ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Gone are the days of notepads and blue pens, tools of the trade that now belong
to the past. Although the under-resourced nature of some Nigerian media organisations
have meant that some journalists have continued to cling to such relics of the past,
just like the old journalism days and golden years of Iwe Irohin (Nigerias first
newspaper) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe owned West African Pilot.
The Impact of the Internet on Journalism Practice in Nigeria
By Uche Nworah
In this article, I will be focusing on the likely impact of the internet on journalism practice in Nigeria. Although the term journalism has been traditionally used to refer to news practitioners in the print media (journals, newspapers, magazines), it will however be used in this context to also include electronic media (Radio, TV, Film, Web, etc.) practitioners. My reason for adopting this blanket description is that the term journalism is now popularly associated with news practitioners in both the print and electronic media.
One does not need to search very far to begin to see some of such impact. To their credit, some Nigerian media organisations have already established a strong presence in cyberspace, amongst the pioneers are The Guardian Newspapers (www.ngrguardiannews.com), The Thisday Newspaper group (www.thisdayonline.com), The Independent Newspaper group (www.independentng.com), New Age Newspaper (www.newage-online.com) and so on.
These media houses have continued to be veritable sources of news and information to both Nigerians at home and in the diaspora. The Guardians website and chartroom at inception was a rallying point for Nigerians at home and abroad to meet and discuss common issues of national importance. It can be said therefore that the Nigerian media are measuring up with their counterparts in other parts of the world by their maintaining strategic presence on the information super highway.
However, any such attempt at rubbing shoulders with the western media stops just with the internet sites some Nigerian media organisations have managed to set up. As other facilities and resources are still largely unavailable to Nigerian journalists, for example, company sponsored laptop computers with mobile internet access, digital recording devices, open access mobile telephones, plus salaries that take into consideration global trends, market prices and national inflation rates.
At the heart of the issue of the Internet providing the Nigerian media with a wider audience to, is also the problem of reduced cover price revenues and advertisements. The latter being closely linked to each other. Nigerians popularised the FAN (free readers association of Nigeria) concept, a term and acronym used to refer to the practice of locals congregating around newspaper vendors tables to read newspapers and magazines for free without actually buying any, probably a reflection of the socio-economic circumstances and intellectual awareness of the people that indulge in such activities (the FANatics).
It may seem now that such practices have now been elevated and taken to another level with the advent of the internet, since the free readers or punters now only need to log on and then freely read any newspaper or magazine of their choice, this obviously will have a huge impact on revenues as less hard copies will be bought.
The matter is largely compounded by the fact that Nigerian advertisers have not yet started taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet, to advertise their products and services in the websites of some of these media organisations. Only a few advertisers are doing this at the moment. It was hoped that such advertisements may actually increase so that the free news now readily available on the internet can be subsidised, and also to make up for the shortfall from the hard copy sales.
While there are no hard figures from any sources in Nigeria I can use to support my assertions, I will however site the global internet advertising revenues, which has grown steadily to over $8 billion annually (source: Price Water House annual internet advertising reports 2004). According to Tom Hyland, Partner and Chair, New Media Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers Single digit, sequential growth demonstrates the industry has left behind the large revenue spikes that characterized the early years. Were now looking at a maturing, stable industry that inspires further investment by large, traditional marketers.
It can be argued that in a way, the internet has led to a decrease in the revenue of some of the media organisations in Nigeria, while at the same time increasing their costs, as money would have to be invested into setting up such web sites, and also paying the staff that would constantly maintain them, however if we are to go by global trends which foretell an increase in internet advertising usage and revenues, then any incidental costs will eventually be offset by the expected advertising revenues, hopefully.
Regarding the way that journalists do their (news gathering) work, the internet has made things easier. According to Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, a member of the editorial board of the Independent newspaper group, journalists can now file in their reports easily from any part of Nigeria where there is internet access. All they need to do is go to any nearby internet café and at the touch of a button, the news report is at the editors desk, ready to be served fresh to the readers.
Gone are the days of notepads and blue pens, tools of the trade that now belong to the past. Although the under-resourced nature of some Nigerian media organisations have meant that some journalists have continued to cling to such relics of the past, just like the old journalism days and golden years of Iwe Irohin (Nigerias first newspaper) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe owned West African Pilot. In the words of Mr Greg Obong-Oshotse, a Nigerian media veteran, and former special assistant to Mrs Maryam Babangida (wife of Nigerias former military president), journalism practice in those days was a hands-on vocation, of course with the aid of the good old reporters notebook, midgets (tape recorders), and the ball point pen. Journalists are trained to write their stories on the move, inside taxis or buses, the slow process of news gathering then made deadline a dreaded word in most newsrooms.
Mr. Oshotse, who is now the Europe and North American editor of the Daily Independent newspaper, believes that Nigerian journalists to a large extent still grapple with the problems of poor facilities, saying that their professional life is still not as rosy as that of their western counterparts, especially in this technological age.
The internet has also provided Nigerian journalists with international exposure, they no longer have to travel to New York or London to be read or heard, they can file a story from the remotest part of Nigeria and the story posted on the internet, this then exposes both their writing style, journalistic ethics, and professionalism to the scrutiny of both national and international audiences. Such benefits obviously comes with challenges, that of advanced journalistic skills which is acquired through practice and a programme of continuous professional development (CPD), it is largely unclear to what extent CPD is part of the journalism profession in Nigeria, especially because of the cost factor.
Several media organisations still struggle to pay staff salaries and do not have enough money left to invest in staff training and equipments. There is also a deficiency in the quality of some of the graduates from the mass communication schools in Nigerian universities, colleges and polytechnics. Some of these mass communication departments have no fully operational media suites and student newspapers where students can translate the theories learnt in the classroom into practice.
The Daily Times Institute of Journalism located in Ogba, Ikeja Lagos used to be a standard bearer in journalism education in Nigeria but the institution has now fallen on hard times, especially because of the financial distress of the parent organisation (The Daily Times media group), which has since been privatised by the Nigerian government and sold to the Fidelis Anosike led Folio Communications for 1 Billion naira ($650m) under mysterious circumstances.
The new owners (Folio Communications) have been accused of underhand asset stripping tactics, and is currently embroiled in legal mitigation with some of the organisations key stakeholders, most especially the employees union.
Dr Jideofor Adibe, a media analyst and publisher of the London based journal African Renaissance, however, believes that lack of adequate training and upgrading of the skills of Nigerian and other African journalists may continue to hinder their progress and recognition in the world stage. According to him, it is sad that some African media organisations are yet to embrace information technology fully in their operations, more so when such technologies can now be easily and cheaply sourced and accessed.
However, his views may be applicable to some reputable and buoyant media organisations but may not ring true for the several others who are still finding it difficult to maintain an operational office, in addition to being able to pay the salaries of key administration staff.
In addition to the international exposure of their news stories and articles, journalists in Nigeria are now able to also sample freely the writings of their counterparts in the established western media such as the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Financial Times, etc. Doing so will lead to their copying the best practices and also motivate and challenge them to work harder in order to become like their western counterparts.
There are also fears that the internet has greatly reduced the worth of news products, because of the wide and cheap availability of such news products, some Nigerian newspapers and magazines have been known to freely cull and publish articles and news stories from the websites of other newspapers (mainly from the western countries), without actually paying any royalties, while also denying the writers of such articles and news stories of the rights to their intellectual properties, these kinds of behaviour may seem to be only obtainable in the developing countries, probably as a result of lack of skills or adequate in-house writers to fill the pages of every published edition.
Also, there is a lack of political will to enforce both national and international laws on copyrights and propriety. In this regard, it can be said that the internet has made life a bit easier for the Nigeria publishers but increasingly as the whole world converges to a global village with commonly adopted laws and statutes, Nigerian newspapers who are used to such easy life may soon discover that they wont get away easily with any such story lifting.
Some people have argued that the internet has to some extent greatly reduced the worth and value of Nigerian journalists, this is because of the wide availability of internet bloggers and pundits who are more than happy to have their articles and views published in the newspapers. These pseudo-journalists would not normally demand any payment and get their fulfilment from their one minute of fame. They normally would have views on just about anything, and usually written from a professional standpoint, thereby widening the debate for social, economic, and political reforms even further.
Therefore, there is no hurry on the part of newspaper publishers to improve the salaries and working conditions of Nigerian journalists, who seem condemned to a life of demanding for brown envelopes (goodwill money put in brown envelopes as inducement for publishing news stories and press releases), the monthly salary of an average journalist in Nigeria is still around 40,000 naira ($350). General working conditions are still largely poor compared to what obtains in South Africa and in the developed countries.
When asked why he spends valuable time writing for free on the Internet, one of such established Internet pundits Ndubueze Godson, a regular on some Nigerian websites, he said that he writes His views in a way reflect the views of the many Internet pundits, a phenomenon that is steadily on the increase.
Another known Internet pundit and columnist at www.kwenu.com. Hank Eso, on the other hand, believes that despite the vast incursion of web pundits and presumed journalists, the field of journalism is (still) well and active. He does not share the view that the Internet pundits are depriving the traditional and more established journalists of their livelihood, describing journalists who make such claims as being unserious.
On why he spends valuable time writing for free on the Internet, Mr. Eso says that it is to promote dialogue and understanding and also the ultimate way for him to express his freedom of expression. He believes that the Internet offers infinite possibilities in creativity and outreach. He savours the freedom and accessibility (between the writer and the audience) which the internet gives to writers like him, as they are not under any kind of deadline pressure associated with traditional news rooms.
According to him As things are, I am at liberty to decide, when to write, what to write about, how long and with what regularity. . . . I cannot find yesterdays newspaper in my house but on the web, I can find news from 1945, instantly.
There is a special group of people who appear to be particularly affected by the growing trend of internet punditry. The so-called freelance writers and journalists, these are the people that used to be paid depending on the stories they write and where such stories are published. It appears that their breed is a dying one as it does not seem likely that faced with dwindling fortunes and resources. Any Nigerian publisher or newspaper editor will be willing to pay for their writings when there are the internet pundits waiting in the wings with their own articles and stories.
Jimoh Odutola, one of such freelance journalists however warns of the dangers of such practices, according to him there is now a kind of dumbing down in the media, where people without any formal journalism training and skills now dominate the pages of most newspapers, with bolts-and- screw type articles, in reference to the lack of journalistic writings of some of the articles now published in some newspapers. It is either Mr Odutola is right or his, is just a rash reaction of someone whose profession is on the brink of extinction.
Another major trend that has emerged in journalism practice in Nigeria as regards the Internet is the rise of independent media. These Internet sites are now competing with the established newspapers websites in the provision of news and information to Nigerians at home and abroad. The websites are usually based and operated from either Europe or America and are already winning in the ratings stakes, as some of them claim daily visits which are quite higher than the figures the established newspaper organisations will even dream of.
Adebola Mogaji, the owner of www.naijacommunity.com, one of such fledgling websites in a recent statement claimed that his site receives an average hit of 60,000 visitors daily. Philip Adekunle, the administrator of another popular website, www.nigeriavillagesquare.com does not believe that the independent websites are directly in competition with the established media organisations.
According to him, ‘the independent websites are providing a service to Nigerians and the international community. We have now become a first source for information on Nigeria by both Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are attracted by the divergent and varied views expressed in some of these websites.
He also believes that both the independent websites and their more established and traditional counterparts can exist alongside each other, noting that his website, just like some of the other independent websites all provide direct news links to the established newspaper organisations, signifying a partnership of sorts rather that rivalry and competition.
Some of the other popular independent websites include www.gamji.com, www.nigeriaworld.com, www.biafranigeriaworld.com, www.lagosforum.com, www.kwenu.com, www.odili.net, www.arewa-online.com etc. While some of these independent websites are national in outlook, there are also many of them that appeal only to particular ethnic audience. A frequent visitor to some of these websites but who wishes to remain anonymous, however, thinks that some of these websites have no business existing, as they are not professionally run.
He also believes that some of the websites are funded by Nigerian politicians, especially those who have no media access in Nigeria or have lost credibility, and have now hired hacks or jobbers to touch up their images and raise their profile using these websites. He also said that eventually especially in 2007, the true motives for setting up the websites will be made known to Nigerians when they begin to peddle the views of their masters and promote only their interests in preparation for the elections.
Followers of the political events in Nigeria in the last decade, will remember the dark ages experienced by Nigerian journalists at the hands of the Abacha- led military junta, a period that saw Nigerias finest journalists fleeing the country, and several media organisations shut down and proscribed, or their owners thrown into jail. That period also witnessed sheer bravado and heroics by the very few newspapers and magazines that were then operating underground and the journalists that stayed.
Most worthy of mention are Tell, Tempo and The News magazines, whose running battles with soldiers and Abachas goons have now become folk history. It is very unlikely that the Nigerian media and journalists will experience such campaign of destruction and terror ever again. There wouldnt be any need to ban or proscribe the newspapers, because with the internet, both the independent websites and the established newspapers will be up and running 24/7, more so since some of the websites are domiciled abroad.
The internet is therefore a good device, that can be readily deployed under such extreme and harsh media conditions, hopefully Nigerians will not have to relive nor go through such moments again.
To some extent, photojournalists in Nigeria are now able to use Internet facilities such as emails to upload and email their pictures to their newsrooms from distant locations. Vera Odjugo, the London correspondent for Ovation International Magazine (Nigerias leading society magazine), says that the internet has really made her job easier. According to her I am able to cover an event using my digital camera, and download the pictures onto my computer, after which I will email them immediately to our headquarters in Ghana. This is the reason why Nigerians are served fresh photos of events, weddings, and parties from around the world on Ovation magazine every month.
In concluding, I want to say that since the internet is still evolving in Nigeria, and is yet to reach the adoption levels already achieved in the western countries. There will still be other unfolding consequences on the practice of journalism in Nigeria, but for sure there will be no going back.
In the words of Hank Eso, The web is a way of life, which we can no longer escape. It is my humble submission that journalists and newspaper organisations should embrace its use fully while at the same time taking full advantages of the opportunities it presents, as can be seen and is already the case in the developed countries.
Uche Nworah is a doctoral candidate at the University of Greenwich, London with research interests in country branding and diasporas. He also teaches business and marketing at Newvic, London.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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The Movement in Politics
By Julian Bond
An exhortation to political involvement within the decrepit electoral system by the Georgia state legislator and former SNCC activist who stole the show in the 1968 Democratic Convention by becoming the first black man to receive Vice Presidential mention. Bond writes the balanced, sagacious prose of the would-be junior statesman casting about for a national constituency. A reformist who senses the limits of reformism, Bond sees the Nixon Administration (the bland leading the bland) endeavoring to strangle the second Reconstruction of the 1960s. What he is looking for is an escape from the circle of politics that always escalates to protest, culminates in rebellion, and results in repression.. The diagnosis is astute enough but the solutions suggested are partial, problematic and equivocal.
He plumps strongly for community controlincluding black-run rackets, prostitution and numbers if they must exist in the ghettosand heralds the need for a nationwide organization Negroes and Practical Politics, Inc. (NAPPI) to channel information, political expertise and funds to prospective black candidates.
At present there are some 1800 black officials in the U.S. and Bond wants to double and triple their numbers but he shies away from any discussion of how unity is to be achieved among the highly fragmented leadership and black power ideologues from LeRoi Jones to Carl Stokes. Once or twice he raises the specter of violence and black guerrilla warfare in the cities but without any real convictionit may be morally justified, but it wont work. Despite the firm recognition that representative democracy has yet to work for us, Bond can endorse no other way: I find it increasingly satisfying. It is a pleasure to be a politician. In the end this is no more than a temperate and somewhat forlorn plea to the young people to return to the electoral mire at the grassroots level and combat the mounting apathy that threatens . . . 1972; 163 pages
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.
We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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By Cleveland Sellers with Robert Terrell
Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider’s account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South. This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early ’60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change.
The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that is destined to become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy.
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By Derrick Bell
In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.
Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly
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By Irshad Manji
In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and lovethe universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times.
What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 6 June 2012