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May 25, 2024

End of an era, by Muyiwa Adetiba

End of an era, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

An eclipse is hardly sudden. The entities inch slowly towards each other over time until one overshadows, or eclipses the other. The signs of an impending eclipse are there for the observant or the gazers. One loses its size and its lustre while the other gains ascendancy in stature and brightness. So it is with the seasons of life.

Even the Bible alluded to this with ‘he must increase and I must decrease’ as the era of John the Baptist ended and the ministry of Jesus grew. So we have all been wired to accept that whatever starts must end. And nowhere is this more obvious than the application of technology to solving problems or providing faster and more convenient means to the same end. New technology means some equipment will be made obsolete, and in some cases, some industries. In fact, many professions including those which had been as old as time, are having to struggle to stave off irrelevance or even gradual extinction now.

To many young men and women these days, the phone has become their teacher, book keeper, legal adviser and even medical consultant. But nowhere has this invasion of professional space been more acute than in the print media. The take-over of the print media has been fast and furious over the years with people relying more on the speed and convenience of news dissemination than the refinement and management of it. The newspaper business had always been capital and labour intensive.

Although evolving technologies had often tried to shorten the process, production of a newspaper had traditionally been arduous and laborious. Finding a faster and cheaper way of disseminating news was bound to put the newspaper business at risk especially given its high mortality rate. It was therefore a no brainer in this paperless era, that the social media would soon eclipse the print media given its speed and low cost. But what we have gained in speed and cost, we have lost in responsible and quality reportage. It has become the little matter of gaining at the straight and losing at the bend.

   Still, the death of Reader’s Digest made me a little wistful. It was one of the journals my father read and I grew up seeing it around the house. I soon grew into it; its timeless features, its style of reporting, its variety and its slant towards human angle stories. Reader’s Digest made an easy read for young impressionable minds who had not yet developed the stomach for hard news. It had such a massive impact on me growing up and even into my professional life and it was not surprising that I tried to pattern one of my publications after it.

Given that it had been around for at least five decades before my time, it seemed it would be around forever, shaping and nurturing minds. But all things give way to new trends and even Readers Digest and its genre could not be an exception. Still, the news of its demise caught my breath. It was simply but aptly captioned ‘the end of an era’. It is indeed, the end of an era; not only for Readers Digest which sold about a million copies per edition just a decade ago, but for the entire print media industry. I was lucky to have practiced print journalism during its glorious era when it was the most reliable and therefore the most powerful means of news dissemination.

This was the era when leaders in government and business courted us because of the power of the print media to influence and sometimes change narratives. I basked in that euphoria as indeed many before me. It is therefore painful to watch the diminishing stature of the print media or worse, to watch the death of historic and iconic publications one after the other. The era that I knew of and practiced in, is lying prostrate and the final nail would soon be hammered on the coffin unless its failing heartbeat can be palpitated back to life..… somehow.

It is not only in the media that the old is giving way to new. It is also giving way in the more probable and more realistic areas of life. We are currently witnessing the end of the era of athletes who seemed immortal a few decades ago. Tiger Woods limps around the golf course now content to just make the cut into the weekend. Lebron James is no longer the dominant force he once was. Messi is chasing the final pay check in a weaker league. Ronaldo is fast going the way of his other illustrious name sake.

Federer followed Serena Williams, his age mate, in pulling the final curtain on a memorable career last year. But just like the print media, it is hard to accept when something or someone you have invested your passion and emotion on is signaling the end of a journey. When Rafael Nadal hinted this might be his final season because his body simply could not go on, I was hoping for the same miracles which prolonged his career at least twice in the past when it seemed it was all over. Nadal is a fighter; has always been. But even the best of fighters must know when to quit.

Nadal’s mind might still be competitive and be willing to continue, but his age and body are pulling in different directions. Seeing him lumber around the courts in Madrid and Rome and being beaten in the early rounds on his favourite surface by people who could not lace his shoes in the past suggests it is time to hang the tennis racket. With this unfortunately, ends a golden era when three exceptionally talented and focused players dominated the tennis world for at least a decade and a half. Of the three, only Djokovic, who won three Grand Slams last year – the only player in the modern era to do so – will be left on the circuit. Even the great Djokovic has not gotten to any finals this year let alone win a tournament. So it seems he is also on his last lap as well. Theirs has been an era where three motivated athletes pushed each other to achieve what none of them could have dreamt of achieving at the start of their respective careers.

Nobody rides the crest forever as the great Nnamidi Azikiwe once lectured Chuba Okadigbo. Soon time will pass and the music will end. ‘In its place, let another take’ says the Psalmist. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are different personalities who together defined the game of tennis. Their legacy as GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) is assured. Readers Digest will always be remembered as one of the best publications of its era. The President of today, or Governor of today or Senator of today, should ask themselves what legacy they are planning to leave for posterity. Their era will be over before they know it.