ABSTRACT: The study examined the influence of citizen journalism on fake news in Nigeria with a focus on NUJ Port-Harcourt. It is not overemphasized that fake news has affected the social-political nature of this country and many developing nations at large because it did not only robbed the mainstream media of its integrity, trust and reliability but also ruin the business of reporting which is an important watchdog. The study was anchored on Social Responsible Theory, Democratic Participant Media Theory and Information Systems Theory. A survey research method was employed while questionnaire was used as data collection instrument. Taro Yamani Formula was used to determine a sample size of two hundred. The data collected were analyzed using frequency and percentage table. The findings of the study was that citizen journalism offer access to multiple sources, audience hate fake news and that fake news is an abuse of freedom of expression. Similarly, the majority of respondents agreed that citizen journalism will bring about the spread of fake news and information overload while respondents identified the originality in stories by comparing it with other sources and observing what other people are saying about the stories. Meanwhile, respondents agreed that they are now informed because they read lots of stories, while the majority of the respondents often spotted fake news on new media (social media). It is recommended that members of the public should possess media literacy skills to be able to think critically about the information they consume.
Keywords: Citizen Journalism
1.1 Background to the Study
Technological advancement in contemporary society of the 21stcentury heralded the arrival of information and communication technologies (ICT) that has enhanced the existing communication process and the entire material in which individual interact with the world. The ICTS expanded the frontier of communication channels referred to as new media have given birth to “citizen journalism”. These ICT driven communication channels include online information services, cable television, the internet and World Wide Web, among others. The new media have expanded the horizon of communication and made the world smaller and communication process more rapid.
Journalism is a vital part of mass communication that involves the gathering, collection and dissemination of news. Journalism is one social institution that requires freedom to effectively function in society. Journalism plays a crucial role to society, serving as the watchdog of the society, and providing constant stream of information, education and socialization. Soeze (2015) elucidates that the media as the watchdog of the society have the responsibility of keeping the public informed, educated and socialized. This involves making people know the day-to-day activities and dealings of those in government whether military or civilian. In addition, the media also help to ensure that the government knows the feelings and yearnings of those it governs.
Journalism sets agenda, organizes public debates and discussions, and interprets issues to put them in proper perspectives to make meaning to people. Through these roles, journalism not only educate, inform and socialize; it also confers status, values and significance to issues, thereby serving as the mouth-piece and defender of the voiceless and the oppressed in society (Sambe, 2018). The journalistic task of gathering and disseminating news has not been an easy one largely due to limited freedom occasioned largely by government firm grip and control of the mass media.
Thus, Uche (2009) notes that “relationship between the mass media and the government in Nigeria has been a cat and mouse affair”. This implies that, the free flow of information has been trampled upon. Journalists have had no access to vital information let alone the masses. In struggling to get detailed, factual and balanced reportage, journalists have had to continue to nose around for information, exposing themselves to high levels of risk that got them victimized, jailed, tortured and sometimes killed (Ezeah, 2014).
Citizen journalism is simply the process by which the public takes the responsibility of collecting, disseminating and analysing information or news especially via the internet. Citizen journalism has been on a rise. ‘Everyone and anyone can be or better still, is a journalist’. Nevertheless, Citizen Journalism has definitely also helped in putting our leaders on their toes and enabling us to have ‘eyes everywhere’. Citizen journalism is the reverse of the straight-jacket, near unilateral top-down communication system of the mainstream media.
Bowman and Willis (2013) state that, “Participatory journalism is a bottom-up, emergent phenomenon in which there is little or no editorial oversight or formal journalistic workflow dictating the decisions of staff. Instead, it is the result of many simultaneous, distributed conversations that either blossom or quickly atrophy in the Web’s social network.” They observe that “the fluidity of this approach puts more emphasis on the publishing of information rather than the filtering. Conversations happen in the community for all to see. In contrast, traditional news organizations are set up to filter information before they publish it.” In its true nature, citizen journalism allows no room for gatekeeping. In this brand of journalism, information gets to the members of public, who are directly involved in content creation, raw, ‘naked’, and undiluted.
Citizen journalism is fast becoming a potent force to be reckoned with in relations to building open and democratic societies. The emergence of new media technology and its integration in the field of politics is yielding some benefits in contemporary times. According to Educause Learning Initiative (2007) the term citizen journalism is a broad term and still shifting in meaning. Banda (2010) notes that citizen journalism is a rapidly evolving form of journalism where common citizens take the initiative to report news or express views about happenings within their community. He further observes that it is news of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Citizen journalism is therefore a people-centered type of journalism where the interests of ordinary people are taken into consideration. Citizen journalism is also known as “public”, “participatory”, “democratic”, “guerilla “or “street journalism” is the concept of members of the public playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information (Glaser, 2007, cited in Nelson, Tunji and Sulemen, 2012). Quoting Salawu (2007) they further opined that citizen journalism emerged as a result of democratization of the multi-media technologies by the people and for the people.
World news these days does not only hold its relevance to traditional newspapers or news channels but has been spread widely through the growing dominance of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn. The verification of information or news shared via these platforms has been neglected hence an increase in false information has grown drastically via this medium of communication and interaction. Fake news has become an alarming issue in our day and age. Fake news is simply the deliberate misrepresentation of information or the complete falsification of information spread to the public. “Fake News has reached an epidemic proportion and social media, particularly,
Facebook, appears to be the most efficient purveyor” (Foluso 2018). Giving credence to the report by BBC that fake news has aggravated the farmer-Fulani herdsmen conflict in Nigeria, attention here is drawn to the bloody picture of a dead five-year-old school boy with wide matchet cuts all over his head and neck, claimed to have been a victim of the Fulani herdsmen attack in Ogun State.
As it circulated with several sympathetic comments causing traffic on social media, particularly as he was supposed to have been gruesomely murdered, another report emerged that he was actually killed by a mad man, not the herdsmen. Fake news is necessary for forecasting revenue and post-truth politics for media outlets because they spend much time commenting on its components, thereby attracting viewers to their websites, a great ploy to broaden participation, viewership, and discourse and generate broadcast and online advertising revenue, Hunt, 2016; Woolf, 2016.
Fake news has caused problems with people being killed due to political hostility which promotes the degrading and shaming of political members. Cross Check Nigeria which is a platform that cross-checks if each news, photo, or video is authentic recently discredited allegations that Nigeria‟s first lady wanted fellow Nigeria‟s to vote against her husband the President. Also, allegations that President Trump was supporting the opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar which was also discredited. Nigeria‟s election has always caused political turmoil, but its current election is mostly promoted through a WhatsApp wave which allows stories, messages, videos to be shared among people.
Citizen journalism has been recognized as a powerful force in Nigeria, however not many studies have been conducted on the subject in the country. Even though some studies with regard to the role and status of citizen journalism in media have been carried on in the recent past, there was a scope for analyzing the nature and frequency of updates on citizen journalism sites. The current study has proved useful in that regard. By analyzing the nature and frequency of the updates, the study helps to ascertain the consistency, and seriousness of citizen journalism news portals in promoting the participation of the common masses in journalistic activities. It also helps to discuss the emerging and evolving dimensions of citizen journalism. The research examines the Citizens’ Journalism and Fake News Challenge in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The study will examine the challenges of fake news, as regards to citizen journalism, it is pertinent to note that, most private individuals who are citizens journalists, did not go through the basic levels of attaining a degree in journalism, that is, core journalistic skills, including researching, investigating, interviewing, reporting and writing, which a professional journalism should undergo, in disseminating news.
Due to look of professionalism which most citizens journalist, do not attain, has led to the rise of fake news, in disseminating information through social media platforms, as they fail to consider the ethics of the profession in journalism the sense of social responsibility and there strait that trained journalists normally exhibit. Therefore, citizen journalists are not trained to subscribe to the traditional journalistic standards of objectivity, fairness, and accuracy found in disseminating news this has led to the high rate of fake news in citizen journalism.
Most importantly, due to the widespread of the internet globally and the rate of unemployment in Nigeria, most individuals who are citizens journalists, at comfortable of their homes, disseminate news and information, which could be true/false but are mostly “fake news” without undergoing any training in the professionalism of journalism. Therefore, this research work seeks to ascertain the Citizen Journalism and Fake News Challenges in Nigeria.
1.3 Objective of the study
The purpose of this study is to examine the study is aimed at achieving the following objectives;
- Examine how professional journalists perceive the impact of citizen journalism on mainstream journalism and their work.
- Examine the rate of the spread of fake news among Nigerians on both social and conventional media.
1.4 Research questions
Here, certain questions are raised; the provision of answers to them will be controlling the idea of the research work. The questions pertain to the crux of the matter and are statements of major problems to be encountered as progress is made on the work. The questions, which are interdependent, include the following ones:
- To find out how professional journalists perceive the impact of citizen journalism on mainstream journalism and their work.
- To find out the rate of the spread of fake news among Nigerians on both social and conventional media.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study will be of benefit and interest not only to journalists in Nigeria, but it will be valuable to other service sectors in Nigeria as a whole. The study will be of great benefit to the researchers, journalists, and entire Nigeria to embrace the law in order to encourage professionalism and the ethics of journalism. The outcome of this study will alert the government, civil society organizations (CSOs), and all other pro-democratic groups on the need to enact strategies and mechanisms for combating fake news in order to ensure quality journalism and responsible expression by all.
Academically, this research work will therefore advance knowledge. The academic community will use this work as a reference point and in the execution of similar studies. Again, journalists, editors, specialized groups, society, government, etc. stand to gain immensely from the study. For the journalists, it provides them an ample opportunity to press for national development and enthronement of transparency in government. The government, through this study, could harness the latent potency of the law as educated in it towards providing quality service to its citizens. In the same vein, the study is significant as it provides a platform for government press collaboration which if harnessed, can facilitate national development.
The result of the study will also provide a framework for media practitioners that will enable them to exercise good information-sharing behavior basically the fact that the success of every democracy rests on the media. It will also provide insight for them to understand the effect of fake news on the democracy of the country. Furthermore, the outcome of the study will make available ready materials for policymakers towards censoring falsehood in both new and conventional media industries so that citizens can express their opinions responsibly for the greater good of democracy.
By so doing, this research contributes significantly to the pool of theoretical and empirical literature in this area of knowledge. They will equally serve as a reference point to researchers who want to embark on similar study.
Theoretically, this study will serve as a platform to test the claims and assumptions of the theory used just as it will provide opportunity for the researchers to develop theoretical constructs accordingly.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The research which investigated the influence of citizen journalism on fake news in Nigeria has been narrowed in scope to journalists in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGA registered under NUJ, assessing their awareness and knowledge as regards Citizen Journalism. Thus, the geographical location of the study is Port-Harcourt and Obio/Akpor. The choice of the location is due to its proximity to the researcher, coupled with inadequate time to study all journalists in Nigeria.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Citizen journalism is simply the process by which the public takes the responsibility of collecting, disseminating, and analyzing information or news, especially via the Internet.
Journalism: This study sees journalism as the work of collecting and writing news stories for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet.
Fake news is untrue information presented as news. It often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity or making money through advertising revenue.
Practice of Journalism: For the purposes of this research the practice of journalism will refer to the legal and ethical means that guide the operation of journalists and media houses.
The profession of Journalism The researcher will look at the ideological and professional profiles of journalists in the media, and the professional orientation of traditional media practitioners.