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MTN goes beyond voice, trains PH media experts against fake news

Fake news is eating deep into the fabrics of the society and any country nourished in false information dieting would be like building a castle on sand. Some corporations and high net worth individuals are alarmed, and some (such as the MTN and Polaris Bank) have take action.

They have identified the media as a possible bulwark against the evil regime called fake news. The most harmful part, they believe, is that it does not only destroy the soul of in for consumers but it creates confusion between what is true of false news. Also, it provides escape route to guilty parties who would simply dismiss indictment as ‘fake news’. This way, they create doubt and swim away in the flow of confusion.

MTN seems to believe that if journalists can take back their right to drive news, fakes would take back the seat. They also seem to worry that the oil economy is huge and it sustains Nigeria; and that Port Harcourt is regarded as the real headquarters of the hydrocarbon industry.

In their thinking, probably, if fake news attacks this sensitive region that props up this robust industry, Nigeria’s entire economy could crumble. The MTN thus decided to help shore up the ability of the PH media firmament to ward off fake news sourcing and drive the news industry.

MTN contacted NECCI Consulting Limited to handle the training scheme around Nigeria and in PH particularly. On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, Nkechi Ali-balogun, the principal consultant, led her team to Le Meridien, a top hotel in the Garden City to begin the training.

After the overview, Nkechi introduced the newsmen to a new concept called Alternative Truth, which simply means lie. Truth has no alternative. It is either true or false. She talked about hate speech, etc.

Innocent Entonu

Before that, Innocent Entonu, the GM (Regional Operations), introduced MTN 18th birthday in Nigeria which was Aug 7, 2019. He said the training is to give back to the society because of the huge support he said Nigeria has given to them. He particularly mentioned the MTN Foundation as a key ‘give-back’ scheme that works with a certain percentage of the company’s profit after tax.

He gave a lot of insights on relativity-leverage principle as it concerns media practitioners. He revealed MTN’S heart of gold approach whereby the workers contributed funds and created a scheme called MTN 21 days to help humanity. He also mentioned what he called ‘MTN Season of Surprise’ which aims to surprise the customers. This seemed to pop eyes.

Media men were brought closer to the 4G package which they said works faster. Entonu wants media men to take advantage of this because PH is well covered by it. His ringing message in the ears is that a world without the media would be like total blackout. If media is light, why then would fake news be allowed to distort it, he lamented.

Nkechi Ali-balogun

That is why Nkechi latched on this and made it clear that fake news can even be worse than blackout. Under: ‘Fake News, Hate Speech and Alternative Truth as Threat to the Future of the Media’, it was made clear that the society surfs every morning to know what is happening around them. To do this, they turn to the media. In the past, it was through the dailies. Later radio and television came in. Now, it’s phone, online.

This puts a burden on newsmen; and ethics becomes the pillar of the practice. A news purveyor must ask if the report he/she is doing will help or harm the society. Yes, organizational and personal interest may intervene but let there be overriding public interest.

Newsmen were told to put behind them their ethnic or religious biases. The resource persons pointed to a speech in Kenya which was open hate speech calling for violent change and annihilation. It was the type that sparked off violence in Rwanda. It was made clear that societies that allowed hate speech ended up in wars or ethnic cleansing. Samples of fake news were shown to drive home the message.

The greatest harm of the fake news syndrome is that opponents use it to discredit a true story that threatened their interest. This becomes a tool for destroying real news. Also, politics has moved to the media space. Only ethics can guide media men.

Those who rise above fake news practice would emerge as giants in the profession because when people believe in you, if they hear things, they revert to you. Fake news is no mistake. It is news fabricated to misinform. But, subtle interests of people pushing news can suck in the newsman. So, the media men were asked to be wary of ‘clickbait’, propaganda, sloppy journalism, misleading headlines, biased/ slanted news, etc.

Crisis of communication and the new media

Nkechi also treated the above topic in which she said crisis communication is to solve problem and know how to use journalism to solve problems. She tried to identify the role of journalists in managing crisis, though some of the participants felt it was not the duty of a journalist to manage crisis but to put the facts out there. Others can do the managing. She however harped on balance as a needed tool to create the atmosphere we need.

She went on: “Social media comes to disrupt the role of the media. Citizen-journalist has come to act like a rival.” She wanted to know if journalism can happen without the journalist, but said. “Content is no longer being provided by journalists. Journalism is about doing, not being. Gate keeping vs gate-watching (watching is playing down on a matter, not to write). Be ethical in reporting crisis”.

Oluwa Seyi of MTN

It was important to give insight into ICT that can help. This is to show that MTN is beyond voice. Telecom has caused growth and advancement. He said MTN wants to add a level of advancement to how we work, and show the technology enablers. Some of the products include cloud, intelligent work, mobile, IOT, Big data, Security and Smart Machines.

For those in the print, it was made clear again how the newspaper can be online instead of relying on hard copies to reach millions. He said; MTN wants to be the choice It-partner. MPLS can help you send file. You can host your data in MTN Data Centre as back up, in case of laptop being lost. Your data can be hosted in Nigeria now. MTN Leased Line is for hosting the company data for all to access. Data stored alone could be of high cost. So, use Dedicated Internet Access (DIA).

Fixed Voice can handle 30 calls at same time; Closed User Group gives ability to energise several lines for a month without recharging. Group Data Share allows all lines to pick data from the bucket.

Cloud & Data centre: High forex rates caused this innovation prompted by the CBN. So many banks, oil companies, etc, are being hosted by MTN in Nigeria. It has high profile equipment more than what they have in some countries. You cannot lose data, he said. Some top entities in PH have tested and joined it. There is Vehicle Tracking. There is Geofencing. Even if they break the geofencing, you can’t break the tracker. Beware of cheap products from some countries that can be easily broken.

Wifi: Note that there is nothing as ‘unlimited’ data. MTN is highly innovative; so they look ahead, and partner. Data centres are three in Nigeria for backup. Costs are still seen to be high but this is because of high cost of one mast, generators, solar, fuel, security, etc.

Karibi George: Ethical issues of social media in journalism

The Rivers-born expert says every pursuit aims at some good. Thus, good is that which all actions aim. Ethics is standard of conduct. Utilitarian theory sees ethics as aiming at greatest good for greatest number of people. It is about ‘Do onto others what you want done to you’, as captured by Rotary.

Ethics vs law: Law makes stipulations and states punishment; ethics are voluntary to distinguish self to make a profession stand out. Entry qualification is the starting point for ethical conduct. Ethics helps to do self-regulation to avoid harsher laws by parliament. Journalism in Nigeria strives on self regulation instead of Act establishing it.

Social media; News is now broken by amateurs. Wrong spelling dominates social media. Technology and equipment often are not available for practitioners. About reporters relying on social media, let a traditional media practitioner be a model to social media use. Social media is creating a siege mentality.

The takeaway is that the professional media practitioner should show strength and take back the driver’s seat. During questions, he made it clear that social media may be regarded as group communication but that the impact is massive and that the law of libel does not spare it.

Dare Ogunyombo: Journalist as leader

From the foregoing, it was made clear that a journalist is not just a news writer but a leader with huge responsibilities that require decisionmaking that impacts the larger society. This high-level PR expert dwelt on ‘Transformational leadership versus and Transactional leadership’. This had huge impact on the participants. He showed the role of leadership in the newsroom and elsewhere. Little wonder good journalists stand out as better policy makers and leaders of thought.

Conclusion:

First, let the journalist fight and take back the leadership of the media space and defeat fake news. This way, social media people would be followers instead of news leaders. The society would enjoy media sanity driven by fact.

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