World over, disinformation is a virus that continues to permeate newsrooms giving media managers and journalists a headache on how to deal with it. At times the checks and safeguards put in place are not enough to prevent its spread. It gets even more pronounced during election cycles, like the current situation in Kenya where rival political camps sow and spew all manner of fake contents aimed at maligning rivals.
But in the face of such challenges, how should media houses and journalists deal with disinformation? Dr. Myriam Redondo a Spanish veteran journalist, newsroom trainer in digital verification & OSINT and associate professor in International Relations (PhD) explains how to tackle the virus in an interview with EAST Site writer Isaac Swila.
Before we get to the thrust of the interview, you pioneered verification trainings in Spain in 2012. What has changed in 10 years?
My first courses on verification trainings where more focused on used generated contents, for example the videos recorded by citizens during the Arab springs. They were disorganized and spontaneous contents, some of them misinformative or out of context, coming from faraway places. After 2016, when Donald Trump won the elections, disinformation became a phenomenon more related to international political interference and to the so-called “fake-news”, with sophisticated actors planning disinformation campaigns. Nowadays, “fake news” is perceived as a concept too narrow, because many of those contents have mutated and can’t be called news anymore: they are memes, audios, images… At least in specialized European forums, we usually talk about “fake contents” or just fakes.
In your training in Kenya, you’ve explained how lack of professional standards affects journalists and media houses. What’s the solution?
In Spain, media houses are always in crisis, whether it is for economic reasons or for technological reasons. It is difficult to cope with the 21st century’s changes and to build a profitable brand. Under that pressure, and with low wages, journalists can make a lot of mistakes.
Some of the disinformation that passes the checks is as a result of thin newsrooms and lack of time. Also, lack of mentors. Some newsrooms have sacked a lot of journalists, leaving behind a thin work force which lacks references and is overwhelmed, and it explains why some of these things pass through.
So how can journalists be helped?
It is necessary to understand that they are not machines and that the important thing is not to be the first (because in the future, social networks will always be the first, as users and citizen journalists do not feel compelled to devote time to verify information), but to be the one who gives the highest quality information. That means to check, to check and to check again before publishing any piece of news. If you are very fast many times but make a big mistake once, people will remember you only for the mistake.
You say that as gate keepers it is key that they recover trust from society.
Yes. Only in that way people will go back to media outlets to have accurate knowledge of the things that happen, instead of reading about them in any site which does not follow professional standards. To regain that trust, it is necessary that they publish their own investigations, but also that they help citizens to clarify the news that they may find somewhere else (or that they receive via private messaging apps). They have to become “guides” in an entangled Internet.
And what about the media houses? What can they do?
Besides manpower, probably media houses must invest in verification (trainings and technology). Quite a number of media houses don’t have verification desks and don’t organize in-company verification-trainings. It goes a long way in showing that concerted efforts are needed to defeat the purveyors of fake news.
Also, technology to analyse and visualize complex sets of information is more and more available. Some newsrooms in the West are investing heavily on them and specifically on Artificial Intelligence for fact-checking. I think it will help strengthen verification, to distinguish deep fakes from real videos, for example, though the main tool will always be our brain.
In your book “Digital Verification for Journalists” (2018), you explain easy and free verification tools.
That is right, ‘Digital Verification for Journalists’ is a handbook against fakes and international disinformation. As journalists, we have to verify, but we also should help citizens to verify themselves, to be autonomous in that task. The book explains the basics of the disinformation & misinformation phenomenon and exposes how many practical steps a citizen can take individually to avoid fakes. It is a book intended to empower both journalists and citizens.
Pitching provides numerous opportunities for your new or existing business ideas to be discovered and realized; and as Simon Mtabazi writes, some startups have become billion-dollar companies due to efffevie pitches
The success you achieve with your media startup business will heavily rely on your reputation as a trustworthy company, and as Nandi Mwiyombella writes, it will also open a new window for customers and potential investors.
That’s why I think today is such a great space for us to sit back and reflect on the questions that could help us shape the kind of journalism that we want to see in our local and global community.
The report specifically analysed eight major variables which include: newsroom structure and resources, media ownership and business models, organisational capacity, innovation culture, journalism culture, financial trends and results, content quality and COVID-19.
Mudi, in her role as Media Council of Kenya regional coordinator in charge of Mombasa(covering the entire coastal region), has found herself at the forefront in advocating and fighting to protect journalists’ rights, culminating in her being awarded for her peace efforts in the run-up and during the 2022 general elections in Kenya.
The 2022 general elections have been mentally draining for journalists, some of whom have had to stay on the campaign trail for over a year. Others have had to toy with the tough call of managing teams in the newsroom. East Site’s Isaac Swila and political writer Rawlings Otieno recount their experiences
What role did social media influencers play in the election? What voice did they give in political discourses during and around the election period? And to what extent did political candidates involve the influencers in marketing their manifestos to sway votes in their favour? East Site writer Steven Omondi unpacks the details
The media industry is experiencing enormous transformation as new digital trends emerge. With the vast opportunities that the digital space offers, media owners and content producers must deliberately adapt to how the audience consumes content.
With the increased Digital Technology at the palm of just anybody; there are a lot of information that distort whether deliberately or not highlighting the need of robust Fact0checking as Asha D. Abinallah explains
Is there a danger in media personalities having a vibrant social media presence? Assuming they have a massive media following, should they self-regulate and filter what they post? And when they engage with followers, should their opinions be taken as personal, or does it represent the journalist’s media house? East Site writer Isaac Swila explores
Media stakeholders are raising concerns over the lack of gender-inclusive reporting in East African newsrooms. They want concerted efforts to ensure more female journalists get equal opportunities like their male counterparts.
The partnership will also ensure that local content is curated and distributed to better optimize the product and meet the needs of Kenyan online users.
The news industry is constantly changing, and in the last few years, User Generated Content (UGC) has become a ubiquitous feature in news sourcing and packaging. However, media houses and journalists need to establish verification and credibility safeguards to avoid the misinformation trap.
Reporting on elections is, for many journalists, an opportunity to establish themselves as reliable political reporters. But the task comes with certain risks, particularly in the East African sub-region.
Stakeholders are now calling for concerted efforts, better planning and preparations for journalists before they are sent out on the field to cover Kenya’s high-stakes August 9 General Elections.
East Africa’s media grapples with a myriad of challenges whenever general elections approach. Not only do editors struggle with balancing the competing political interests, at times at the altar of professionalism, but individual journalists pay dearly, many suffering attacks in the course of their duties.
As Form One students settle into a new life in secondary school, this has also been a period of reflection. We have read tear-jerking and heart-warming stories of determined students who overcame many odds to get an education and how well-wishers came together in their aid.
There is renewed optimism in the Tanzanian media space following the ascension to power of President Samia Suluhu whose regime is keen to relax some of the laws deemed punitive to journalists and media houses
Uganda fell behind, whereas Kenya improved its press freedom ranking in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 Press Freedom Index. And after years of media freedom decline, Tanzania appears to be on the right track. But overall, media freedom activists say there is still work to be done.
A free and independent press is the cornerstone of any democracy and the foundation of economic success, mostly because through our free press, we’re able to hold the leadership to account.
To align with the changing times and stay relevant in the business, media houses are challenged to rethink their strategy and to adopt and understand obstacles and challenges they face towards rethinking and exploring alternative sources of revenue and on developing the digital strategy.
A team of young, Tanzanian tech-savvy communication professionals is dreaming big. It seeks to usher a new dawn in media business management in Tanzania by optimising employee output and offering consultancy to media businesses on how they can operate with a minimal budget but still attain their goals.
Bloggers and influencers have become an integral component of information sourcing across East Africa. The public uses blogs, privately run websites and social networks to crowdsource information from social networks, which they then publish and distribute. But it’s not all rosy for this group of content makers.
The chances of meeting a medical graduate practising journalism are usually very slim, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. But two Tanzanian physicians have broken away from that norm by inventing a start-up called Afyatoon. It uses visual art technology to tell compelling medical stories. They narrate to the EAST Site their experience and share their vision for the future.
Did you know that in 2021 Kenyans watched less TV and spent more time on social media? Or that some Kenyans rely on family, friends, or even social media icons and bloggers as a source of news and information? These are some of the conclusions highlighted in the 2021 State of the Media Survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).
The effects of the Covid pandemic continue to change the world in ways we had not imagined possible. The media is going through a painful transformation to keep up with changing production, distribution and consumption habits. In East Africa, Uganda’s Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) recently hosted a panel discussion on Media Viability comprising experienced journalists from Television, Radio, Print and Online/Digital media to address lessons learned from the pandemic. East Site’s Moses Mutente attended the panel and compiled this article.
In this commentary, Uganda-based journalist Caleb Okereke shares deep personal insights into why media schools in East Africa must rethink their curriculum. He stresses the need for trainers to begin teaching media ownership to better equip journalism students for the dynamic and cutthroat job market by taking us through his journey as a journalism student and media owner.
For the second year running, a survey commissioned by the Media Council of Kenya shows that the trust level in Kenyan media has nosedived, raising fundamental questions on how media will play its watchdog role more so with landmark elections set for August 9. EAST Site writer Isaac Swila explores.
Legacy media is currently caught between a rock and a hard place — the Covid pandemic and the rise and proliferation of social media has hit revenues hard. Some say this could signal the end of news as we used to know it. However, Ugandan decorated journalist Ernest Bazanye believes the industry will survive and thrive, but not without a fight.
Free media is often described as the fourth estate, the gatekeeper, the whistleblower, and many more. American singer Jim Morrison once said, “whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” No wonder governments worldwide try hard to control the press. But the media itself, particularly in Uganda, faces a severe identity crisis that requires urgent action, writes guest commentator Jimmy Spire Ssentongo.
No one sits down to write proposals only to seek money. There’s an idea, a vision, an important goal, the need for impact, and last but not least, the need for change.