Opinion: Social Media — a weapon of mass destruction?

by Temitope Adigun

It is aptly said that whatever you play with, it is better you don’t joke with it. When you change the way you view things, you change the things you are viewing.

An argument was brought up in my place of internship training (NUJ) one day about the reason journalism as a profession is lagging behind as a body compared to other bodies.

A reporter working for TVC clarified the issue, he said that Nigeria Union of Journalists is a union, and the only work of the union is to agitate for journalists, it is never a regulatory body. He said until Journalism, like other disciplines become a professional/regulatory body like other bodies, there will continue to be a problem in the profession. He emphasized what he meant by becoming a regulatory body, that with a degree as a mass communication student, if you don’t pass through journalism school, you are not yet a professional journalist, just like lawyers. In law as a profession, even with your first class as a degree holder, if you don’t pass through law school, you can never be called to bar and likewise doctors.

What the TVC reporter was however addressing is that, in as much as there are conventional media and social media, it is not right saying that social media users should be censored, but what should be done is that there should be a proper regulatory body that will not only register them but also train them to know all the ethics of journalism, which they are not in adherence to before. Likewise, the conventional journalists should also be re-trained because most of them are not also following the laydown ethics again.

This argument inspired this piece and as far as I’m concerned, it has been a question in the profession many years ago, whether social media journalism stands as a mass development or mass destruction?

In July 17th, this year, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, while addressing members of The Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ministry of Information chapel, during a rally as part of the activities marking the annual press week of the union tagged “Social media journalism in a democratic setting” opined that the social media can either be used as a weapon of mass destruction or development.

Amosun said, the advent of social media is not without some of its challenges and opportunities but the responsibility on shoulders of practitioners to ensure its proper use to get the best results.

It was also gathered that the governor, Amosun, during the maiden public lecture of Penpushing, a social media platform, held at the Marquee Events Centre, Olusegun Obasanjo Library, Abeokuta on 21st of July, said, through his Chief of Staff, Tolu Odebiyi that there is need for an establishment of agency that will vet the information meant for social media before they were released for public consumption.

He admitted that although social media has its advantages, the platform had also been subjected to abuse and misuse by unscrupulous people to settle scores, damage reputations of individuals and organisations and also the image of journalism as a profession.

The governor, however urged the users of social media, particularly the youths, to use it to enhance self-development, foster harmony, and unity, as opposed to using it for negative purposes.

In the same event, the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki described the social media as a potent tool which puts to checkmate excesses in government. He said social media platforms keep those in top government positions on their toes and that they also remember what people on social media newsgroups say about their actions, utterances and attitudes and it serves as a constant check on them.

I could still remember the 10th Jackson’s annual lecture organised by my department, Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in which the Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu was invited as an alumni-guest speaker to the department, to discuss on “the threat posed by the new (social) media to the traditional media of communication”.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity said that there is no need for the censorship of the social media, but there is need for ‘purgatory’ where all information would be tested, purged and sieved for authenticity, accuracy and truth, before being circulated, which are part of the qualities and ethics of good journalism.

He, however, said that even though the new media posed great challenges to the traditional media, the competition poised by the new media should be an opportunity for the traditional/conventional media to re-strategise and focus on harness more opportunity, stressing that traditional and new media must work in complementary fashion.

As journalists, you are the eye of the public. You are their ear. You are their mouth. The public count on journalists to provide reports about issues they are ignorant of. And that is why social media users, who are considered as citizen journalists should also apply the ethics of the profession or go to the school of journalism to learn the nitty-gritty of the profession.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Adigun Temitope is a final year student of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He’s currently the Editor-in-Chief of the department magazine, The Jacksonite Magazine. He is also Editor-in-Chief of BLACK PRIDE Magazine.

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