Survey Shows Improved Partnership between Newsrooms and Fact-Checking Organisations in Nigeria

Survey Shows Improved Partnership between Newsrooms and Fact-Checking Organisations in Nigeria

A new survey report has shown an improvement in the working relationship and partnership between the newsrooms and fact-checking organisations in Nigeria. The survey report shows that more news organisations now encourage their staff to participate in fact-checking training programmes and fact-check their stories. In fact, more than a quarter of journalist-respondents (25.5%) indicated they

A new survey report has shown an improvement in the working relationship and partnership between the newsrooms and fact-checking organisations in Nigeria.

The survey report shows that more news organisations now encourage their staff to participate in fact-checking training programmes and fact-check their stories. In fact, more than a quarter of journalist-respondents (25.5%) indicated they were aware of fact-checking through their news organisations and (23.6%) said they were encouraged to participate in fact-checking training with support of their news organisations.

The survey conducted by Dubawa, Nigeria and supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation Abuja office, targetted the recipients of the fact-checking training provided by the major independent and dedicated fact-checking organisations in Nigeria, including Africa-Check and Dubawa.

The survey embraced the quantitative research methodology as its approach and employed the instrument of a questionnaire as its data collection method. The instrument contained seventeen questions in Google docs format and distributed strategically to eligible respondents. While twelve questions were closed, the instrument contained five open-ended questions deliberately designed to retrieve in-depth and robust responses from the respondents.

To avoid wrong entries, only local journalists who have participated in any fact-checking training in Nigeria between 2015 and 2020 were made eligible to respond. And to reach the respondents directly, major fact-checking organisations that have organised training for journalists in Nigeria between 2015 and 2020 (mostly Africa-Check and Dubawa) were contacted for detailed contact lists of journalists they have trained so far.

Similarly, a media-based non-governmental organisation (International Press Centre, IPC) at the frontline of media training and development which had partnered with Africa Check Nigeria for the training of journalists was also approached for contact details of journalists.

The data were collated within a period of four weeks, that is, between August 12 and September 10, 2020. A purposive sample of 100 respondent-journalists was targeted. To achieve this, 180 journalists were reached through their emails and WhatsApp contacts. At the end, a total number of 55 journalists agreed to participate in the survey, representing 55% of the total sample.

Results of the survey indicate majority of Nigerian journalists (43.6%) had “low” level of fact-checking awareness and very few (only 7.3%) had a “very high” level of awareness before training. This apparently affected their ability to receive training and use the skills.

Even after having being trained, and with the awareness and knowledge of fact-checking tools, the survey indicates that journalists did not use the skills effectively and regularly as only 1.8% said they did fact-checking “daily” and 14% did “weekly,” while the highest number of respondents (36.45%) said they did fact-checking and wrote media literacy articles only “once in a while.” The majority (63.6%) said they never set up any fact-checking desks nor organise step-down training in their organisations.

Though journalists did little with their skills, majority of them (29.1%) said their organisations published their articles as part of broadcast contents; 23.7% said their fact checks were published on their digital platform; 9.1% published on funders’ website; and another (9.1%) said their articles never got published.

May be they could have been doing better, but journalists said they faced challenges in up-taking fact-checking practice in their newsrooms. First, despite the growing partnership between media and fact-checking organisations, some newsrooms still had cold feet towards adopting fact-checking desks in their organisations Second, journalists in government-owned media could not fact-check government official programmes and policies while those in privately-owned media could not fact-check their organisations’ advertisers. Third, retrieving official information for the purpose of fact-checking public claims was mostly difficult.

This study relied on the social responsibility theory of the media as its conceptual framework to answer its research questions.

If social responsibility theory of the media was born in the 1940s to salvage the media’s dwindling reputation and public image because it failed to serve the public good, modern fact-checking has come to play a similar role. It, therefore, means that the inadequacies associated with the press in the 40s are still in place in the 21st century. It is apparently because of this that Martina Topic et al (2018) raise a legitimate “question of journalism standards and the extent the press could be considered as socially responsible.”

This study thereby argues in favour of the need for the media of the 21st century to embrace and deploy fact-checking capacity building skills and knowledge as veritable tools to meet up with its social responsibilities which should serve the good of the society.

It is important to note that this study only captured the impact of fact-checking training and the take-up of fact-checking by the Nigerian journalists through a quantitative approach which draws on the frequency of numbers to measure impact and challenges. This is not enough to measure a great deal of impact. The study thereby proposes a number of recommendations.

One, the legacy media needs to embrace and develop the template for a proper utilisation of verification tools provided by the New Journalism.
Two, for future survey, there is a need for a more qualitative approach and content analysis of what exactly journalists are doing with the skills they have acquired.

Three, there is a need for research in journalists and audience interest in fact-checking journalism. For instance, Dubawa Nigeria will possibly rate differently the quality of a fact-check that borders “on claims that have implications for national security and public discourse”.

*The full report of this survey was first published on Dubawa (Nigeria) website (see https://dubawa.org/impact-of-fact-checking-training-on-the-nigerian-journalists-to-mitigate-the-spread-of-mis-disinformation).

It was conducted by this author for the Dubawa Fellowship programme (2020), and was supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation Abuja office to amplify the culture of truth, accountability and professionalism in the public space.

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