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My third month as a Dubawa fellow – Setting Sails

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They say time flies when you’re having fun; well, I never truly grasped it until I realised that three months had gone out of my six months postdoctoral fellowship with Dubawa. My first month reawakened my love for journalism practice, while my second month was very productive and full of many life lessons. But I wanted to do more than fact-checking. I wanted to explore all that Dubawa has to offer and so, I decided to be adventurous by departing from my pattern in the two previous months of the fellowship.

The first thing I did was to go discuss information disorder on Radio Lagos 107.5FM. Radio Lagos is a predominantly Yoruba speaking station and I deliberately pitched my topic to the station because I realised that we focus our advocacies on English speaking platforms, forgetting that non-English media also have a very large audience base that needs to be enlightened about information disorder. I was invited to the station’s flagship morning magazine programme, Oju Taye on August 11th, 2021. We discussed the significant work Dubawa is doing to curb information disorder in Nigeria, how Nigerians can avoid information disorder, and the implications of the Federal Government’s recent media regulation policies, using information disorder as a justification. The programme was so exciting, and people called in with questions and suggestions. The high point for me was the fact that I was able to sustain close to 40 minutes of critical discussion in Yoruba Language. Trust me, I was apprehensive about how I was going to pull it off, but I did! We need more indigenous language media, we need to protect our languages and it’s rather sad that a foreign medium appears to be the one that is cashing in on the opportunities of indigenous language broadcasting in Nigeria, using digital media.

The feedback I received from my media appearance highlighted the need to educate people on how to avoid sharing misinformation, especially on social media. So I wrote my first explainer for Dubawa on the same topic. Researching that topic was very insightful for me, and it highlighted the need for everyone to be more deliberate about how we create and share information, particularly on social media. The truth is, good intentions do not prevent the repercussions of misdeeds. The fact that we (mostly) do not intend to spread misinformation that can affect people and even the society at large does not prevent the harm from happening. 

The high point of August 2021 for me was facilitating a Masterclass that trained close to 100 Lagos State University Campus Journalists and communication students on fact-checking and information disorder. The Masterclass was jointly hosted by Lagos State University (LASU) School of Communication and Dubawa/Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism. The immediate past president of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, Prof. Lai Oso, presented a keynote address on the role of youths in curbing information disorder while Dubawa’s Audience Engagement Officer/Researcher, Lateef Sanni, taught the students how to fact-check. To assure the students they could start applying all they had learnt right away even as undergraduates, Peoples Check’s Sultan Quadri and Oluwaseye Ogunsanya explained how they have successfully combined their studentship with fact-checking and curbing information disorder.

The participants at the fact-checking masterclass were so excited that I knew it shouldn’t end with a one-day training session. So I pitched the idea of floating a LASU Fact-Checkers Club to the trainees and they all agreed to join. We created a WhatsApp group, the Dean of School of Communication, Prof Sunday Alawode, gave his approval and we’re already up and running, while we take care of the registration with the University. Effectively, just like Dubawa is Nigeria’s first indigenous fact-checking organisation and the only one that is recognised by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), Lagos State University has become the first higher institution in Nigeria to establish a Fact-Checkers Club (Don’t fact-check it!) – at least we don’t have any information about any other university or polytechnic with a similar club at the moment.

But that’s not the only pace LASU is setting. Based on my proposal, LASU Radio 95.7FM will also be adding a 15-minutes discussion segment to its Monday morning magazine programme to discuss the fact-checks and media literacy articles published by Dubawa the week before. This way, we get to spread the message to those who are unable to read online, as research has shown that most people do not get to see the fact-checks of the false information they have been exposed to, while those who do read, do not always change their minds. This programme will really help in curbing information disorder in Lagos State.

People in academia (especially those in the humanities) know that a lot of journals set early September as paper submission deadlines, and I had a few that were too good to lose, so a good part of August was dedicated to meeting two deadlines. And the results submission and project deadlines were in August ending – so my hands were really full. But I just couldn’t let the entire month go by without writing any fact-checks, so I squeezed in two fact-checks before the end of August. The first was jointly written with another fellow, while I was the sole author for the second, which investigated some bogus gynaecological claims purportedly by Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

I will rate this month the best so far because, in my third month, I have been able to build enduring foundations that I will build on when my six-month fellowship with Dubawa is over. I am now so invested in researching and curbing information disorder and that is not going to change even after the conclusion of this fellowship. I see myself responding to conference, journal and book chapter calls for papers with abstracts targeted at studying information disorder, and it is intriguing how my research trajectory which previously focused on media and gender has now expanded to include information disorder. I will be hosting a panel on Information Disorder and Women as part of the African Women in Media (AWiM) conference in November, 2021 and this is a significant indication of how Dubawa’s Kwame Karikari Fact-Checking and Research Fellowship 2021 has influenced my research praxis. I’ll share the information about how you can join in my next experience article, so do keep this in mind.

Thank you for experiencing the first half of my six-month fellowship with me. I am certain the last half will be a blast. Dubawa has directed me on a research and practice path and I am setting sail. Are you coming on board?

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