‘Nigerian journalists not technologically equipped for practice’
Technology is transforming the way journalists work, but it is also changing the way governments are able to censor the media, according to Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Though the Internet appears a valuable new source of information, cases of online harassment, the monitoring and surveilling of critics and deliberately sowing confusion and mistrust through propaganda and false news have also become common.
Journalists are constantly under attack by terrorists to limit news coverage, the imprisonment of reporters and photographers who refuse to toe the official line, withholding access to officials and public documents and the wielding of financial leverage such as advertising and credit scores are also on the rise
Amidst all these, journalists around the world are increasingly turning to digital technology to help address daunting challenges such as the spread of misinformation and growing attacks on reporters.
According to the 2019 survey by the International Center for Journalists’ of the State of Technology in Global Newsrooms, based on responses from more than 4,100 newsroom managers and journalists from 149 countries, which was updated and expanded upon ICFJ’s pioneering 2017 report.
2017 revealed that journalists were struggling at that time to keep pace with the digital revolution.
“There is a major shift afoot as news outlets come under attack digitally and physically,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan.
The findings show that newsrooms are embracing a range of digital tools to secure their communications and ensure the veracity of their information. More than two-thirds of journalists and newsrooms secure their communications while less than 50 per cent did so two years ago.
More than 50 per cent of journalists surveyed say they regularly use digital tools to fact-check information.
While only 11 per cent used any kind of social media verification tool in 2017 that number has more than doubled this year.
Currently, one-quarter of journalists say they use the tools at least weekly, and more than one-third of news managers report the same.
One-third of news organisations have dedicated fact-checkers on staff. Additionally, 44 per cent of newsrooms and 37 per cent of journalists have engaged in more fact-checking activities over the past year.
The influx of young people into the profession is also changing the practice, as they deploy about 70 per cent of technology to help their reporting.
The question is, how technologically equipped are journalists in Nigeria? Journalists in this part of the world are already limited with so many factors to meet up with the pace of technology.
Apart from the low or no salary they receive, which they cannot afford the gadgets to make easy their jobs, most of the media outfits they represent are unable to provide these tools for them, hence it is easier for a camel to enter a needle hole than for a journalist to properly practice in Nigeria.
Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade told The Guardian that real journalism practice requires some forms of research to gather empirical evidence on the level of maximization of digital tools. Adding, “What cannot be denied however is that a significant number of journalists have been exposed to knowledge through training on digital reporting although there are many who have not been so privileged. If therefore, the level of usage is considered low, the foregoing may be a factor.
Be this as it may, one could easily point out media outlets like Daily Trust, Premium Times, The Cable, ICIR, etc, which have demonstrated a capacity for digital reporting. More still needs to be done though.
He, however, noted that the working environment of many journalists in Nigeria was such that they are not as equipped as they should when compared with counterparts elsewhere
For Goddie Ofose, brand builder and social media influencer, “Technology have helped in curbing fake news, as writing, reporting and reading fake news is optional. Technology has provided the room for immediate fact-checking.”
Ofose said the increase in fake news was as a result of people being mischievous. “Any news that has not been confirmed is fake news, and confirming news is just a phone call away,” he said.
It has also been argued that technology has helped to reduce crimes against journalists.
A journalist said technology has become an everyday tool for practice, as it provides more opportunities of getting news ideas, develops multimedia content, connects to all source of media information faster and ease the stress of engaging in one-on-one interaction with the news makers and readers.
He said, “On a daily basis, l use my computer, laptop, camera, smartphone, internet, technology-enabled platforms like the social media and tablets among others for purpose of news gathering and dissemination. Smartphones, in particular, have become a potent tool for conducting interviews, taking pictures and filing reports.”
He noted, “Traditional journalism is gradually fading out as technology has arrived to positively enhance how journalism works by bringing a lot of different advantages. Although, we are in an era where all journalism has been slowly transforming into digital/tech journalism, we are hopefully getting there.”
He, however, pointed out that journalists in Nigeria were not technologically equipped to make ease of their practice. “Accessibility to the latest technological equipment and availability of high-speed internet facility is a concern in this part of the world because of the high cost.
“Many countries are already deploying undersea cables to bring down the cost of internet connectivity but we have not gotten to that stage. It’s important to note that highly efficient internet access aids news-gathering and content production processes.
“The use of pen-cameras, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and drones among other latest tools are being deployed by journalists in advanced countries for investigative newsgathering but these tools are not yet accessible in Nigeria,” he said.
For ThisDay correspondent, Raheem Akigbolu, his entire operation revolves round technology. “I keep asking what Journalism would have been without tech. I work in a very clumsy area in Lagos, Apapa, where vehicular traffic has become a nightmare. Today, with internet access I sene material to my editor and page planner from anywhere in the world without much hassle. Then from androids to other mobile telephoning platforms, I have gotten a lot to relax on for recording, Microsoft application, and photography. Besides, research has been simplified with the aides of finding tools like Google,” he said.
He lamented that journalists in Nigeria were not equipped for today’s practice, saying, “Technology is not cheap and Nigerian media practitioners are not well remunerated. Nigeria journalists still rely on obsolete devices. In a country where only a few senior editors can afford new phones, one can imagine the quality of their work. Every day, technology trend changes, consumers, including journalists, are also expected to change.”