at Pulse. Many other media houses sought my services during that period. So I got a job as Sports Editor at Niger Delta Advocate and later Sports Editor at the Point Newspaper before Pulse recalled me to give me a juicy appointment to head her sports and entertainment desks.
In September 2011, I sought the permission of my publisher at Community Pulse to start an all entertainment publication. I told him I wanted to run entertainment newsmagazine in partnership with 4 other entertainment writers in the state. The idea was for us to come out with an Entertainment Magazine that will be able to showcase our entertainment stars to the international community. So I and my four other colleagues who were writing entertainment in other state based tabloids came and produced the highly respected E-101 Magazine. I was unanimously appointed the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. From then on, the magazine has been blossoming. 3 months after hitting the newsstand the governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio sent for us. We had dinner with him at his lodge; he told us we were doing a nice job. I have gotten so many accolades and awards so far. The few I can recall is the PMAN music ambassador award, Ntanta Award Blog/Website of the Year, Save the Children Campaign excellence award and a nomination for induction into Ibom Youth Hall of Fame.
What are the challenges you have faced in managing the blog?
Since my blog is not as big and popular as Linda Ikeji’s blog where multi-nationals give her adverts, my major challenge has been finance. But I don’t allow that to disturb me because Rome wasn’t built in a day. I don’t despise the days of little beginnings. I get encouraged when I see blogging turning a nobody like Linda Ikeji into a big time celebrity. She gets advertisement worth millions of naira from multinationals on a monthly and even weekly basis. I spend a lot of money subscribing for internet connection in a week. Since blogging is not giving me money for now, it is passion that is keeping me going. I get money from other sources to keep the blog running. This is the price I have to pay to get the blog to where I want it to be. However, many people go into blogging because they feel it will start giving them money immediately they begin. It is not that easy. I can starve to keep my blog running.
Another challenge has been time. My normal day is choked up with very many activities. Like you know I am a student, I work for Community Pulse, I’m editing E-101 Magazine. All these things need my time and I have to apportion to each of them so that none of them will suffer due to my negligence. So at the end of the day, I may very little time to blog.
How do you handle plagiarism?
An example is the D’banj story I told you earlier. Most a times, many other blogs copy my stories and get pictures from my blog to publish on theirs without giving me credit. As human, I feel bad because writing stories is energy sapping. It hurts for someone to just take your intellectual property without referencing you. On the other hand, sometimes I feel good because it that shows my stories are good enough for people to use on their papers and blogs. We have thousands of bloggers in Nigeria but very few of them have time to sit down and do authentic, authoritative and verified stories for their own blog.
Most of the stories that are making headlines on social media now are gotten from Linda Ikeji’s blog. Immediately she puts a story from her blog, people copy it directly and put up on their own blog without referencing. Plagiarism has been a major headache for me but on the other hand it makes me feel good.
Just last week, a friend of mine Mr. Nelson Nseabasi came back from Lagos, and immediately he saw me he told me “you are making waves in Lagos. The soft sells in Lagos get stories from your blog to enrich their magazines.” I am happy that my blog is recognized.
What’s your opinion about the just concluded Ntanta Awards?
It is a great initiative by Soul Minds Group. I knew about the award 2 months ago through newspaper advertisements and online promo. I was happy that a month later my blog was nominated in the category of Best Blog/Website of the Year 2011/2012. The essence of the award was to celebrate people from Cross River and Akwa Ibom States who have been outstanding in the entertainment, media and fashion industries through their creativity and hard work.
So, I am happy that NTANTA found me worthy to be nominated for the award. I am also happy that I was voted massively by fans as the Blog/Website of the Year 2011/2012. Actually, it is a commendable effort from Ntanta because we do not have many of such events in Akwa Ibom. But when you get to Lagos you will see so many awards which encourages people to work harder.
How often do you update your blog?
I would love to be updating my blog per minute. It gives me joy when I blog and people call to appreciate. Like today I did a story on Planet FM that has just arrived Akwa Ibom. I had so many calls from people who called to get more details about the new station. This brings me so much joy. Already I posted like 3 stories in the morning; before I go to sleep today I should do four (4) more. I don’t have a limit on the number of stories I post per day. If I have enough time I blog a lot.
Where do you see connoisseur blog in the next 2 years?
I see it as a very big brand. If we have gotten to where we have been in just a year and four months, I think in the next two years we are going to be all over the world. We are going to keep doing what we know how to do best. We are going to win so many awards. NTANTA which happens to be the first award for the blog is just the beginning of more accolades, gongs, statuettes and plaques the blog will cart home.
What is your message to the youths of Akwa Ibom State?
My message to Akwa Ibom youths is that they should use their God give talent well. I thank God I discovered my talent when I was a teenager and went in pursuit of it. I think I have realized my dreams, though I still have a very long way to go in terms of becoming fulfilled journalist and blogger. I have the aspiration of being one of the best journalists that ever lived on planet earth and I’m sure of achieving that if I continue to go in the way I am going now considering my age. I will be clocking 23 on July 3, 2013. So, I still have age on my side.
My advice to our youths is for them to discover their talent very early and work towards making good use of it. They should be very hand working; they should not pursue money. When you are hard working and creative the money will come. When money comes fame will follow. It gives me joy when I walk the streets of Uyo and people recognize me as Nigeria’s Youngest Editor. Youth should try to imbibe humility. Your talent can take you to a certain height in your career but it is humility that keeps you there. An example is 2face Idibia. That dude is very humble even with his achievements and fame. He has been there for a long time and will remain there for so many years to come not just because of his talent but humility. I’m hard working that is how I balance my roles as an Editor, student and blogger and still have time to take care of my self. I use my time judiciously. The youths should manage their time well and avoid chasing women. There is no how youths will do these things I have prescribed and they fail to be at the top.