The impact of data smog on editorial processes: an assessment of journalists’ coverage of Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya
This study examined the impact of data smog on editorial processes with a focus on how journalists’ coverage of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya was impacted by the avalanche of data against the backdrop of misinformation and disinformation. The study was guided by three objectives: (1) to assess the impact of data smog on the sourcing of Covid-9 stories, (2) to examine how journalists covering Covid-19 cope with data smog, and (3) to assess the extent to which data smog impacted the quality of Covid-19 coverage in Kenyan media. The study used two related theoretical frameworks: The gatekeeping theory and the networked gatekeeping theory. Through both theories, the study examined how the data smog affected the selection, placement and quality of stories in the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. The study adopted qualitative research approach. The target population of the study was journalists and media houses registered by the Media Council of Kenya. The researcher used purposive sampling technique and arrived at a sample size of 15 journalists from five media houses; Nation Media Group, Standard Group, Royal Media Services, MediaMax Network, and Radio Africa. The interviews were conducted on phone. The study established that due to data smog, journalists faced difficulties sieving information while covering Covid-19 and were overwhelmed by the avalanche of data. Journalists therefore adopted some coping mechanisms like ignoring questionable sources and limiting the amount of information for quantity. The study concluded that data smog negatively affected the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemics in Kenya and consequently lowered the quality of stories. It recommended that newsrooms invest in information processing resources and retrain journalists to handle data smog. For further research, the study suggested that investigations be done into how data smog affected the editorial processes in distributed newsrooms.