By Femke van Zeijl
I had felt the lecture coming on for a couple of weeks now, after following with growing amazement the misinformation online on current affairs in Nigeria. In times like these (talking about Naija in particular) responsible (civic) journalism is a must. Pouring oil into the fire is too easy. That is why I put on my academic hat – coming from a family of teachers, I couldn’t help it – for a class of civic journalism on my Twitter account @femkevanzeijl. It can still be found under #civicjournalism, but as tweets expire quicker than an opened carton of milk, I put it on this blog too. Called the impromptu lecture ‘How to Recognize a Trustworthy Source’ – or rather: ‘How to Recognize the Ones That Are Not’. It is simple, really.
Just follow these 10 rules:
1: An unauthorized tweet handle of a famous individual or well known organisation is NOT a source.
2: (Foreign) journalists (including myself) are not automatically trustworthy sources.
3: Neither are (foreign) media organizations. Stating ‘Reuters said so and so’ does not make something true.
4: Distrust media quoting media quoting media quoting media. It is a scam they are not aware of.
5: When reading something you think ‘this cannot be right’, assume it is not until proven otherwise.
6: If tempted to believe a source, find out its background before quoting it all over the virtual world.
7: If source checks out, find out what REALLY was said, and not how it was abbreviated to fit into 140 characters.
8: Find the primary source!! Don’t be satisfied with second hand news. If the BBC said something: ask THEM.
9: Wikipedia is NOT a source. Never.
10: Distrust. Ask questions. Ask more. Than decide and maybe RT.
Basically it is logical AND independent thinking what makes a good (civic) journalist. So go ahead and report, but be sensible. Think twice. Don’t be a parrot. Think for yourself.
One final point: always mention your sources. Preferably in a way that is verifiable. So other people can think for themselves as well.