By Isaac Asabor
As a Journalist that has the predilection to extend the spirit of camaraderie to his professional colleagues, whenever they are unjustifiably reprimanded by political leaders that felt their interest was not protected in a story written about them, I was unarguably irked when I read an open letter written by a political analyst on behalf of a governor that holds sway in the northern part of the country.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to say that ahead of any given election that some Journalists; both from the traditional and the social media segments of the profession are usually seen scrambling head over heels to literarily be on the trenches for any politician that has a deep pocket to foot their bills, so to say. In the process of working for an aspirant, they might have decided to work for, there is the tendency to embark on campaign of calumny against the opponent of such politician ostensibly to please their paymaster. Analyzed from the foregoing view, there is no denying the fact “Overtaking and inanities are allowed in editorial materials that are aimed at promoting political propaganda”. During the period, the political aspirant who the unethical Journalist works for would be ostensibly blind and daft to notice biases or rather unethical practices being demonstrated for the sake of boosting his candidacy ahead of the election. Rather, he would be the one sourcing for damaging background materials that can be used to write damaging features, analysis, news stories and opinion articles against his opponent. Paradoxically, when such politician eventually wins the election into the political position he vied for, whatever that would be published to expose his shortcomings is considered to be biased as he would always see his opponent to be sponsoring Journalists to bring him down the way he used them ahead of the election to bring his opponent down during the election.
Besides, when it comes to identifying biased news story, it appears everyone knows about it. I have come across a barely educated writer who boasted that he would build his own website to weed out bias in journalism as his site would serve as an optional medium for the public. His idea made me chuckle, not just because of the technical difficulty of detecting something as subjective as bias, but because it is based on the widespread misconception that all Journalists are biased. Are they really biased? Journalism is unarguably at that stage as in the teaching profession where every student that fails in his or her terminal examination always see the teacher as not being friendly.
For years, conservative critics have claimed that unethical journalists slant their coverage, and wrongly suggested that everything published about them and their offices are biased. Without any iota of exaggeration, these undeserved attacks are by each passing day eroding the credibility of the mainstream media and fueled the rise of conservative outlets.
When Journalists are wrongly accused by political leaders of being biased, they often forget that they are usually the ones that make some Journalists not to be balanced and objective in their news reports. How? When a call is initiated to make clarifications from them, or an email or SMS is sent to them, they hardly reply. Their responses have always been “I’m in a meeting, send me a text message”. When a text message is eventually sent, they are hardly replied to. This retrogressive attitude, unarguably, does not augur well for the Journalist who is always bound by time and has tight schedule to send his story to concerned editors for consideration and publication. In fact, any Journalist that knows his onions would always want to be a news breaker. Which Journalist wants to report a staled story? To my view, there is no way a balanced and objective story can be reported within the context of “Continuum of Journalism,” which includes a range of journalistic genres: op-eds, investigations, fact-checks, you name it when those that are in position to provide clarifications are not willing, and even willing are tardy in their responses. The continuum which could easily be rebranded “The Bias Meter” will therefore on account of the superciliousness of the politician who is the subject of the given story mar the quest for objectivity as he has built a brick wall around himself.
At this juncture, it is expedient to urge supercilious political leaders and top managers in the corporate world to always make themselves accessible to Journalists as analysis articles, fact-checks, and other types of reporting are easily and professionally written with a high sense of objectivity when some ambiguous aspects in them are clarified. If I may ask, how will the activities or performances of a governor and his executives be objectively reported when information needed to balance stories that revolve around them are been supplied by unpaid assistants and secretaries that are unarguably disgruntled?
To this end, it is expedient to say that political leaders will escaped from the challenge of being negatively reported in the media when they eschew corrupt practices. The reason cannot be farfetched as corruption erodes trust, weakens democracy, hampers economic development and further exacerbates inequality, poverty, social division and the environmental crisis. Expectedly, for any leader to be caught in the web of the foregoing inanities, a good Journalist will no doubt see “a good” story in it.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.