The Role of Campus Journalists In Tackling Fake news And Misinformation - Adejumo Kabir

 As part of my efforts to strengthen Nigeria's journalism from tertiary institutions, I honoured the invitation of the Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ LAUTECH) in Ogbomoso on Saturday, Feb. 4, to speak on the role of campus journalists in tackling fake news and misinformation. 

My short speech below: 

The role of campus journalists in tackling fake news and misinformation

It is no longer news that I started my journalism practice as a 100-level student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I was first, a protest writer, consciously demanding justice for newbies that were being oppressed by senior colleagues in their hostels and those exploited by departmental and faculty executives. 

Weeks later, I joined the Association of Campus Journalists (ACJOAU), the oldest student-journalism body in Nigeria, with the track record of producing more mainstream journalists than some schools with the department of Mass Communications. 

Every time I stepped out of my room on campus, I would be bombarded with a series of questions from Awolowo hall of residence to academics. My fellow students were always trying to confirm the genuineness of information circulating on campus from me. They trusted me more than the press releases issued by the university management after every incident.  

From that point, I knew I had a responsibility to report the truth that other people would want to read. Through me, fake news and other biased reporting were successfully tackled in Ife.

I did not only earn the trust of the OAU community, I and other friends helped strengthen the respect students and staff give ACJOAU till date. The professional ethics instilled in some of us since campus days have remained our focus even as we now practice at the mainstream level. 

This, therefore, brings us to the quote of Clement Camposano, University of the Philippines Visayas (UP Visayas) Chancellor, who in 2021 said, "a large part of the struggle to keep democracy alive in this country—in any country—will be the struggle to keep our campuses free."

Great Ife was free to operate journalism and that's why I am here today. 

Since the deregulation of the telecommunications sector in 2001, internet access in Nigeria has grown exponentially. So as the spread of fake news. Since many award-winning journalists started from their various tertiary institutions, it is important to train the next generation of student journalists on their role in combating fake news. 

One major element of journalism is to 'seek the truth and report it." This is the same on campus. Like other sectors, the media is also affected by 'japa syndrome', hence, student journalists should be ready to fill the gap this has caused in their communities.

Today, sensational reporting, in which events and topics in news stories are overhyped to present biased impressions on events, which may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story, is fast becoming the other of the day.

Shortly into the 20th century, Frederick Greenwood, editor of the Pall Mall Gazzette while speaking about sensationalism told the proprietor and managing editor of News of the World, George Riddell that he had looked at his paper “and then I put it in the waste-paper basket. And then I thought, ‘if I leave it there, the cook may read it – so I burned it!“ By burning the paper, he tried to put an end to fake news. 

It is sad that the media, today, just want to be controversial by intentionally omitting facts in their reports just to attract viewers and readers. They even go as far as using words like ‘shocking’ and ‘alarm’ in their headlines. While some have argued that sensationalism is difficult to pin down because it means different things to different people, campus journalists, being the next generation, must strive to be factual and accurate in every of their reports. 

Campus newspapers must ensure that they live up to the ethical standards of the profession and be certain that they can defend their stories when sensationalism allegations arise.

UCJ LAUTECH's website must be active always, not just to report news that affects its students but news that affect all Nigerian students, put well-reported and truthful information on their platforms to combat the misinformation menace. 

Recall that Camposano argued that "we should stop thinking of campus journalism as some kind of an embellishment, something like an extracurricular activity. It’s way more than that. You have to think of how campus journalism is an essential ingredient in maintaining the spirit of discourse inside campuses." 

I can't promise that you will achieve success through an easy ride. No. You will be targeted for correcting fake news. You will be abused for doing what is right. Don't be afraid. You only need to be sure that you are doing evidence-based reporting and be firm with your facts. 

Digging out the odds and ills in the system is realising your role as catalysts and transparency advocates. 

Go and conquer the world! 

ADEJUMO KABIR is the author of "Campus Journalism Beginners' Handbook" and co-editor of "The Pain, Push and Pleasure". He is also the founder of Campus Press Hub. Kabir currently works as Asst. Investigations Editor at HumAngle Media, Abuja.

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