When Nigerians heard the story of Mayowa Ahmed, they were moved to give like they have given many times before, and they prayed for her recovery. Later, news came that the whole thing might have been a scam, that her family might have taken Nigerians for a ride. Was it true? This news came with no sources, no references, and people sought real information.
That did not stop debate from breaking out. Many took one side or the other in the absence of that real information, also, like has happened many times before. Some people had to put together the facts, allow the different parties involved speak for themselves, and inform the public in the process.
A lot has been said and written about how the rise of social media and blogs enables anyone to become an outlet for breaking news. They have now become a fixture of our information space, allowing them to get the news first, but these low cost operations are often not compatible with the hard work of credibility and accuracy that sets apart actual journalists.
So, when a news item comes up that has the public’s interest, breaking news is woefully insufficient. There are those who must go beyond the mere posting of a story to speak to the people involved, and complete the audience’s understanding of the news. That’s why, till this day, Sahara Reporters are not trusted as much as legacy media outlets in Nigeria like Punch.
Indeed, the world views of bloggers and journalists are simply not the same a lot of the time. While a blog will be comfortable running a story without verification or just piggy-backing off someone else’s story, a journalist is always thinking about how to move the public’s understanding of the issues forward, and hence elevating the conversation.
That’s why we value the New York Times, the Economist, and the Financial Times, and that’s why even those at the forefront of blogging culture – Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed – have substantial journalistic operations.
They realise that the contagion of viral blogposts is not a substitute for the hard work and resulting credibility that comes with approaching stories with a journalistic mindset.
The initial post that started yesterday’s bedlam was about to smear the name of a family, and maybe even affect future attempts to raise funds for others in need.
Thankfully that was averted, and everyone is better informed, but for that to happen, some had to do the *in Rihanna’s voice* work, work, work, work, work, work.