COVID 19: Journalists tasked on Fact Checking

The Covid 19 pandemic has no doubt changed alot of engagements globally. For a lot of endeavours it is no longer business as usual.

This is not any different for journalism practice, especially in terms of content generation. Hitherto, journalists especially development journalists had access to unreached communities and physical access to other news sources as they put out stories that affect most especially the vulnerable in the society.

However, with the pandemic and the restrictions in movement, journalists now more than ever rely on technology and social media platforms as news sources. The effect of which is a high rise in fake news or unverified information especially with regards to Covid 19.

It was against this backdrop that Development Post led by Ahmed Maiyaki on Monday 18th May, 2020 held a Webinar that brought together communication experts and journalists to discuss ‘News Reporting at the time of Pandemic’.

Speaking at the meeting, Executive Director of the Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF), Iliya Kure noted that people are after credible information that will guide them to make right choices, hence, African journalists must rise up to the challenge presented by the pandemic to provide credible and professional reports.

This, he said, journalists can do by inculcating professional standard of verifying and double checking every report before dishing it out to the public.

“As journalists subject their reports to professional and editorial processes, every personal bias and prejudice will be sift out and the public will have access to credible information which will go a long way in building trust for the media”.

While calling on journalists to rely on their contacts since communities are out of reach, he stressed the need to verify every information gotten to curtail the spread of fake news.

He advised journalists and media stations to revive the use of listener’s and viewer’s club to verify information on happenings around communities.

One of the Panelists, Mallam Balarabe Sa’id, a lecturer with the Kaduna Polytechnic decried the gap in capacity of journalists in reporting on the pandemic.

He noted that most of the stories carried on the pandemic are official statements with little analysis on the impact of the pandemic on agriculture and other aspects of life. This he attributed to low capacity on the part of journalists, lack of competence and mentoring.

Other issues raised during the conversation were: lack of remuneration package for most African journalists which has often exposed them to compromising tendencies at the detriment of quality and credible information. Also, censorship from most media owners who are allies of government and would drop any report that tend to hold government accountable.

African Journalists were advised to rise against these challenges to ensure they imbibe the culture of research and fact finding in content development if they must take their place as professionals.

Among Panelists and participants were communication experts, academics and journalists from Nigeria and beyond.

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