The recently released Digital News Report 2022 by the Reuters Institute highlights the many challenges that journalism and journalists continue to face globally. Despite these challenges, there is a willingness from media houses to embrace digital technologies and as a result, are able to offer distinct journalism in an incredibly competitive marketplace.

In last year’s report, Reuters found that there was a higher consumption of news and rising trust amidst the second wave of coronavirus lockdowns. However, that seems to have changed this year, “with interest in news and overall news consumption having declined considerably in many countries while trust has fallen back almost everywhere – though it mostly remains higher than before the coronavirus crisis began”. The report noted that people are actively avoiding news even with the war in Ukraine where people were consuming more media but in countries that were directly impacted, audiences were selectively avoiding news around this topic.

The findings in this report are largely based on surveys done across 46 countries and South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are the only three African countries surveyed in this report.

The findings of this report are done through online polling and focus on countries with high internet penetration and which are broadly democratic. Kenya has a population of 55-million with an 85% internet penetration, Nigeria has a population of 211-million with a 73% internet penetration and South Africa has a population of 60-million with a 58% internet penetration.

Some of the key findings in the report are:

  • Trust in the news has fallen in almost half the countries in the survey, and risen in just seven, partly reversing the gains made at the height of the Covid pandemic
  • Consumption of traditional media, such as TV and print, declined further in the last year with online and social consumption not making up the gap
  • Selective avoidance of news has increased sharply across countries
  • Global concerns about false and misleading information remain stable this year

Here are some of the most interesting findings from Kenyan, South African and Nigerian media:

TikTok has become the fastest growing network in this year’s survey, reaching 40% of 18–24s, with 15% using the platform for news. According to the report, “the Russia-Ukraine conflict has increased the profile of the network globally. Ukrainians have been documenting their experience of the war, including leaving their homes as refugees, clocking up millions of views in the process”. South Africa and Kenya have the highest usage of TikTok, with 15% using the platform for news.

In Kenya, there is a concern over misinformation and disinformation, especially with the upcoming elections in August, particularly on TikTok where the content shared is more politically nuanced content – some satirical but much of it mis- and disinformation. According to the report, one of the most popular new apps is Opera News (53%), an AI-driven personalised app that gives people more of what they like, from trending topics to funny videos. It also enables users to save mobile data by compressing certain data types through its servers before sending them on to the user. Most of the cheap Android smartphones available in Kenya come preloaded with the Opera News app and users can receive free daily data up to a limit of 50MB/day.

In Nigeria, “closed messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp have also been contributing to the circulation of misinformation and disinformation on politics,  elections, and Covid-19. The Nigerian government has become increasingly worried about digital platforms’ influence in airing grievances, such as the recent #EndSars anti-police violence campaign. Twitter, was banned for more than six months after the platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari”.  According to the report “although overall trust in news increased to 58%, this could shift with 2023’s upcoming elections, given that only 38% of respondents say they think media are independent of undue political or government influence. It is notable that privately-owned local media as well as BBC News ranked higher in terms of trust than state-sponsored media such as the
Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)”.

In South Africa, despite an increase in trust in news, “the media environment is becoming an increasingly toxic terrain of mis/disinformation, of media titles being co-opted into political and corporate propaganda, and of coordinated attacks on the credibility of individual journalists”. The report noted that other “news organisations are actively contributing to erosion in trust. In June 2021, Independent Media’s Pretoria News published a concocted story about a woman giving birth to decuplets. The media group was not able to provide any evidence of this being true”.

In all three countries, the major print media houses have introduced digital subscriptions. In Nigeria, the Daily Trust, a widely read newspaper, launched Trust Plus, an online subscription service, in September 2021.

According to the report, Kenya continues to lead in Africa in internet connectivity, mobile phone use, and social media engagement and this, in turn, has made the country a pioneer in digital innovation.

To read the full report, click here. 

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