Are knee-jerk reactions hindering objective analysis of BBC’s TB Joshua investigation?

The recent investigation carried out by the BBC into the Nigerian megachurch pastor, the late TB Joshua, has sparked a flurry of impassioned responses. While some have lauded the investigation’s potential to effect lasting change, others have criticised the journalists involved of bias and sensationalised reporting. The current debate surrounding the investigation is dominated by strong personal opinions rather than a critical examination of the report’s methodology, evidence, and potential impact.

Investigative journalism uncovers obscured realities, stimulates discussions, and encourages discourse on critical issues. It involves meticulous research, analysis, and evaluation of sources. The practice can inspire change, promote accountability, and foster transparency. Therefore, designating the BBC investigation as merely “poor,” “revolutionary,” or “earth-shattering” fails to encapsulate its complex nature and significance. Such simplification undermines the essential role played by investigative journalism in the public sphere.

On the sidelines of the debate surrounding the BBC investigation, a different perspective from the journalism community is gaining traction. Here, the emphasis shifts from accusations and pronouncements to a call for a nuanced and comprehensive analysis of the investigation’s merits and limitations.

This push for a critical yet constructive approach goes beyond superficial critiques. It aims for a thorough examination of the investigation’s internal workings, including the methodologies employed, sources consulted, and ethical frameworks utilised. Examining these elements allows for a deeper understanding of the investigation’s rigour, potential biases, and impact on public discourse.

Such self-reflection is not a mere academic exercise. It is a potent tool for professional growth and evolution. When journalists approach their work with an analytical lens, they gain the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses, refine methodologies, and strengthen ethical considerations. This process fosters transparency and accountability, ultimately building trust with audiences.

The call for nuanced analysis extends beyond this specific investigation. By engaging in open dialogue and sharing considered insights, journalists bridge the gap with audiences, fostering critical thinking on both sides. It leads to a more informed and engaged public sphere, where investigative journalism can fulfil its vital role in illuminating hidden truths and fostering responsible social dialogue.

The questions below provide a framework to engage in nuanced and critical examination of investigative journalism.

 20 questions to consider when analysing an investigative report

  1. Did the investigation employ standard investigative practices and ethical guidelines?
  2. Is the investigative process adequately explained, allowing audiences to understand how the story was developed?
  3. Are investigative techniques clearly outlined? Does the approach seem appropriate for the subject matter?
  4. How is the investigation framed and what language is used? Does it avoid inflammatory language or manipulation of emotions?
  5. Are sources diverse, credible, and thoroughly examined? Have claims been corroborated by verifiable evidence?
  6. Does the narrative consider opposing viewpoints and avoid harmful generalisations?
  7. Have alternative explanations or counter-narratives been actively investigated and presented, even if they weaken the main thesis?
  8. Does the report provide sufficient context for audiences to grasp the issue’s complexity and historical background?
  9. Are different perspectives presented fairly and without undue influence?
  10. Do external corroborations lend credibility to the reported claims?
  11. Was the investigation subjected to rigorous fact-checking processes?
  12. Does the report maintain a balanced and unbiased approach to the subject matter?
  13. Have ethical dilemmas encountered during the investigation been handled appropriately?
  14. How are vulnerable sources protected and their anonymity upheld?
  15. Are sources, methodology, and potential conflicts of interest clearly and openly disclosed?
  16. Has the investigation considered and addressed the potential unintended consequences of its findings and impact?
  17. Does the investigation acknowledge and address any external pressures or attempts to influence its reporting?
  18. Does the investigation reveal hidden truths or address vital issues of public concern? Does the reporting offer new perspectives or challenge existing narratives?
  19. Does the report stand the test of time, retaining its importance and impact beyond the initial publication?
  20. Does the investigation raise broader questions or suggest areas for further research and investigation?
ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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