Monday, 16 November 2015

Garissa University attack - Comments

The recent re-circulation of a story highlights the importance of fact-checking, and making a conscious effort to engage

Just a matter of hours after the attacks in Paris on 13th November, a story began swirling around social media.

An attack had reportedly taken place at a university in Kenya, perpetrated by al-Shabab militants. It all seemed like a volatile weekend. Or at least that was how it seemed.

As explained in the newly-revised edition of my last news roundup, the Kenya unversity attack actually took place back in April. I mistakenly reported it as if it had just happened.

Below, I hope to delve into the story, and find out why people such as myself read the story wrong, and potentially misled others.

This is as much of a message to myself, as it is a message to readers.

1.) The story was presented on social media, as if it had just happened

To put it simply, the story received fresh attention, at a time when everyone was still raw from the bloodshed in Paris.

My reason for mistakenly writing about the story is a result of this. I commend the people who were able to re-circulate the story. If it wasn't for them, we would have forgotten about it all.

2.) People don't check the time stamp on an article

I'm guilty of this. The details of the story seemed familiar, and if I had actually bothered to check the date on zillions of articles on the story, I would have realised it had happened 7 months ago.

I've learnt a hefty lesson from this, especially this point. Journalism thrives off the bond of trust readers have with writers. We depend on journalists to tell the truth. They cannot tell the truth, if they don't put the effort in, and know what they're talking about.

3.) The original attack happened on a different continent. We noticed at the time, but didn't give it the attention it deserved. Our own prejudices got in the way, and we collectively forgot about it

When reading stories about events in other countries, it's very hard to actually take it all on board. I sometimes find it hard to process information in general, unless it's conveyed in a visual medium.

As a result of this, I can say that I remember the shocking images circulating when the attack happened. Pictures tell a thousand words. I think those images will stay with me forever.

However, I made the mistake of not remembering the really important details about the event. Where it happened, how many people lost their lives or who was responsible.

I remember the stories circulating when the original attack happened, and when I was writing the original post, I had a suspicion that something like this had already happened.

However, I don't feel like I made a conscious effort to actually remember it properly, and this all boils down to prejudices.

Our own prejudices mean that we might read about a shooting in Kenya, and we are able to express our feelings about them and show solidarity.

However, if we're westerners, living a cushy life in a busy European city, our brains don't have the know-how to actually fully engage. If we're not living in those environments, day-after-day, our brains effectively wipe our memories clean.

4.) The story highlights the importance of visual storytelling

As explained above, the Garissa story entered into recirculation in written form. If I had made the effort to check broadcast media, I would have realised it wasn't being covered, because it happened 7 months ago.

5.) In an ever-more interconnected world, we need to keep up with news from abroad

Just a suggestion. When something of this nature happens, really try and make an effort to remember it.

Immerse yourself in the story; if you can't physically be in that space, try and find pictures, and at least pretend that you are standing in someone else's shoes.

Take note of how you feel, when a story hits you. If you can't get over the subconscious stumbling blocks, at least try and say how it affected you, or try to imagine it, if it happened where you live.

No comments:

Post a Comment