The Athletic Daily

Standing up against “fake news”

Standing up against "fake news"

Yesterday was a very indifferent day in terms of what happened in Nigeria, with the League Management Company, LMC debunking reports that our trip to China (NPFLinChina) as “fake news” has spoiled the fun and the opportunity for our players and coaches to experience how it is over there.

It appears that the story from our friends at Busy Buddies was untrue and they duly tendered their apology to the LMC Chairman, Mallam Shehu Dikko with the indefinite suspension of their reporter. I think that was the right thing to do as a reputable organization, it is difficult to deal with such a blow which can destroy the reliability you’ve built with your audience.

In European leagues, dubiously sourced rumours about football transfers and other things spread wildly on social media, and while experts say they don’t usually affect where players end up, they can put pressure on clubs and move betting markets.

It’s a type of story that long pre-dates the current mania about “fake news”. Transfer rumours have long dominated the back pages of newspapers during the transfer windows, and many commentators view such stories as pure speculation.

But just like in many other areas of the media and entertainment industries, social media is changing the game when it comes to news reporting – in this case allowing fake stories to spread wider and faster than ever before.

The case of “fake news” is not only peculiar to Busy Buddies but to all of us who are reporters and gatekeepers working in news organisations, big or small. I once saw a tweet on Twitter while working for one of the revered online websites as a sports reporter and published a story out of it, it ranked number one on the website with thousands of views and comments.

The report took the platform to number in Google search engine on any Lionel Messi/Ronaldinho story. It won many applauds and endeared even the Barcelona captain’s enemies to his side. It was a noble thing to do when a man who was your idol and assisted your very first of many goals for Barcelona was in trouble and you offered to render help worth millions of dollars.

That story was published by almost every media house in Nigeria and abroad, but was later flagged by Google as “Fake News.” After Ronaldinho was released from prison in Paraguay, Messi debunked the report, but it was a fake report from the inception. I wasn’t punished for breaking the story, the medium I published the story did not suspend me, Lionel Messi did not take any legal action and it was swept under the carpet.

In Nigeria, journalists are constantly in a competition keeping tabs with stories on social media, hoping to beat the competition and being the first to reports. Reputable news organisations also published stories that are not true, a clear example is when ThisDay Newspaper broke the story about the founder of Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo being denied a visa to the US, the story was widely circulated but was later flagged as “Fake News” by the US Embassy. The reporter was suspended and ThisDay took down the post and apologized.

Look, all I am saying is, Nigeria is a difficult place to confirm stories and it is even impossible for media officers to speak to journalists, I mean media officers who are journalist themselves will refuse to speak to their colleagues. Some of them will have certain friends who are journalists that they only speak to, so if you are not in that circle, they will never speak to you.

The reporter also came out openly to apologise to the LMC and all of us, that should suffice and until his organsiation decides to call him back, we all should show our support and hope such an incident will not repeat itself.

While I am not holding brief for our friends at the Busy Buddies for that error, I am pleading with Nigerians to be a little understanding with them, it is a difficult task to sniff for stories and break it in this era, media sources of any organization should endeavor to confirm stories out when they are supposed to, to avoid spreading rumours. Mallam Dikko is a man with a good heart and that is why he is not pressing charges against the reporter and the organization.

As journalists, we have a responsibility to check facts and ensure we publish what is true. I understand speculations sometimes push certain organisations and people to act in a different way. I will lead the line to start speculations on transfers in the NPFL which I think will add value to how players’ move, contracts they sign, and ensuring their contracts are valid and honoured by the clubs.

Right, that’s all from me today, stay at home to stay alive.

Till tomorrow, have a great day.


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