It was an evening of fun at the maiden ‘Time-out with Journalists’ held on Thursday, 28th March 2019 at the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) office in Ikeja, Lagos, as journalists across media platforms cast spotlight on the ethics of the journalism profession.
Adeolu Adekola, WSCIJ Senior Programme Officer, explained that the event was necessary because journalists have been busy with the general elections and the polity of late. He said the ‘Time-out with Journalists’ creates an avenue for journalists to step back from the pressure of the work to crossbreed ideas and rejuvenate their minds.
A major part of the event was the screening of ‘Shattered Glass’, a movie which recreated the real life experience of Stephen Glass, a young staff writer with The New Republic, a weekly magazine in Washington DC, USA, who had made up partially or entirely 27 out of the 41 special reports he did for The New Republic.
In the discussions stemming from the movie, some of the journalists present shared their experience with people in the journalism profession who fabricate stories.
Elliot Ovadje, a photojournalist with The Nigerian Tribune, expressed concern that many of those who fabricate reports are online, and that many of their claims cannot be substantiated with photographs.
On her part, Ujunwa Atueyi, a journalist with Guardian Newspaper, called to question the integrity of journalists in reporting issues.
She said, “Some journalists use exclusives conducted by another journalist and put their own name. This is a matter of conscience. Are we informing or deceiving?”
“Authorities are also not helping matters. Like the building collapse recently. I called the ministry and was told it is a two-storey building, when it is not. Apparently, the official I called was sitting in the comfort of his office and dishing out information. I was fortunate to have visited the site of the incidence to see things for myself,” she added.
Kunle Ajayi, a photo editor with Independent Newspapers, explained that some journalists conjecture the reaction of a familiar source, sometimes politicians, to an issue and make that up in their story without speaking with the source.
Citing instances of Nigerian journalists who had made up their stories in recent times, Mojeed Alabi, a reporter with Premium Times, posited that journalists should uphold the ethics of the profession.
According to him, “We do not need to embellish facts. Let us state fact as fact. As journalists, we need to more consciously query sources.”
In closing, Rebecca Erureh, an Assistant Programme Officer with WSCIJ, reminded the journalists of their gatekeeping role, and particularly how they determine what the public know per time. She therefore urged them to be wary of putting out the wrong information.
‘Time-out with Journalists’ is an off work arrangement aimed at providing journalists with the atmosphere to relax, reflect and interact with themselves about critical issues in the journalism profession and the society at large.