By Jacob Nyongesa

The legacy media continues to play a crucial role in informing, educating and entertaining the public. The Media Council of Kenya’s annual Status of the Media Report 2020 revealed that television and radio are the most consumed media platforms in Kenya, standing at 74 percent in terms of popularity. 

The same report showed that the public trusts the media more than they trust the government, an indication that the public continues to depend on the media for information.  Yet even as the public keeps trusting the media, there is a downside.

A report on Kenya Media Assessment by Internews in Kenya indicates that the last decade has witnessed an erosion of the economic vibrancy of legacy media in Kenya. The newspaper circulation has been dropping since 2013 while television took a big hit in 2014 with the digital migration process.

Even radio is not spared. The popular belief that radio is the main source of news and information is rapidly and progressively giving way to social media. Social media has been touted by scholars to be a game changer in how the media will conduct its business going forward. 

Global media trends, on the other side, suggest that the invasion of social media could be an “extinction-level event” with outlets around the world being affected. While some say media houses may emerge stronger, as a result of increased digital subscriptions, revenue diversification, and reduced – or hollowed-out – competition, these assertions remain to be seen. 

 Globally, online media has shown that the industry needs to evolve in order to remain competitive. Technological and digital advancements have changed the way in which many people interact and get their news. 

 Digital platforms are offering people the opportunity to interact and communicate faster. As people become busier by the day, the need for information is also growing and they want it by the click of a finger. 

 With the growing information need, therein lurks the danger of misinformation that continuous to be witnessed. This means media houses must come with ways to combat fake news and regain the trust it has lost for sharing unverified information. 

 Andreas Pyrcek, a Forensic expert at Ernst & Young, in his article on how media houses can confront fake news, notes that media companies must earn their reputation through  quality, truthfulness, speed and exclusivity of the information they provide, distinguishing them from other online sources.  

 Amidst a flood of false, misleading or misinterpreted information, audiences have difficulty knowing whom to trust and what to believe, and consumers may be more likely to seek out news that reinforces their existing views, even if it is based on unreliable information. 

 Pyrcek further notes that to distinguish their brand and protect their reputation, media companies need to tackle the complex and multifaceted problems created by unreliable information and other interference. This also includes taking steps to rebuild lost trust when necessary. 

 Media houses have a bigger responsibility to ensure that the scourge is fought from all fronts, and according to Africa Check Kenya Editor, Alphonce Shiundu, some of them have hired fact-checkers and set up verification desks to debunk false information, while others continue to partner with fact-checkers like Africa Check, to amplify the correct information and spread media literacy content.

 Most media houses have also tightened their editorial verification protocols to make sure that the public gets the right information especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is commendable.

 World Health Organization (WHO) says as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenge of an overabundance of information related to the virus cannot be underestimated. Some of this information may be false and potentially harmful.

 With most media houses relying on blogs for information there is need for vigilance to avoid the danger of sharing fake news. Behind these blogs are people who create and share this content on different social media platforms. These are people who often do not have enough resources, or motivation needed, to verify all info they put out.

How can the media houses ensure they give out accurate information? 

Firstly, the focus should be on high-quality journalism that builds trust and attracts great audiences. With the increase of public’s confidence in media organizations, the gains achieved in readership and viewership over the last couple of years must be maintained.

Secondly, media houses have a responsibility to call out misinformation. They can effectively do this by relying upon their-house professional sandwell-respected fact-checkers.

Thirdly, according to africareport.com, a website, emphasis on education will be the media’s most powerful tool. By giving people the knowledge and ability to spot potential fake news, we can hope that these stories will not see the light of day, and the damage they cause can be prevented.

Lastly, important clues about the source of the story should be considered as identical stories. Indicate a small number of people are behind them, this makes it easier to ultimately track the Authors down.

What makes this tricky, though, is that stories often disappear within days of Publication, only to be replaced with more fake news shortly after. It all sounds insurmountable, but the media must keep at it because therein lies its survival.

 

This publication was produced as part of IWPR’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN) programme, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Africa Uncensored. For more information of ARN, please visit the ARN site. https://africaresiliencenetwork.com/

 

 

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