Influence of Social Media Impact on News Reporting

By Mercie Ngigi

The First thing I’d do during high school holidays was head out to the store at home. Apart from checking out the ripe sweet bananas, I was going to get a stash of old newspapers.

You see, newspapers in high school are designated to the principal, those polished teachers, and an occasional staffroom paper. As a student, you’ll be lucky to even get a glimpse.

The 7 pm news is watched hurriedly in the TV room as the entertainment captain shows up 15min into the headlines. Then barely 10min, she’s there rushing you out like a watchman in those skyscrapers in the city. So you barely get to even know if the price of sugar went up let alone bus fare till closing day.

So there I was with my old stash of papers, pulling out favourite columnists and lifestyle pages. Then sitting at a corner to rummage through. Like a starved lion in the wild. Newspapers were a big deal like a decade ago. Having a copy of the dailies was elitist. While the rest of us saved up for the Sunday paper. It was a sacrifice for breadwinners. Others just waited for the free 10 pagers with shouting headlines and juicy gossip.

Fast-forward, I am seated in the city traffic just scrolling my android. It’s 7 am and I already know which politician did what or what celeb drama is about to engulf where. A simple click on that social app and I can tell you an almost detailed report on some country I barely know on the map like I’ve lived there for decades. The beauty of social media is especially the timely updates on almost everything and everyone. 

Citizen journalism has somewhat taken over the speed of traditional reporting. It’s almost outdone journalists such that by the time mainstream media gets a news item, it’s already viral somewhere with full detail. This has rendered watching, reading, and even listening to the news is irrelevant and redundant.

With data becoming affordable and accessible to the layman, newspapers are no longer a privilege. now that almost everything is online: from the newspaper, YouTube live streams, Twitter news updates, and Facebook news posts. Media has had to adapt to digital space or risk extinction. 

And with more people who are not journalists or media personnel reporting news, collaboration has become necessary to keep up with trends.

For instance, influencer marketing has been picked up to boost audiences for media coverage and campaigns. And with everyone having the power to report on anything, it’s become more essential to fact check. Otherwise, clout chasers keep multiplying with their fake news and propaganda daily.

Social Media has played a major role in the advocacy of social issues esp. on platforms such as KOT (Kenyans on Twitter). Trends going viral have vouched for social justice for victims of Gender-Based Violence, enabled raising of medical funds for critical patients, and even created brands out of little-known individuals.

The impact however small in civic education among esp. the youth, cannot be underestimated. Issues on leadership and governance including complex laws and terminology have been deciphered to enable public opinion and even outcry. 

Communications Authority of Kenya cited that 42.2 million Kenyans are internet subscribers via either mobile phones or cybercafes (CAK Report, 2018). Research by Data Reporter in Kenya revealed that about 9million Kenyans were social media users, with a majority being 21-35yrs old. This age bracket constitutes 80 percent of the Kenyan population.

Although this is a fraction of the Kenyan population, the impact of social media in news reporting is far-reaching and fast-spreading over time.