Obasanjo’s letter exposes Nigerian newspapers ethical flaws

As PREMIUM TIMES exposes Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan, Nigerian Newspapers fail flatly at the true test of ethics.

The story of a bruising letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, which PREMIUM TIMES broke Wednesday, dominated all major Nigerian newspapers Thursday.

But for the media, it also revealed deep flaws in the ethical complexion of the overwhelming majority of newspapers who failed in simple editorial judgment to acknowledge PREMIUM TIMES as the source of their story.

A content analysis of major newspapers conducted by this paper revealed alarming disregard for age-old professional ethics, which forbid plagiarism, non-acknowledgment of legitimate source of information, and the primacy of attribution as a foundation to truth telling in the mission of a newspaper.

Majority of the papers published the complete text of the letter which was first revealed to the world by this newspaper, and made available via our website. There were also cases of shameless lifting of the original story published by this medium.

“This oddly adds to the existing indices of failure in our industry, and when it is about ethics, you have the sore feeling that the problem has attained the form of a crisis,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, Editor-in-Chief of PREMIUM TIMES, who said he was “weirdly tickled at the absence of humility in competitors who sought to ignore accepting they got the material from us and ended up failing to offer their readers the source of the material altogether.”

Mr. Olorunyomi added: “It were rather as if to spite their faces they sought an ingenious outcome in slicing off their noses altogether.”  He also said this crisis underscored the challenge of training, and the need to force the ethics debate back to the top of the media agenda in the country.

Many of the flagship titles of the industry led the pack in this professional gaffe. The Guardian, Vanguard, Punch, Tribune, Daily Trust and The Sun, all failed to disclose any original source for the story, neither did they acknowledge PREMIUM TIMES as their source.

The Punch, in a side-splitting reference, wrote that the letter “became public knowledge” without stating how, apparently in the effort to avoid mentioning PREMIUM TIMES.

The Nigerian Tribune, which carried a bromide copy of the letter, with PREMIUM TIMES watermark on it, amusingly mentioned in the text of their story that the letter “found its way into the public domain”.

Daily Trust, also published a full text of the 18-page letter with this newspaper’s watermark on each of the page, but uncharitably stated that the letter was “leaked on the internet.”

LEADERSHIP, which adorned its entire front page with the letter, did not state its source of the document whose full version it also published.

THISDAY and PEOPLES DAILY were the only departure from the crowd, as they duly acknowledged PREMIUM TIMES as their source of the letter.

Other newspapers including The Nation, Blueprint, National Mirror and The Sun who also have the story from the letter as their cover story, did not mention this newspaper as their source for the letter as they all kept mum over the source of the information they published.

National Mirror even went to the ridiculous extent of plagiarising significant parts of this paper’s original story on the letter word-for-word without giving credit to us.

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