We need some “loose talk” in sports journalism

Ufuoma Egbamuno
By Ufuoma Egbamuno

My Twitter timeline was abuzz on Wednesday with talk about Nigerian rapper MI Abaga and some podcast.

I actually saw a 4 minute clip of the LooseTalk Podcast- as it was called - that had the popular artiste showcase amazing levelheadedness in the face of brutal attack from the host of the show.

MI, in a rather cool, calm and collected manner responded to the host’s unsavoury comments which prompted an apology afterwards from the host.

That, got me hooked. I made a mental note I was going to watch the full podcast later because I had my hands full at the time.

I was engaged in cleaning up a mess online: educating fans on what the Super Eagles needed to do to ensure qualification to next year’s World Cup in Russia.

The day had started with me having a heated argument with a colleague on a WhatsApp group on the same issue. While he maintained that a point against Zambia was good enough to see the Super Eagles in Russia, based on the Head-to-Head rule, myself and a few others kept reiterating the opposite – Super Eagles needed an outright win to guarantee automatic qualification as only that will ensure team can’t be caught by the Chipolopolo of Zambia.

I didn’t realise the magnitude of the ignorance until I left WhatsApp for Twitter and Facebook.

But then, I should’ve known!

Just a day earlier, the communications department of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had sent out a press release noting that the Super Eagles needed a point from their last 2 games to guarantee qualification.

It read in part: “Cameroon merely delayed Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World Cup ticket celebration…. In the event, the Super Eagles WILL qualify for their sixth FIFA World Cup finals with one point from their last two matches…..”

There are two deductions to be made from this.

One, the NFF (at least through its communication department), believed a win vs Cameroon was enough to guarantee qualification irrespective of the outcome of the other game.

Yes, that was a possibility if the other group game - which at the time of sending the press release, had not been played - ended with an Algerian win or a draw.

But, a very BIG BUT, there could be another likely outcome from the game – a Zambia win meant Cameroon’s draw wouldn’t have in anyway “delayed (our) celebration,” as we still risked possibility of missing out.

Two, we drew and didn’t get the qualification that the NFF hoped for which “delayed celebrations”, BUT a point against Zambia or Algeria WAS ENOUGH to see us through!

Well, possible!

Probably, not enough!

How? 

As at the time the press statement was put out, Nigeria had 10 points as opposed to 4 for Zambia.

Scenario 1: A point from our last 2 games, say Algeria, would see us finish with 11; Zambia had 9 points to fight for and if they got all 9, would finish with 13.
This alone renders the whole NFF qualification-with-a-point narrative inconsequential.

But there was another likely route.

Scenario 2: Assuming, the point Nigeria needed would be against Zambia, Nigeria would still end up with 11 while Zambia can still get 7 to also finish with 11.

Unfortunately, the NFF press statement was premised on Scenario 2 with the assumption that if it happened this way, Nigeria would still qualify on the head-to-head rule.

HOW WRONG!

At least many now know the tie breaker in the event that Scenario 2 played out was Goal Difference. Depending on likely scores in the last two games, it could swing with Zambia overtaking us.

Probably unlikely, but not IMPOSSIBLE!

How did the NFF not know this?

And why has the NFF, 3 days after, failed to send a rejoinder to correct this glaring error?

I spent almost my whole Wednesday correcting these assumptions. From responding to big  handles such as @ManUtdPidgin and @EbukaAkara who had large followers on Twitter and had made the same NFF error in their posts, to replying the numerous enquiries on my Facebook post, it just wasn’t an easy task.

After my penultimate radio show ended at 7pm, I finally had time to watch the LooseTalk Podcast with MI. I watched for an hour, went to present a 30 minutes sponsored show and came back to finish the remaining part of the show.

The rapper appeared on the popular podcast because one of the show hosts had written an article about him that MI didn’t take lightly.

While I won’t bore you with all the cursing, swearing and hip-hop BS that went on in the no-holds-barred interview, here’s what I took away: FACTS ARE SACRED, NOT OPINIONS!

One of the show host, AOT2, had written that MI’s Chairman Album had no Shelf Life – meaning it wasn’t doing well again in the market because it made little or no impact. The Taraba-born artiste in a coordinated and calm manner came on the show and with FACTS, proved to the journalist that he had written a LIE!

Over the course of the very long podcast, MI kept reiterating that he came on the show because he RESPECTED the work of the journalists and he expected HIGHER STANDARD from them since they have a large following. He also pointed repeatedly, that the LIE that had been written had been consumed hook, line and sinker by almost everyone who read the article.

As I write this, MI, Osagz (one of the show hosts) and #LooseTalkPodcast are still trending topics on twitter.

It got me thinking.

Today’s sports journalism industry needs a watershed moment like the one from the LooseTalk Podcast.

FACTS are no longer SACRED; CLICK BAITING is now the order of the day; the rush to be the first to type BREAKING, or even worse, screaming headlines -EXCLUSIVE -when in actual fact we didn’t conduct interview alone, to mention a few, has made us lose all sense of responsibility.

My generation needs to do better. We need to get away from this copy and paste mentality that has seen our industry in near comatose state.

A few days ago, I had to call out a colleague on a WhatsApp group who had specialized in this copy and paste syndrome.


He posted score-lines of some World Cup qualifiers with two headlines: FULL TIME and UPDATE.

Apparently, he picked it up from somewhere without out even bothering to check if the scores were correct.

Because I had seen most of the games or knew the score-lines, I didn’t even need to double check to know what he posted was wrong.

When I pointed this out, he apologized and then posted a few corrected score-lines and asked me to check if they were right.

In a public forum!

Question is, as a reporter, shouldn’t you know that you should check that what you’re putting out to the public is factually correct before you put it out?

Do you need an MI LooseTalk moment – or in this case, me – to point that out?

How about the numerous times we have seen stories with screaming headlines - EXCLUSIVE; REVEALED; JUST IN – but you end up reading such stories with the writer’s opinions masqueraded as facts or fabricated quotes published?

Here’s another scenario: Yesterday, the Nigeria Basketball Federation sent out a press release sympathizing with Rivers Hoopers over its failure to attend the on-going Final Play-Offs.

The statement also tried to absolve the NBBF President, Musa Kida, from the debacle and placed the blame solely on the Rivers State government.

Now this was after players of the club appeared on a radio show on Nigeria Info FM Port Harcourt and accused Kidda of being the reason why they weren’t in Kano.

Prior to this, some media outfits had gone with the same allegation but theirs was based on innuendo, gossip and/or off-records conversations.

I refused to join in the conversation because I couldn’t deal on gossip or innuendo and wanted someone to go on the record so I could attribute the accusations against Musa Kida to someone.

Simple journalism/broadcasting rules isn’t it?

But if it was this simple, how come many chose to disregard this basic principle?

Do we actually need an MI, Kidda or Pinnick to come on our respective shows and teach us the basic principle of journalism which is that we write/talk on FACTS?

My generation needs to do better!

As it is now, most of us journalists – young and old - are mostly concerned about the number of social media groups we belong to; how to interview top sports administrators/athletes in exchange for benefits; sycophancy in exchange for contracts and/or juicy appointments…..

Maybe, we do need some #LooseTalk moment!


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