Kunle Adeniyi is an award-winning broadcast journalist and political analyst. He talks about the importance of fact checking and source credibility.
What would you say is the first thing a reporter ought to do with information received from a third-party?
To start with, information is all about knowledge. Knowledge based on data that is trusted, credible and verifiable. It’s important to know that their are different sources of information. For journalists particularly reporters there are different sources available to them in which they get their fact based information and data. Major sources of such information could involve the traditional media which involves both print media and broadcast media although not limited to these, as other sources of information include people, letters, files (documents)…any medium available to journalists in putting news stories together.
Because information is fact based, journalists generally deal with information based on reliable facts…that can be verified. One has to ensure that the particular source of information is one that is accurate and comes from a reliable source. This is a very important aspect of a reporter’s job. A reporter’s job is to ensure that his or her stories are trusted as one way of judging stories or one’s source of information is dependant on how reliable such information is. A reporter doesn’t just put out stories without confirming the source and reliability of the information with doing his or her own research or better put, carrying out their own investigations. That way when information is gotten from a third party source such information goes through the necessary checks before the reports are published. That ensures the credibility of the reporter and the reporters medium used to publish such reporters.
And what would you say is the most important step to take with third-party information?
Third party sources are very common sources of information – information that could come from fellow colleagues or other independent sources. The most important step for any reporter is to ensure the accuracy and trust worthiness of any information or news story that is being given. An experienced and trained reporter knows that they must have a means of fact checking the information they use. This can be done by independently carrying out investigations into such reports by directly reaching out to those involved to get different sides, or trusting and working through validated documents provided by the third party source. A reporter doesn’t just publish reports without doing his/her or research and without fact checking or looking for missing links.
How do you handle a source that has provided unreliable information?
Well, a good journalist is as good as their source. Journalists, particularly reporters, have to be objective and transparent when relating to their sources. It is important for journalists to always check with their sources on why a particular item of information is being provided especially as different people have different agenda for giving information to reporters. The reporter must assess the information and do a risk based analysis as well as consider the implications that such information may have to the reporter as well as the organization. It is also important to carefully explain to sources who have provided unreliable information why that information cannot be used.
What is your take on personal bias evident in media reporting?
Personal bias in news reporting has become a major challenge for major news outfits. It is also affecting the credibility of some media, either as a result of dislike or non-interest for those in authority, or institutions where news media have felt poorly treated. This is seen both locally and in international media outlets. It is important that reporters rise above the challenge of sentiments, following the rule of objectivity and accuracy of reports, as this could also affect the perception and image of such news organisations.
What tips and resources to verify information would you recommend to both audiences and journalists?
For reporters, not every information printed is reliable or factual. Journalists should always ensure that they cross check from different sources not just any source but reliable sources. The internet is a very good tool for fact checking. Any documents provided must be verified either from government sources or third party sources to ensure that only credible and fact based information is being provided to the public.