Chasing the Scoop, Landing in Hot Soup

There is an evil I have observed under the sun of Journalism – the publication of poorly verified stories. Even the Big-Media boys are not left out of this trend. CNN,BBC and others only recently fell victim of a hoax that claimed Internet Explorer Users are Dumb.

Journalism has been kind enough to suggest how media bodies can avoid falling for stunts like these. According to JN, journalists should first of all ask the following questions:

Does the story sound possible? | When was the web domain of the PR company registered? |Are the photos ripped from another website?| Does the phone number given on the press release appear elsewhere on the web?|Does the address listed on the website, press release and domain registration exist?

It’s very easy to shed tears over spilt milk, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as we learn our lessons before we start shedding hard-earned dollars/pounds/yen/naira in the courtroom as payment for our libellous or slanderous mistakes.

Sometime ago, I did a post on TWIBEL (Twitter+Libel), and how one could face charges over a simple supposed-to-be-harmless tweet. In that post, I also linked my readers to a blog i respect a lot (run by @paulbradshaw) – Content, Context, Code- Verifying Information Online. The author implored writers to deal with online sources in a similar fashion as they have dealt with dealt with the traditional face-to-face ones in the past : “How do you know the source is telling the truth? You’re a journalist, for god’s sake: it’s your job to find out.”

Today, I present you Professor Mark Pearson, an expert on Media Law, especially as it relates to online journalism (and) or freelance blogging. He says, in online authorship, you are liable.Mark Pearson has put together a model through which you can legally analyse your online content and find out if you’ve erred.

There is no doubt that social media and information technologies are changing the face of journalism, but the journalist must also adapt to ensure that the foundational rules of engagement in the profession are upheld to the best of his/her abilities.

There has always been the debate about where to draw the line between bloggers and journalists. I reckon a good start would be a situation where the latter publishes only true and well verified stories (as professionals), while the other can ‘do as it pleases’ – even though at the end of the day, both would be liable to face the music for libellous publications.

Just yesterday in Nigeria, there were conflicting repots about the death of a veteran comedy actor. I shed a few tears in my room some time after noon, only to start hearing reports that he may actually be alive. I tried to verify the story to the best of my ability as a mere consumer, and that was to ignore online sources and tune to traditional media (the TV) – they were no different. Even as I write this post, I am still uncertain as to whether the report is true or false.

It cannot be over-emphasized that Journalists should verify stories before they publish. In this age there are new and effective tools can could aid the process to a large extent. There are debates as to whether there is any relevance in studying Journalism, since it seems every Tom, Dick & Harry can latch on the ‘professional’ train.

To make a difference, the least one could do is to exclusive publish the TRUTH, nothing but the TRUTH.

Photo Credit:Donald Clark Plan B

Related Articles:

  1. WANTED: For Media Hoaxing – American Journalism Review
  2. Adeboye advises Journalists to verify their stories before publication– Vanguard Newspaper
  3. Curation and Verification in Journalism – Silicon Valley Watcher
  4. Social Media & Fake Stories – Me and social Media

One thought on “Chasing the Scoop, Landing in Hot Soup

  1. journlaw says:

    Excellent points on verification and journalism v. blogging here Tomexy! (Thanks for mentioning my blog)

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