In the previous analysis, our analyst examined why news should be a product not only an information to the public. In the current piece, the focus is on how Nigerian journalists are practicing snowball journalism. In social science research, snowfall technique is one of the sampling techniques used by researchers.
However, a critical examination of the news production and publication in the last few years indicates that journalists, especially state and regional correspondents are in the fond of reporting events or happenings they did not witnessed through proxy [getting the information about the events or happenings from colleagues who attended the events or witnessed the happenings]. When this permeates, then who owns the news?
Who Owns These News Stories?
Controversy as security operatives ‘attempt to arrest’ Sunday Igboho by Premium Times and DSS, police ‘attempt to arrest’ Igboho by The Cable are the stories chosen by our analyst for proper understanding of how the Nigerian newspapers are practicing snowball journalism within the context of events or happenstance.
“PREMIUM TIMES gathered from sources close to Mr Igboho that the acclaimed activist was accosted by security operatives attached to Operation Burst while on his way to Lagos. Mr Igboho did not respond to our correspondent’s calls and text messages seeking full details of what happened. The state’s police spokesperson, Olugbenga Fadeyi, did also not respond to calls and text messages either.” Whereas, The Cable just reported the event and how FFK alleged the arrest.
While giving background to the event, in order to justify the inclusion of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode as its main newsmaker, The Cable notes that “…but some Yoruba leaders, including Fani-Kayode, were against the earlier arrest order. “The IGP, thereafter, directed Ngozi Onadeko, Oyo commissioner of police, to arrest Igboho and transfer him to Abuja, but some Yoruba leaders, including Fani-Kayode, were against the order.”
Immediately after this, the newspaper introduced Chief Fani-Kayode’s tweets as supporting evidence. The failure to bring the voice of other Yoruba leaders, at least one or two into the story, reemphasize watching the news not explaining the chain of events with adequate information earlier noted by our analyst. The two newspapers [Premium Times and The Cable] ended the story the same. Who owns the news?
The Fair Use Rule and Snowball Journalism Practice
Snowball journalism practice is also better appreciated through these headlines about the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]. I’m afraid Malami won’t let Bawa succeed –Sagay by The Punch, Malami may compromise Bawa as EFCC chair, says Sagay by The Nation [acknowledged The Punch], New EFCC Chair: Malami may not allow Bawa operate independently -Sagay by The Premium Times [acknowledged The Punch] and Malami will not allow Bawa to succeed as EFCC chairman – Sagay by ICIR Nigeria [acknowledged The Punch].
Clearly, The Nation, The Premium Times and ICIR do not want to miss the message, but their reporters and editors practiced another category of snowball journalism, by extracting what Professor Sagay told The Punch. In our examination of the re-published story, some of these newspapers add new dimensions to the information provided by the newmaker.
ICIR Nigeria says the new EFCC Boss may not succeed as a result of the influence of the Malami led administration since both are from the same state. The Premium Times reported that the influence of Malami will compromise the activities of Bawa as EFCC boss. The Nation and The Premium Times almost have the same frame to the story.
When a correspondent of a newspaper reported an event or happenstance he missed by adding new frames or using the frames of the correspondent of the newspaper he copied, can we say the fair use rule has been followed judiciously? Before we say yes to this question, we should not forget that there are a lot of misconceptions about what is allowable practice under fair dealing in Nigeria. Therefore, fair dealing or use remains controversial in the Nigerian Copyright Law.
Misinformation and Disinformation Will Snowball
From the analysis, it is obvious journalists and publishers do not want to have seconds or minutes and hours without publishing a news story. However, practicing snowfall journalism, according to our analyst, is an enabler of fake news creation and distribution. Apart from this, it negates the principle of truth and fairness expected from a professional journalist and a reputable media organisation.