Saddled with the responsibility of providing unbiased, factual, and undiluted news reportage, the Nigerian media has over the years been found culpable for its role in the dissemination of information to the public. Recently, there was fake news circulating in the media space in the country with little or no attention by the so-called Nigerian mainstream media to fact-check the authenticity of the story.
Nigerian newspapers and television media had published and reported that the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) stepped down from hearing the petition of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, on Thursday, June 1, following alleged inconsistencies found in the exhibits tendered. A keen look at the story showed it was misleading, malicious, and clearly orchestrated to misinform the public about the proceedings of the Presidential Election Court.
This is just one of the many fake news stories that have now become the norm in the Nigerian media space in recent times. With the prevalence of fake news, most editors, also known as gatekeepers, no longer trust the frontline soldiers and use every available binocular to search for the truth. But the question remains: can Nigerian editors also be trusted?
We live in a time when fake news sells faster than the truth and when propaganda is gaining ground over facts. It is now difficult to pick up a copy of a Nigerian Daily to read without going back to confirm from other sources if the information is truly factual. Not long ago, a media house published a story quoting a state governor as pouring encomiums on his estranged predecessor at a birthday ceremony. Very harmless story. Easy pick for every editor. But trouble started immediately after the story went out. It was fake. No such ceremony took place. The reporter just imagined it. That is what the Nigerian mainstream media is gradually becoming. A place where lies travel fast like lightning.
Media houses should focus more on investigative reporting. Avoid the use of selective reporting and stop promoting prejudicial stereotypes about groups and individuals based on incomplete facts, mischief, and ignorance. There is also a need for more training to boost research capacities among media professionals so as to minimize shallow reportage and episodic attitudes in news coverage and program production.
We recommend that every media house in Nigeria establish a fact-checking unit in their newsrooms if there are none. It is important that news stories are well-scrutinized before going out to avoid misinforming the gullible public, who digest them hook, line, and sinker. Lest we forget, if you’re in doubt, please leave the scene! The era of real news is here.