How to Value Your Sources

18 January 2012 | 03:12 | English
My Twitter account @femkevanzeijl with my impromptu lecture.I had felt the lecture coming on for a couple of weeks now, after following with growing amazement the misinformation online on current affairs in Nigeria. In times like these (talking about Naija in particular) responsible (civic) journalism is a must. Pouring oil into the fire is too easy. That is why I put on my academic hat - coming from a family of teachers, I couldn't help it - for a class of civic journalism on my Twitter account @femkevanzeijl. It can still be found under #civicjournalism, but as tweets expire quicker than an opened carton of milk, I put it on this blog too. Called the impromptu lecture 'How to Recognize a Trustworthy Source' - or rather: 'How to Recognize the Ones That Are Not'. It is simple, really.
Just follow these 10 rules:
1: An unauthorized tweet handle of a famous individual or well known organisation is NOT a source.
2: (Foreign) journalists (including myself) are not automatically trustworthy sources.
3: Neither are (foreign) media organizations. Stating 'Reuters said so and so' does not make something true.
4: Distrust media quoting media quoting media quoting media. It is a scam they are not aware of.
5: When reading something you think 'this cannot be right', assume it is not until proven otherwise.
6: If tempted to believe a source, find out its background before quoting it all over the virtual world.
7: If source checks out, find out what REALLY was said, and not how it was abbreviated to fit into 140 characters.
8: Find the primary source!! Don't be satisfied with second hand news. If the BBC said something: ask THEM.
9: Wikipedia is NOT a source. Never.
10: Distrust. Ask questions. Ask more. Than decide and maybe RT.
Basically it is logical AND independent thinking what makes a good (civic) journalist. So go ahead and report, but be sensible. Think twice. Don't be a parrot. Think for yourself.

Realised this morning I should have concluded with one final point: always mention your sources. Preferably in a way that is verifiable. So other people can think for themselves as well.
  1. Dear Femke, can I call you by your first name?
    Read your blog and like it so much.
    You know my cousin Tayorinde from Ibadan. His bank transfered him to Lagos. Maybe we all could meet when you return.
    Ayo - 19 01 12 - 11:30
  2. wow. u should teach journalism! thank you 4 sharing yr wisdom
    James Aralu - 21 01 12 - 09:22
  3. Ayo, I remember your cousin – haven’t heard from him since I left Ibadan in 2009. Would be nice to catch up.
    And James, coincidentally: I do teach journalism.
    Thanks for the compliments!

    P.S. About calling me by my first name: please do! The way most non-Dutch struggle pronouncing my last name is too painful, so I always introduce myself as just ‘Femke’.
    Femke - 21 01 12 - 09:26
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