Why media must be critical about ethical reporting
“WE say the Nigerian media have grappled with the challenges of reporting the 2015 elections. They have done well in general terms reporting the utterances and activities of politicians, the political parties and other principal stakeholders. They haven’t done enough independent reporting or analysis to justify public confidence in their editorial prowess as independent analysts of the political process. It is desirable for the media not to take public patronage for granted but continue to explore means of strengthening that bond in their own enlightened interest”.
The above quote was one of the submissions made by Mr. Lanre Idowu, CEO, Diamond Publications Ltd and Diamond Awards for Media Excellence while delivering a paper on “Journalistic Options for Responding to Ethical Issues in the 2015 Election Campaigns in Nigeria” under the theme “Issues in
Communication Studies and Practice” at the 6th Edition of the Empowerment Series of the Association of
Communication Scholars & Professionals of Nigeria also known as ACSPN Empowerment Series (AES) held at the Lagos Television Complex, Lateef Jakande Road, Ikeja.
Idowu went on to note that the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) must also get its umbrella body to work as Six years is enough time to feel its impact otherwise outsiders who feel the media prefers licence to liberty may be tempted to sharpen the teeth of a regulatory body.
He therefore argued that the Independent Ombudsman mechanism must be funded to be truly independent and functional.
He also stated that ethical reporting is a journalistic requirement that is at the heart of the watchdog and gate keeping functions of the media. For him, without it, journalism is no more than a free for all; a grave danger to society.
“Lovers of the media with legitimate interest in seeing the media develop as a strong, free and responsible pillar of democracy should continue to work towards that objective.
“The media as guardians of public conscience and morality need a special and regular and special attention so that the public trust reposed in them is not betrayed”.
The Diamond Award boss observed that operating under the premise that ‘the media as guardians of public conscience and morality need a special and regular and special attention so that the public trust reposed in them is not betrayed’, his organization has tried over the years to use the instrumentality of a professional watchdog to call attention to ethical infractions.
“As a developmental project, the returns make it difficult to sustain. We welcome partners in collaborative ventures to strengthen the ability to continue to do this.
“Indeed the Association for Communication Scholars and Professionals in Nigeria can put in place its own mechanism as a needed public service.”
To help media practitioners do their job effectively ethically, Idowu recommended adopting the 5-way test of balanced and ethical reporting.
He listed them to include: Is it a factual account; Does it deepen the electoral process in the public interest; Is it fair to all sides/parties to the issues; Is the language of presentation designed to build or pull down, conflict-sensitive or reckless; and Does it tower above any pecuniary or vested interest.
After reviewing some adverts and commercials that had been placed and aired in the ongoing electoral campaign, Idowu suggested that pressure must be mounted to ensure the regulatory platforms work.
“I had recommended in August 2010 (Media Review: 9) two options for the Press Council: Go on appeal against the decision of the lower court and be guided by its outcome or seek an amendment to the objectionable areas identified by the High Court judge. The Council chose to go on appeal.
“Almost five years after, the matter is yet to be resolved. Even if the NPC manages to perform mediatory role will its pronouncements be given the deserved attention? Remember, we had said earlier: “Even the NPC was performing its mediatory role and ruled against media houses, the way and manner the decisions were published did not reassure the public the media really want its errors exposed”.
He however maintained that it is in the enlightened self-interest of the media to get its house in order by strengthening individual internal ombudsman regulatory mechanism to be more sensitive to public concern and sharpen their definition of news.
“The media must operate from a position of strength, anchored on knowledge. The main issue is reporting that underscores the people’s right to know and does so in a fair and responsible manner.
“Vital need to familiarise themselves with the rudiments of ethical reporting: factuality, fairness, depth of research and investigation, contextual analysis, sensitivity to what will deepen public understanding, emphasise issues in the public interest over those of public interest, accept mistakes and correct them promptly, provide adequate access to parties involved.”
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