There was a time when I woke up every morning, looking forward to going through the websites of different Nigerian mainstream media platforms to read updates on happenings across the country and even the globe. The crime watch or metro stories were always my favourites back then because I felt more at home with them than the political and financial news. Then, newspapers’ updates on neighbourhood stories were more comprehensive and detailed because they were reported by journalists that visited the scene of the incident. But as time went by, this section became “boring” because their stories became sketchy. It was during this period I decided to go over to gossip blogs for my daily digests.
When I started receiving neighbourhood stories from gossip blogs, I realised they were becoming more detailed than the mainstream media. At least, they are honest by stating the sources of their information, unlike the newspapers that shield that vital detail. If the information the blogs published turns out to be lies, some of them come back later to announce that and also give you reasons why they are not true. Those blogs were doing good jobs even though they could not give in-depth information that could have been passed across by the real journalists in the mainstream media. For instance, a blog writer may not be able to visit a crime scene to interview eye-witnesses or even call the law enforcers to ask for details concerning an event. They have to wait and listen for information that will be released on social media. Hence, many of us decided to turn to social media for the juicy gossips we received from blogs and the mainstream media.
Many people stopped patronising Nigerian newspapers when they discovered that their sources of news articles came from Twitter and, sometimes, Facebook. People did not see the essence of finding out what is published in newspapers when what they read on Twitter is what appears in the newspaper. So, things became more of the case of hearing it directly from the horse’s mouth. Apart from that, you can also read up the analysis and further details about a story (some of which are lies) given by commentators, which will help you to understand the true nature of the incident. With that, Nigerian newspapers began to lose customers and goodwill.
There is nothing wrong with journalists sourcing information and news from social media but total dependence on it is where the problem lies. Journalists are known to be attracted to stories like flies are attracted to a rotten carcass; hence, being attracted to a piece of juicy news on social media is not condemnable. We all experience the same effect because we follow stories around and try to get every bit of it. However, we depend on journalists to dig deeper and bring out facts to fill up the gaping holes in stories, especially the ones that don’t make sense. But when the journalists we depended on turn around to depend on us, don’t you think something is out of place? Why won’t they visit the crime or incident scene, interview eyewitnesses, snoop around a little, and then get back to us? Are they now scavenging news from social media as we do? Should they and blog owners compete for our attention?
I’m not here to teach journalists how to do their jobs but to let them know that I understand why their articles are becoming too bland and narrow. I am here to tell them that I understand why they have been misled into publishing fake news (most of which they don’t come out to debunk). I am here to tell them that in a matter of time, people will stop subscribing or buying newspapers if they, the journalists, don’t change and become real journalists instead of social media scavengers. I don’t know what their challenges are. Maybe they are no longer paid to go into the field to get information. But whatever their challenges are, they need to start now to make a positive difference.