AREH,OROMENI SIMEON B
ANSHUNGU Wandoot Perpetual
ANAS Mu’azu Halliru
AMIRA Hassan Yusuf
Amedu Lauretta Unekwu
ADO Idris Haruna
ADEOYE Adekunle Rasheed
ADELEYE RUTH TEMITOPE
ADAMA Mary Ibrahim Joseph
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF ONLINE JOURNALISM
Online journalist has its ethics to one who takes it as a job art or science profession or hobby. New forms of journalism require new forms of approaches to ethical consideration though many of the conventional ethical consideration may remain, many others will always emerge. According to Lynch 1998 most journalist contend that traditional values remain relevant online they disagree sharply about how this values play out in a medium defined immediacy interactivity burgeoning competition and unflagging pleasure to produce revenue the problem say some editors and ethicist is that online environment changes rapidly and unpredictable.
According to David Carlson a professor of online journalism there isn’t anything more important than the ethical practice of journalism. Ethical consideration the journalism together as without ethics, the credibility of many publications would be nothing. Bill Mitchell 2002 says ethical considerations for online journalism are no different than traditional journalism therefore ethical journalistic considerations refer to the principles of journalism set out to provide an excellent basic guide for everyone who aspires to lunch themselves into the public information sphere.
Sahara reporters is an online news agency based in New York city that focuses on promoting citizen journalism by encouraging everyday people to report stories about corruption human right abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria, a frontier news source for advocacy journalism Sahara reporters has been referred to as the wiki leaks of Africa by the daily beast.
“It was like the buzz of the semi automatic gun when the trigger is pulled, I was not surprised that Nigerians accepted our model of journalism quickly my understanding as an activist is that they saw this as an alternative media holding those in power to account” Omoyele Sowore founder of Sahara Reporters
Nigerian’s media landscape has not been the same since the first major citizen journalism emerged some years ago or to be précised since January 25th 2006, it marked the advent of a new estate of the realm. Sahara Reporters.com was established by an activist Omoyele Sowore a 39year old Nigerian blogger who proudly proclaim himself citizen journalist he has been the scourge of Nigerian political leaders and key private figures that many regard as central to the rot in Nigerian state. The citizen website proudly invites every Nigerian citizen to report yourself and that is what has been happening with record hits and record level of citizens generated content. This is what William Dutton of the oxford internet institute calls the fifth estate of the realm.
Perhaps nothing better describes or capture the very essence of the work of Sahara Reporters than the preamble found on Alexa.com a web information company.
Some of its ethical concerns include:
-Issue of credibility
-Using information as commodity
ISSUE OF CREDIBILITY:
“Sahara reporters is an outstanding ground breaking website that encourages citizen journalist to report ongoing corruption and government malfeasance in Africa using photos text and video dynamically the site informs and prompts concerned African citizen and other human right activist globally to act denouncing official sanctioned corruption the material impoverishment of its citizenry defilement environment add the callous disregard of the democratic principles enshrined in the constitution”.
The day of its launch, Sahara Reporters issued a 750-word press statement in new York and emailed it to thousand of Nigerian at home and the Diaspora and media houses. it announced its birth unabashedly. In the introduction the new citizen website anchored its conviction on article 19 of the universal declaration of human right everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression this right includes freedom on hold opinion without interference and to seek receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of its frontiers it was a far sighted more that would later inculcate it against several law suit and attempts to censor and proscribe it.
The website then moved quickly to place the ownership of the site in the hands of the ordinary citizen. “It is a unique organization comprised of ordinary people whose only mission is to seek truth and publish it without fear or favour his means that apart from the team of professionals running its affairs Sahara reporters is also an umbrella for anyone who has something to say and who seeks an avenue to say and who it as far as what he/she says is verifiable and ascertainable as true and the information therein is in the public interest”.
USING INFORMATION AS COMMODITY:
From the start the activist behind Sahara Reporters was upfront about his mission and the nature of journalism to which he hoped to dedicate his site he bluntly stated that “we are unapologetically practitioners of advocacy journalism because to us journalism is not an end in itself”
Apart from making Nigerians its primary audience it sought to establish to continental platform we are here because we have something to give to our people we are here because we want to give them power of information, he power of truth we believe with this power the Nigerian and African people can begin to set a right in every sphere all that is wrong with our mother continent”.
Five years into operating as a citizen journalism website Sahara reporters issued a re-warded editorial policy in which it sought to re-state the rationale behind its separation and answer some of the questions and allegations thrown at it titled “Sahara reporters”: our philosophy and “editorial policy”, October 25, 2010. It declared that we are citizen reporter’s not professional journalists”. This was no doubt a direct answer to many who have criticized the quality and bent of the stories the site had carried. it stated further that we depend on the effort of concerned citizen who act whistle blowers as well as the main source for our exposes. The information on this site, sometimes in the form of rare documents photos videos and audio records comes from citizen anxious to see our pages are open and free to everyone who wishes to contribute story tips aesthetic information or even rebuttals and with this the site is firmly locked in place the citizen orientation of its content and practice of journalism.
WHAT IS CITIZEN JOURNALISM?
It is a kind of journalism in which the users or audience create content online rather than wait to be fed by the traditional media outlets. According to Serena Carpenter a citizen journalist can be described as an individual who intends to publish information meant to benefit a community.
Citizen journalism has further been described as the individual “playing an active role in the process of collecting reporting analyzing and disseminating news and information in their report we media : how audience are shaping the future of news and information Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, write further that “the intent of this participation is to provide independent reliable accurate wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy require. According to Joyce Nip citizen journalism also known as OPEN SOURCE JOURNALISM can also be defined as a process in which people were entirely responsible for gathering content along with envisioning producing and publishing the news product. Roles hitherto played exclusively by the traditional media are now performed by citizen journalism through the virtual community citizen journalism embraces the entire social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Myspace and Blogosphere. all the content generated from these social media platform alongside comment from the audience and message board postings, pictures and video uploads constitute what is now known as User Generated Content (UGC) which is a feature closely associated with the citizen journalism concept.
ETHICAL CONCERNS OF CITIZEN JOURNALISM
while even the most passionate advocates for citizen journalism concede that none of the websites devoted to amateur news gathering have gone gangbusters yet and that citizen journalism is still in its infancy they see the future of the traditional news media as being more closely linked to bloggers. Many professional and amateur journalist are working to create rules and guidelines for citizen media. However some media experts say the traditional ethical codes of conduct will not work for citizen journalists.
Leonard Witt, the Robert D. Fowler distinguished chair in communication at Kennesaw state university and the chief blogger for public journalism network says ”I don’t think we can lift up the old ethics codes and drop them right in and hope that they work”. but there should be ethical codes that citizen journalists read and understand ”. The key is transparency to be honest in what you are doing, most people on the internet try to do the right thing.
Proponents of citizen journalists argue that bloggers must be more transparent than traditional media. Traditional news organization value balanced reporting but that isn’t necessarily an ethical mandate in the realm of citizen journalists. Even advocacy websites with clear conservative or liberal point of view can be seen as reliable if the information they provide is substantiated. They do not have a historic trusted brand to give their stories credibility and therefore must follow ethical codes of conduct to earn a reputation for having honest, accurate reporting which are key to success in an increasingly competitive media environment.
However some ethics experts say citizen journalists cannot act ethically if they don’t know or understand the traditional ethical codes of conduct. Andy Schotz, a reporter for the Herald -Mail, a daily newspaper in Hagerstown, Maryland and chairman of the society of professional journalists’ ethics committee said it is difficult for consumes of citizen journalism to discern what content has been thoroughly and ethically gathered and what content is inaccurate or biased.
One of the potentially more complicated ethical mandates of traditional journalist is to avoid conflict of interest, real or perceived. Professional journalists most disclose any conflict of interest and if they fail to do so will at best be reassigned or at most face immediate termination. Citizen journalists are under no such obligation of disclosure however citizen journalism proponents argue that conflict of interest issues are exaggerated by the mainstream media. If a citizen journalist has a natural bias because of a conflict of interest it will be obvious to the reader and therefore discredited. Examples of conflict of interest abound in citizen journalism particularly in local community’s coverage. There is no method of preventing a high school basketball coach from blogging about a game his team played without disclosing his status, pr a restaurant owner from writing a review about his own establishment. Even professional journalists are often confused by conflict of interest rules sine there can be nuances to ethical standards. For example is it acceptable to write a one- time feature story about a non-profit organization to which you have contributed money? Is it acceptable to contribute money to a political campaign that you’re not covering but that your news organization has written about? Contrary to what citizen journalism advocates claim some professional journalists argue that conflict of interest issues are some of the most important and nuanced ethical considerations in media.
Traditional news organizations are not immune to ethical gaffes, as citizen journalism advocates point out. The difference is that professional journalists are subject to quality control. Editors question the accuracy, objectivity, and sourcing of stories. Traditional news organizations routinely punish journalists who do not adhere to ethical guidelines. For professional reporters, the personal stakes of making ethical mistakes are far greater than for citizen journalists. “Even the mainstream best newspapers aren’t pure in what they do,” Witt said. But there’s “more chance for abuse with citizen journalism.”
QUALITY CONTROL OF CITIZEN JOURNALISM
While quality control of traditional media is handled by the news organizations themselves, citizen journalism is subject to the litmus tests of the community of readers. The idea is that the community will “turn off” bloggers who are inaccurate and biased and will confront those who have plagiarized material. Reputable websites with citizen journalism require that all bloggers
register, which means disclosing their names, if not for publication, at least for the editors or website moderators. Many websites use profanity filters to avoid publication of obscenities and hate speech. Within the stories, links to supplemental information further ensure the reporting is accurate and balanced. Even the strongest advocates of citizen journalism acknowledge that bloggers with extreme viewpoints and nefarious motives occasionally find a forum but say the barriers of registration and filters make it difficult for them to find a voice on a reputable news-based website. “It’s a very different kind of journalism,” Potts said. “All the voices are heard. No one person can dominate what’s going on. In this system, the rest of the community will correct inaccuracies. The community acts as the editors in this case. People tend to be less outrageous than traditional editors fear. While Potts, a professional journalist published corrections to inaccuracies on his citizen journalism website, there is not an accepted industry-wide standard
for making corrections to blogs. In most traditional news organizations, inaccuracies on a website are corrected within the story and an addendum is added that clarifies the mistake contained in the previous version. This process functions much like a traditional newspaper in which corrections are published in the next edition after the mistake is discovered.
Some professional journalists argue, however, that community policing of accuracy and balance is not enough to ensure adherence to ethical standards. “The idea that you’re going to let something go up unfiltered and wait for the correction is absurd,” Schotz said. “The truth should be verified before publication.” The debate between citizen journalism advocates and professional journalists over ethical issues is crystallized by Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that relies for its information on contributions from readers. Some citizen journalism advocates argue that the information contained on Wikipedia is no less authoritative than the Encyclopedia Britanica. Wikipedia is a classic example of community policing of accuracy. But fans of the website acknowledge that once an inaccuracy is published, it is difficult to remove from the public consciousness even after it has been taken down from the website. Traditional journalists,
however, say the website is not a reliable source.83 They point to a case in which a Tennessee newspaper editor was accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. The notation has since been removed from the website, but, according to Schotz, it took more than a month Some citizen journalism advocates are encouraging bloggers to uphold traditional media ethics. One of the few places where citizen journalists can receive training in ethics is at the Center for Citizen Media, a website containing special ethical codes of conduct for citizen journalists. Dan Gillmor, bestselling author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the
People and one of the nation’s leading experts on citizen journalism, oversees the website, which receives about 25,000 hits per month. He views ethics as a place where traditional journalism and citizen journalism should be working together.
“[Ethics] is an area where we need to do a lot of evangelizing and outreach. I particularly think this is a role the traditional media should play.” “They have a platform and ought to use it.” “I don’t think it’s that complicated. If people behave honorably, we can get a lot done
Premium times is a Nigerian media organization based in Abuja it was founded in 2011 and have a vision to help strengthen Nigeria’s democracy advance the socio-economic wellbeing and the right of people promote and enrich their cultural practices and advocate for best practices good governance transparency and human rights in line with the values expected of a modern democratic state. It has an online publish website http://www.premiumtimesng.com with breaking news stories/headlines. It is a mainstream news site which deals with purely editorial content.
The present managing editor of premium times Nigeria is Musikilu Mojeed an award winning investigative editor at Nigeria’s NEXT Newspaper. Mojeed who studied mass communication at the Akwa Ibom state polytechnic and communication arts at the university of Uyo Nigeria, was on the board of the forum for African investigative reporters and is a member of investigative reporters and editors. He is a member of the world’s foremost investigative journalism group the international consortium of investigative journalist. Little wonder why the type of journalism practiced by premium times Nigeria can be traced to Investigative Journalism.
Looking critically into the headlines and stories carried by Premium times it can be seen that they contain the characteristics of investigative journalism. Rey Belen brought out some common characteristics of the widely appreciated investigative reports of which are:
a. Adverbial in nature
b. Moralistic in tone
c. In the public sector the report is mostly on misuse of funds mismanagement and abuse of power
d checking and re-checking of sources and documents
WHAT IS INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM?
Is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption or corporate wrong doing? An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism is a primary source of information. Most investigative journalism conducted by newspapers, wire services and freelance journalists. Practitioners sometimes use the term ”accountability reporting”. An investigative journalist may make use of one or more of these tools, among others on a single story:
-Analysis of documents such as lawsuits and other legal documents, tax records, government reports, and corporate financial filings
-Databases of public records
-Investigation of technical issues including scrutiny of government and business practices and their effects
-Research into social and legal issues
-Subscription research sources such as LexisNexis
-Numerous interviews with on-the-record sources as well as in some instances, interview with anonymous sources.
Premium Times carry headlines such as:
“Stella Oduah responds to allegations: she stole 2.5billion using Maid’s account”.
“Why CBN replaced board management of Skye Bank
ETHICAL CONCERNS OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
The word “ethics” when associated with journalism practice has elicited various definitions including “a set of principles and norms that, at least to some degree, guided journalistic practice’’ (Ward, 2006, p.100), or “a way of studying morality which allows decisions to be made when individuals face specific cases of moral dilemma’’ (Frost ,2011) or “the study of the grounds and principles for right and wrong human behavior’’ (Sanders, 2003). The three scholars agree that ethics reflects human values such as courage, self-control and generosity and focuses on the standards of right and wrong.
Journalists, in the course of their duty, deal with the choice between what is moral or immoral if published. They even have to deal with moral and legal issues regarding how they obtain information. The information that investigative journalists seek—that which touch on corruption, immoral behaviour and other vice are always private or hidden by the power elite and as such journalists are forced to dig deep to obtain information.
Indeed, investigative journalism’s key controversy has centered on how journalists obtained information. It has always been an ethical and legal grey area, in which journalists have often stepped over the boundaries in pursuit of stories and sometimes it isn’t easy to avoid ethical problems. Journalists should certainly be honest in their activities, in both investigating and reporting. But suppose some public corruption can be investigated only under cover, with the journalist pretending to be someone ready to make a corrupt deal? .A journalist might have the highest regard for the right to privacy, but some information about a politician doesn’t qualify for this protection.
Bowman, S. and Willis, C. (2003) We media: How audience are shaping the future of news and information. The media center at the American press institute.
Dare, S. (2011) The rise of citizen journalism in Nigeria the case study of Sahara reporters. http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/about/article/the-rise-of-citizen-journalisminnigeria.html.
BELSEY, A (1998). Journalism and Ethics: can they co-exist?
BURGH, H. 2008. ‘The Emergence of Investigative Journalism’. London: Routledge.pp.32-53