26th September, 2011
NEXT newspaper run by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Dele Olojede stopped publication Sunday after 2Â½ years of muckracking and sometimes controversial coverage of Africaâ€™s most populous nation, the publisher said.
The newspaper, printed in Lagos, did not appear on newsstands this weekend. Olojede, a former foreign editor for New Yorkâ€™s Newsday, told The Associated Press NEXT was â€œlosing a lot of moneyâ€ and decided to stop its print edition to re-evaluate its finances.
Olojede said it was possible the newspaper could begin publishing again. However, the newspaperâ€™s advertising dwindled in recent months, forcing it from publishing six days a week to only on Sunday.
The newspaperâ€™s crusading political stance also hurt ad sales, as the salutatory advertisements heaping praise on politicians and the countryâ€™s elite that fill other publications never made it into its editions.
â€œIn this environment, where the government still occupies a disproportionally and distortionately large role in the economy, it has a ripple effect â€” said or unsaid,â€ Olojede told The Associated Press. â€œThe result is weâ€™ve had a very tough time getting business.â€
He added: â€œWe have to rethink our strategy and see how we can outsmart the system that seems so stuck against us.â€
NEXT began publishing its print edition in January 2009, focusing on government corruption in oil-rich Nigeria, a nation of 150 million. Its columnists, editorials and reporting set it apart from other Nigerian newspapers, where journalists often accept cash payments from interview subjects or â€œbrown envelopeâ€ bribes slipped into briefing materials at news conferences.
The newspaper reached the zenith of its influence when it published an anonymously sourced story claiming late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua was â€œseriously brain damagedâ€ and unable to govern while receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. The government attacked the newspaper. However, Yarâ€™Adua never returned to power and died May 5, 2010.
The newspaper also published the U.S. diplomatic cables related to Nigeria obtained by WikiLeaks, causing another stir in the country.
Olojede, who won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2005 while at Newsday, said he hoped NEXT at least would continue to publish stories on its website.
â€œItâ€™s been an extraordinary adventure for us, really. Weâ€™re going to stick with it and keep poking around to see if we can make a dent in the very many problems of this country,â€ he said.
â€œThe country definitely needs, like oxygen, an independent and honest press. … The country is not going to go anywhere if money can just determine what the public knows or doesnâ€™t know.â€