Date of Award
Master of Arts in Digital Journalism (MADJ)
Graduate School of Media and Communications
The role of the media is to inform its audience. This entails the supply of truthful and credible information. However, the traditional practices of ascertaining the truthfulness of news sources are now threatened by the rise of social media as a news source. The complexity arises from the fact that social media platforms lack an established means of confirming the credibility of both the source and the information. More so, the established procedures are randomly ignored in the event of breaking news, a time when the newsroom is time-bound and faces the highest risk of misinformation and disinformation. Subsequently, there are questions on the capacity of media outlets to consistently respond to the threat of misinformation and disinformation, which is an unmerited risk in the practice of journalism. While the literature reviewed in this study acknowledged that misinformation and disinformation are indeed a risk to the practice of journalism, the theory of Social Responsibility tasked the fourth Estate to always be truthful in the presentation of information regardless of the format adopted. At the same time the concept of ritualization and routinisation place it upon newsrooms to adhere to an established system of ensuring accuracy before publishing. Responding to this risk, this study adopted a qualitative approach, in the form of a multiple case study, involving three media houses operating in Kenya: two local and one international, to assess the capacity of newsrooms to counter misinformation and disinformation. Through in-depth interviews of 14 journalists selected purposively in these media organisations, this research evaluates the mechanisms of fact-checking and verification of news sources during breaking news. The study unearths the vulnerability of local newsrooms to misinformation and disinformation and presents the data using exploratory narrative as the themes emerge. The omission results from media’s failure to adhere to rituals and routines put in place to ensure accuracy, lack of technology and training, limited human resource and the “online first policy” which allows the publishing of bits of information before comprehensive information is attained. Resultantly, the study calls for the institution of strict fact-checking and verification procedures and guidelines. Principally, media houses ought to ensure a process of ritualization and routinization, and must also enforce compulsory observance of newsroom protocol which are put in place to ensure the media remains socially responsible. Observance of all guidelines and protocols must be consistent, even in times when a newsroom faces relentless pressure to be the first to publish or break news. Further, this research recommends capacity building in media organizations by making appropriate investment in technology. Technology provides journalists with sound fact-checking and verification tools capable of discerning instances of misinformation online. Additionally, journalists require frequent training to inform them of new misinformation trends, improve their use of verification tools and equip them with relevant information to help them spot misinformation.
Kulundu, Mary N. (2021). Fact-checking in the digital era: a multi-case study of how newsrooms address disinformation during breaking news (Unpublished Masters Thesis). Nairobi: Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media & Communications