Notes on Journalism: Think really hard before you post... cough... bellanaija... cough

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. said “there is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” This is particularly true when you’re a media platform. It is important to understand that the words you publish break far more quickly than they’ll make. As Napoleon said, “a journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns, a tutor of nations. Four hostile newspapers are to be more feared than a thousand bayonets.” All of this amounts to power, and power is a dangerous thing in the hands of the irresponsible.

Before anything is published on TroambyAfam, we think about it, we explain it to ourselves, and we defend it. Before we published the Sugarbelly timeline, Afam spoke to his tutor in journalism school, then he spoke to Mama Afam, and then he spoke to Wale Lawal. And before we published the Adesuwa and Bobrisky Interview: Somebody failed Ethics Class, conversations were had. We took care to ensure that our position was defensible and our choices justifiable. At the point that we clicked the button that says, “post” we were ready to say, “this is why we did what we did.” These processes are necessary. We may not always get it right, but at the very least we’ll weigh the noughts and crosses and we’ll explain. When an argument that we may not have considered wins the day we’ll print a retraction, and an apology. This is accountability. We acknowledge that at that point we may have done more harm than can be rectified with an “I’m sorry”, but we’ll apologise all the same and take care to not repeat the action. This too is accountability.

However, there are parameters. On a good day, this blog will be looked at 500 times. The damage we can do is limited, but if we were to by some stroke of luck go viral, then that damage would be amplified a million times or more. If we were as large or as popular as Linda Ikeji, or Bellanaija, our process would not be as simple as consulting our code of ethics, or speaking to friends, families and fools about an article. There would be a chain of editors, and a practice of lawyers. It is shameful that websites as large as the afore mentioned two do not agree. Their actions are far too frequently deplorable for the truth of it to be any different. Actions have always had a tendency to say more than words are able. In the case of Linda Ikeji’s blog, there is some leeway. It is a gossip website and almost nothing more. In the case of bellanaija the same brush cannot be applied.

Bellanaija is at the best of times a source of well curated news stories and a collection of some of the best social pieces you’re likely to read in the Nigerian media space. Afam has written several articles on the website, but as keen as he is on their vision, even he cannot deny that at the worst of times it is trash. Because they are often reasonable, we hold them to a different standard. If they are to regain their once illustrious reputation they must make better choices. They cannot forget that behind every news story there are real people with real problems. Before they publish anything they must ask themselves if the article is in the public interest. They must consider the accuracy of their sources. They must not publish rumours simply because they are out there. They cannot invite the world into the lives of a family who are not in the public eye simply because there is an allegation that one of them is involved with someone that is.

The Troam team is firm on this. We aspire to be better than trash. We are not borne of the gutter. If bellanaija chooses to descend to those depths it is free to. But if it does, it would do well to remove all the rhetoric about inspiration it wears like it’s the most fashionable perfume. Nobody likes a liar.

The troam team.

No comments:

About Us