Is Technology enhancing or killing journalism?

By Daniel Mule

During the past decade, digital technology has dramatically changed the way we consume and create news and information.

According to a recent research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, social media is used each week by more than half (51%) of online news consumers to find, discuss and share, news content globally.

The institute’s fifth Digital News Report, using data from over 50,000 online news users in 26 countries, also revealed that among audiences aged 18-24 social media is now their preferred news source; beating TV (28% vs 24%) for the first time. Globally, the study found, 12% said social media is their main news source.

Content is increasingly visual across news platforms, from ISIS beheadings to selfies of former presidents and ordinary Kenyans having fun in their first train ride on the Standard Gauge Railway.

New morning routines

The idea of starting your day by reading a newspaper was a normal daily routine in the past. However, studies show that just 8% of news audiences in the UK do this, dropping to 6% in the US.

The developing world is following suit whereby in Kenya and other sub-Saharan countries, online services; social media, apps and news websites are the first port of call for most news consumers, ahead of TV and Radio, as well as newspapers.

Technology Journalism

The growth of technology in journalism has also led to enterprise technology, which talks about how businesses leverage new technologies for business gains.

Journalists who report on technology usually interview experts on various fields like mobility, analytics, cloud computing, open source, etc. and share insights with their audience.

Kenyan ‘fake news’ 

Immediately after the contested August 8th, 2017 general election in Kenya media reports were scant and left many yearning for updates.

Different groups came out with varying figures of the numbers of deaths.

As all this was playing out, many Kenyans, who were not satisfied with the mainstream media limited coverage of the situation were glued to social media channels for updates.

Some social media users provided blow-by-blow updates of events taking place around them, with others amplifying those reports, providing alternative or supplementary commentary.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are perhaps the three most popular social media platforms in Kenya, and have been used to share opinions, predictions and fabrications before and after the election.

There have been websites as well, designed to give the impression that they are authoritative sources of news, that have carried all sorts of (mis)information and propaganda. As has been widely reported, fake news articles and videos bearing CNN, BBC and even NTV Kenya logos were also disseminated and shared widely on social media platforms.

Online Gatekeeping vs. Fake News

Not everything you read on the internet is true. Trouble is, it can be hard to know truth from lies, and there is evidence ‘lies travel faster’.

There are a number of issues, in the Kenyan context that give fake news breeding ground. Chief among them, in my view, is the changing tides of information dissemination in the country.

In the past, the government, mainstream media and civil society were the primary sources of information in Kenya.

These institutions, as they are liable for the accuracy of the information that they disseminate, acted as a barrier for fake news stories.

This stream of news and visuals, along with the ease with which citizen journalists, bloggers, and those on twitter can create and publish content, has changed the gatekeeping process and limited the power of traditional gatekeepers.

Today, the old gatekeeping model of the passive audience imagined by gatekeepers confronts the rise of the techno-active audience who often provide feedback on stories.

The writer is a news anchor at NTV and a part time lecturer at SPU, Nairobi Campus.


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