Thursday, 3 October 2013

Nigeria: Broken news and integrity deficit

The news of old habits
Tragedy struck the grieving and compounded their anguish this morning as there was an air crash in Lagos, Nigeria.
Social media was set alight with news of the event and as more people contributed, rumour, speculation, conjecture and controversy gained more readership for apparently non-existent facts.
Twitter is like a wildfire, what it takes is two clicks of the mouse button or a tap on your trusty tablet device and you propagate a falsehood and inexactitude or 140 characters to manufacture the news about something you know little about.
Such disasters leave no allowance for cool and measured engagement; many want to feature as news breakers and there the flux of traffic obfuscates the reality of the event.
Derelict and irresponsible
These are times when one expects professional news media to arrest the descent to fable, fiction and feeding frenzy of recognition at the expense of the unfortunate – one cannot say the state media have acquitted themselves well in this regard as lies usurp the throne of facts for popularity and effect.
We should always temper our curiosity with discrimination and discernment; we should be smart about where we allow ourselves to be led down in search for the truth.
Only when I am in it
In my view, the only time I want to be breaking the news is if I am making the news or part of the news event. Whilst scoops can make you famous, when such broken news is debunked or proved false you risk greater infamy.
When an event happens in Nigeria, it is very likely that the village-rag gossip websites will pick it up first without verification or corroboration, maybe some do exert themselves to a modicum of excellence but I do not consider them authoritative enough for me to stake my reputation and my integrity on giving their copy a platform.
The platforms we trust
We have mainstream Nigerian news media; I wait for their despatches and reports by their correspondents, though the foreign media appears to get the goods first. Even as the local outfits are slow in getting the news out and might even get it wrong, on balance they are at greater reputational risk as professionals than I am as a consumer and disseminator of their material.
Meanwhile, misinformation devoid of humanity, nuance, restraint or decorum rolls through our timelines ever tempting us to engage with increasing rage at the calumny of others.
In the midst of this is the guerrilla news agency, those who publish pieces the mainstream media are scared to touch, they sometimes do not have corroborated sources but they stimulate debate, get people talking and have others asking questions.
The patronage system in Nigeria makes this vehicle essential even though those with ulterior motives to disseminate falsehoods and fallacies at times abuse that platform – they are unavoidable against greater odds.
Opinions are free, we can wait
It is not a case of being wise after the fact; we have every opportunity to share our opinions about the event when the news has truly broken with the facts and other investigatory evidence that would include detail and specifics.
When it comes to breaking news, I can wait, I can wait to understand what is really happening, I can wait to appreciate what really happened, I can wait to hear the truth, the facts, the reality and the reports of those directly affected.
Don’t give in
Anxiety will not help situations much as urgency does not mean you can do anything with the information once obtained, I do not want to insert myself into anyone’s moment be it the news, the success or the tragedy, it is the gentlemanly thing to patiently elicit fact from fiction and only be present to propagate the truthful and the verified.
If you are unsure, do not be a purveyor; if in doubt, leave in out; if you are not the source be sure you do not present yourself as authoritatively the oracle and fount of wisdom from whom all knowledge can be sought.
Please think before you join the crowd of rumourmongers.


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