Skeptics predicted the death of newspapers with the advent of new and social media.
The optimists countered this by reminding them that when radio and later television were invented, similar predictions were made for the newspapers, but it never happened.
Newspapers have grown along with all other forms of media and now they are competing with new media. Perhaps what is more accurate about these predictions is the sure death of quality of information being sent out as news.
We must first agree, social media and its other presences are not journalism, even though some experts have labeled it citizen journalism. Journalism is about context.
Journalism is about depth, research, and responsibility. Newspapers can offer their readers quality information, no matter the subject. Information of quality is the signature mark of a great newspaper. And this may explain why quality is missing.
Some of the sprouting news sites lack defined genres and established editorial policies. So, social media is more about spewing out information as it appears. Some people publish fabricated stories posing as serious stories.
The urge to be the first to publish certain information has compromised quality. There is no context and there are no efforts to cross-check. At times, it is pure gossip or a pure lie. Their information is dubious and you rely on it at your own peril.
But also along the way, some people have decided to become fulltime cyber journalists without making an effort to do what a traditional journalist does: being balanced and endeavoring to be fair and objective in reporting. They have news websites and they try to break the news. Some advertisers have warmed up to new media.
However, in an effort to attract traffic to these online news outlets, reporters have breached various ethics and codes that govern journalists.
Last week, campuseyes.ug ran a story (NBS TV negotiating to buy Observer newspaper in billion shillings deal, January 3, 2018) about The Observer Media Limited (OML), the publishers of The Observer newspaper.
In this story, they alleged that New Media, owners of NBS TV, were in advanced stages of taking over The Observer. They claimed it was no longer news anymore, all that is left is for shareholders of Observer Media to put pen to paper accepting to be acquired by NBS TV under its Next Media Group.
And according to them, this would make Next Media one of Uganda’s leading media groups. The story stated that they got their information from a reliable source.
What is certain is that the so-called reliable authority was not from OML because, in the first place, there was no meeting concerning the sale of shares that was ever held between Next Media and the shareholders of OML.
They even claimed that the deal would be sealed on March 16, 2018. They further speculated that NBS would be moving its headquarters to Tagore Crescent in Kamwokya!
In the aftermath of this story, I was inundated with WhatsApp messages and phone calls of people trying to find out whether OML had been sold to Next Media.
I tried to explain to ‘doubting Thomases’ that everything was still intact. Even some members of staff could not believe my explanations. I was expecting campuseye.ug to call and confirm or clarify what their reliable source had told them. I have not received such calls or emails from them.
The story lacked the voice of Next Media and OML. Even when we issued a statement on our website (www.observer.ug) denying the story in its entirety, Campuseye did not make any efforts to clarify or contact us for a comment.
So, what kind of journalism did Campseye feed its readers with? That is the folly of new media as opposed to traditional media. The quality of journalism has been affected as much as the public has become too lazy to be inquisitive.
For those who might not have read the statement from our website, the position is that there is no such a thing as The Observer being taken over on March 16, 2018.
The writer was such a creative one in that he conjured up quotes from fictitious directors who he alleged were opposed to the sale but the majority and the need for money had made them accept the NBS deal wholesomely.
The OML is still as intact as it has been for the last 13 years. So, the copy you are reading today is still churned out by the same hands.
The author is the business development director at The Observer Media Limited.