UZOCHUKWU Moghalu, an unemployed caterer, visits the newspaper stand at Wuse Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city four times a week to read free news.
He has been doing this for the past eight years since he arrived the Federal Capital City.
“News in the papers and television are more truthful than news on social media,” he told The ICIR.
Moghalu, a native of Anambra State in south-eastern Nigeria, believes that newspapers report ‘the truth’ about politics and government.
Like Moghalu, many other Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 50 interviewed for the 2021 Reuters Digital News Report also believe that news reports in their country are credible.
But fewer Americans, Britons and other Europeans have trust in the news they consume.
According to the report published Wednesday, June 23, while more than half of the 2,051 Nigerians interviewed (52 per cent) agreed that they trust the news, only 36 per cent of the 2,039 British respondents believe the news contents are trustworthy.
The Americans who have confidence in the news they consume are even fewer. They are 29 per cent, which represents barely three in every 10 Americans among the total of 2,001 respondents interviewed for the survey.
Cable news channels such as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC attract the highest levels of distrust from Americans, thanks to former President Trump who disparaged many news outlets as ‘fake news’ purveyors, especially liberal news outlets.
Many Americans have attributed the slump in the media rating in their country to Trump.
Despite taking almost the worst hit from Trump, CNN remains the most popular online news brand in the States, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria, according to the survey.
In Nigeria, CNN is the online news outlet with the highest access followed by BBC News online.
Digital News Report in its tenth edition features Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Colombia, and Peru for the first time in the global media scorecard.
Channels TV is the most trusted news platform in Nigeria
Channels TV ranks as the most trusted news brand at 84 per cent score, followed by Vanguard (82 per cent), The Punch (82 per cent), and the Guardian (80 per cent) – all privately owned daily newspapers.
The rest are TVC News, The Sun, Arise TV, The Nation, ThisDay, Premium Times, African Independent Television, The Cable, New Agency of Nigeria, and Stears Business.
New outlets with the highest offline reach are Channels TV and The Punch, while the highest online news outlets remain CNN, BBC, The Punch and Vanguard in that order.
Considering the high level of the gatekeeping process of the American newsroom, one would expect that Americans trust their news contents more than Nigerians. But the Reuters’ report has invalidated this assumption.
The findings of this report did not come as a surprise to Farooq Kperogi, Professor of Journalism and Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University in the United States.
Kperogi believes the level of distrust for news has everything to do with political polarisation in America.
In a comment shared with The ICIR, the media scholar noted that the findings of the Reuters’ survey is typical of the research based on data collected from personal interviews.
“That’s the problem with research based on self-reported data. It usually only reflects the feelings, however inaccurate, of the people surveyed.”
He said the Reuters report merely shows that there’s more political partisanship in America and Europe than there is in Africa.
Indeed, a study by Pew Research Centre has shown growing intense partisan division and animosity in the US. Most Democrats and Republicans find little common ground with those they disagree with politically.
“Hyper-partisans tend to distrust the institutional news media and rely on alternative media sources that give comfort to their points of view. The internet has enabled the proliferation of alternative news platforms,” Kperogi explained.
Dr. Yemisi Akinbobola of the Birmingham City University, United Kingdom, noted that there is partisanship in the Nigerian press too.
Stressing the factors limiting the trust of the British in the news, she said news from tabloid journalism overshadows more credible news like Guardian UK, and this reason is partly responsible for the distrust in the media.
There is also the issue of Rupert Murdoch owning a majority of the UK press which people do not trust.
Dr. Akinbobola faulted the BBC representation of race and ‘establishment’ reputation of the royal family, the old school, boys club, conservativism and the rest, which she believes fuels resistance from the citizens.
With the rising of fake news on social media and blogs, she also blamed the distrust on the proliferation of social platforms as news sources.
Earlier report from Reuters Institute confirmed that news audience has a complicated relationship with social media.
Head of Mass Communication Department at Baze University, Abuja, Dr. Abiodun Adeniyi said the statistics from the Reuters report could be interpreted in different ways.
One of the ways of looking at it is to say the finding represents “the higher level of consciousness in those climes, leading to the independence of thought, a critical mind, and therefore an increased state of criticalness, or unbelievability,” Dr. Adeniyi said.
He added: “The enhanced media sophistication, such that the audience is availed and assailed by multi-channels, even ahead of any particular one, that necessarily have gone through editing mills. This creates a condition for an epistemic posture and eventually heightening doubts around all news.
“Three, is the level of economic development, wellbeing and security, evening up to predictability of life, and a nonchalance around news; much unlike the other countries, where news may be relied on for directions on survival and for earning a living.”
It is also true that many Nigerians do not have as many choices of news outlets as their counterparts in the US or Europe, therefore constrained to trust the few accessible news outlets.
Dr. Akinbobola stressed this point when she said average Nigerians rely on the physical paper and the radio.
“In Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, we need to consider the ‘choices’ people have in terms of access to a wider range of information and how that correlates with trust.”
She however suggested a review of journalism production system.
“I think there is a question of reviewing how we do journalism, for example, the focus on balance and simply presenting the facts has not really helped the current political environment. It is not just enough to present both sides anymore.
“So trust is not necessarily always about not trusting the facts. But more on not trusting what each media represents.”