Vanguard newspaper is one of the major daily news platforms in Nigeria founded in the 80’s and owned by a veteran journalist, Sam Amuka. It is one of the newspapers that has a vibrant online presence. Like other newspapers, Vanguard, owned by a veteran journalist, is expected to uphold the highest ethics of the profession to act responsibly, be accountable to the readers and pursue truth at all times. However, the reverse seems to be the case with the newspaper house. And the reasons are not far-fetched.
It is one of the most visible newspapers online occupying the 14th position among the top websites in the country. Yet, there is a need to watch the way the newspaper publishes stories and retract such stories at a very high frequency. A search for retraction on the newspapers website would reveal a plethora of stories the newspapers has retracted. The usual composition of the retraction usually makes one wonder if Vanguard has an editorial policy in place at all. As a teacher of journalism, one begins to wonder why Vanguard newspaper goes to bed with a story it has not been able to confirm. The age long journalism maxim is “if you are in doubt, leave out.” However, this maxim seems not to be for the media house as it keeps publishing and retracting stories at will.
Vanguard newspaper in publishing false stories does not discriminate against its victims – known and unknown; high and low; persons and organizations. All have been subjected to the mentally agonizing process of being lied against on Vanguard’s platform. And then the retraction would surface days or weeks later with the media organisation apologizing profusely for putting up untrue stories. The content of their corrigendum is both laughable and worrying at the same time.
A good example is the false story published against the personality of Arc (Pastor) Oyinmebi Bribena on May 8, 2019 headlined Amnesty Boss Dokubo Alleges Blackmail, Defamation by Bribena, Other. A retraction of the story was published on June 12, 2019 where the media organization apologised for publishing false, unsubstantiated news story against the personality of the man of God/Businessman. This was more than one month after the story had been online! Why the rush to publish a story you would come back to deny its veracity?
A much more recent editorial indiscretion of the Vanguard newspaper was displayed through the much talked about story against the personality of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who was wrongly accused in a story with the headline N90bn FIRS Election Fund: Osinbajo’s Problem not 2023 Politics. In disclaiming the story, Vanguard wrote : “…. we have since discovered that the story lacks factual substance and we hereby retract it in its entirety.” The retraction came two days after the story was published. Why does the media house rush to publish and come back to deny the fact of the story? Where is the gate-keeping role of the editorial team?
Putting up corrigendum for editorial mistakes by a newspaper house is a standard practice all over the world. However, it becomes alarming when such is becoming a house style as we seem to have it in the Vanguard newspaper’s case. Such culture queries the investigative powers of the newspaper and the credibility of its content. As a member of the fourth realm of the estate and the watchdog of the society, the Vanguard should tidy up its editorial policy and process to minimize the number of retractions it has to issue out. The Nigerian Press Council should as well challenge the media organization on the frequency of denying its stories.The publisher should charge his editorial board and management team to rise up to this challenge of editorial shoddiness by the media company. It is then that the principles of fairness, balance and truthfulness could be upheld by the media house.