A renowned journalist and former editor-in-chief of the defunct Newswatch magazine, Ray Ekpu, has taken a swipe on bloggers in Nigeria, saying they have constituted themselves into “a problem for truth”.
“…..We have the bloggers who seem to constitute a problem for truth. They speculate, exaggerate, distort, mislead, quote dishonest, misleading, unverified sources or no sources at all,” Mr Ekpu said on October 18 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, during a programme for journalists in the state.
The programme, called Retool House, was organised by the Next Edition Centre for Investigative Journalism and Gender Advocacy, in partnership with Policy Alert, and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council.
Continuing, Mr Ekpu said the bloggers “are the smear campaigners, the lynch mobs, the rumour merchants, the cyberbullies, the anonymous tipsters, the trial judges by commentary, the purveyors of propaganda, the type that America’s Vice President Spirrow Agnew described as the ‘nattering nabobs of negativism”.
Blogging is not journalism, he said, arguing that journalism has a code of ethics to regulate the conduct of practitioners, as well as regulatory authorities such as the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and the Nigerian Press Council.
“So anyone of us who comes into Journalism must accept that he or she must practise the profession according to its professional canons and ethics.
“It does not matter whether we are print media, electronic media or online media Journalists. The rules of practice are the same and the obligations of truth-telling and the fair discharge of our responsibilities are the same.
“That means that in our reportage and commentary we must exhibit qualities that can lead to the truth and the fairness that can build a sane, stable, peaceful, inclusive, united and egalitarian society. Any report or commentary that is the opposite of that is in my opinion reckless.”
Mr Ekpu said every story, in journalism, must meet the basic requirements of accuracy, completeness, and fairness, and that there must be correction once it is discovered a mistake has been made.
“It matters because if you do not correct the mistake it will lead to people being misinformed. Misinformation can lead to poor decisions, sometimes decisions that are detrimental to the peace and stability of our communities,” he said.
“Many respectable media organisations in the world go to great lengths to establish the accuracy of their stories. They have structures that enable stories that are slated for publication or broadcast to go through the eagle eyes of several experienced journalists before they get to the consuming public as news.
“In Newswatch we had what we called The Three Source Rule. If a major story did not come from a document that we had ascertained to be genuine we had to get a confirmation from three sources to convince ourselves of its factuality.
“An American magazine the New Yorker has seven checkers whose responsibility is to confirm the accuracy of the information it wants to publish. The Reader’s Digest has 20 checkers who do the same thing.
“Some years ago I was surprised to get a call from Readers’ Digest. The magazine wanted to confirm a quote they took from one of my articles which they wanted to use under their quotable quotes column.
“They went into that much trouble to get their quote right. If only they knew the kind of excitement I got from being quoted by Readers’ Digest, they would not have bothered that much. But of course they did so because they are consummate professionals. This happened many years ago when there were no mobile phones and communication with people in Nigeria was close to impossible.
“Now we have the benefit of advanced technology which has given us the cell phones. With a cell phone, we can do several things in our line of business. We can listen to the radio, we can record interviews and pictures, we can do telephone or online interviews. These immense advantages should help to improve the efficiency of our practice. On the contrary, we seem to have converted the phone and the internet into instruments for the spread of what has come to be known as fake news. Some call it junk news, or pseudo-news. This is what used to be known years ago as yellow journalism,” Mr Ekpu said.
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