A Nigerian newspaper run by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist stopped publication Sunday after 2 1/2 years of muckracking and sometimes controversial coverage of Africa's most populous nation, the publisher said.
NEXT newspaper, printed in Lagos, did not appear on newsstands this weekend. Publisher Dele Olojede, a former foreign editor for New York's Newsday, said NEXT was "losing a lot of money" and decided to stop its print edition to reevaluate its finances. Olojede said it was possible the newspaper could begin publishing again. However, the newspaper's advertising dwindled in recent months, forcing it from publishing six days a week to only on Sunday.
The newspaper's crusading political stance also hurt ad sales, as the salutatory advertisements heaping praise on politicians and the country's elite that fill other publications never made it into its editions. "In this environment, where the government still occupies a disproportionally and distortionately large role in the economy, it has a ripple effect - said or unsaid," Olojede told The Associated Press. "The result is we've had a very tough time getting business."
He added: "We have to rethink our strategy and see how we can outsmart the system that seems so stuck against us." 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 "brown envelope" bribes slipped into briefing materials at news conferences.
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger presents Dele Olojede with a 2005 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting
The newspaper reached the zenith of its influence when it published an anonymously sourced story claiming late President Umaru Yar'Adua was "seriously brain damaged" and unable to govern while receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. The government attacked the newspaper. However, Yar'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.
"It's been an extraordinary adventure for us, really. We'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," he said. "The 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 doesn't know."