CREDIBILITY OF SOCIAL MEDIA AS ALTERNATIVE NEWS SOURCES: AN EVALUATIVE STUDY

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ABSTRACT


The traditional media have been acknowledged for years as reliable sources of getting news but the advent of new technology, especially the internet variant which has introduced the interactive social medium, seems to be changing that notion. The Internet’s credibility is a major concern since information seeking is one of the main purposes of using the Internet. Online users have easy access to abundant sources but also run the risk of getting false information. This has prompted much academic research geared to ascertain the situation and to clarify the controversy. This credibility problem associated with social media news is of much concern to the questions of trustworthiness, objectivity, believability and expertise input on social media content, etc, which are cardinal issues in ethics of communication. It was on this premise that this study became imperative to determine the extent to which social media users perceive the news content on social media as credible.  The following issues were interrogated in the study’s objectives: (a) to what extent do users depend on social media for information needs? (b) to what level do social media users perceive social media news as trustworthy? (c)What is the extent to which social media users perceive expertise in social media news content? (d) to what extent do social media users perceive social media news as objective? (e) to what extent do social media users believe social media news content. The survey research design was adopted and a structured questionnaire was used to gather data from a sample of 222 respondents through the use of the Australian Calculator. The quantitative data generated through the questionnaire were analysed using frequency distribution and percentages. The three alternate hypotheses were tested with a combination of T-test and Analysis of variance (ANOVA). While the t-test examined if there was dependence or independence of one variable on the outcome of another variable between two groups, the ANOVA tested mean differences among several groups. Findings showed that: (i) Social media platforms were depended upon by majority of the respondents for their information needs (71.8%); ii) Majority, (60.7%) of the respondents perceive information from social media network as trustworthy but not as very trustworthy; iii) Majority of the respondents said there was expertise in handling social media news (63.1%); iv) Majority, (63.6%) perceive social media news as objective news sources; and (v) those who rated social media news as believable, were in the majority (65%). T-test showed that there was no significant difference (t=1.152, df =203, P >.05) between gender and dependence on social media for news. Analysis of variance showed that perception of social media as credible news sources was dependent ((F=2.640), df=204, P <.05) on level of education. Finally, analysis of variance also showed that there was significant difference ((F=3.179), df=204, P. <.05) in the perception of social media as objective news and this difference occurred due to variations in age categories. The study concludes that social media news content is credible based on the parameters of believability, trustworthiness and objectivity. Also, the credibility of the social media as was established in this study, lends them as alternative news sources. It is recommended among others that, the social media be increasingly used to share important information, especially in disseminating official information.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page
Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Abstract

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1       Background of Study
1.2       Statement of Problem
1.3       Objectives of the Study
1.4       Research Questions
1.5       Significance of the Study
1.6       Scope of Study
1.7       Definition of Terms
References

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0       Focus of Review
2.1       Social media and communication: An overview
2.2       Development of social Media
2.3       Social media as Channels of Public Communication
2.4       Social Media use in Nigeria
2.5       Conventional media and social media systems convergence
2.6       Empirical Studies
2.7       Theoretical Framework
References

CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Population of Study
3.3       Sample Size
3.4       Sampling Techniques
3.5       Instruments for Data Collection
3.6       Validity of Research Instruments
 3.7      Reliability of Research Instruments
3.8       Method of Data Analysis
References

CHAPTER FOUR: DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.1       Demographic Characteristics of Respondents
4.2       The Psychographic Variables
4.3       Hypotheses
4.4       Discussion of Findings
References

CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
5.1       Summary
5.2       Conclusion
5.3       Limitations of the Study
5.4       Recommendations
BIBLIOGRAPHY
APPENDIX

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study
Internet technology has made communication much easier and less expensive. It has attracted many people and has penetrated into people’s daily lives. The mass media also have accepted the Internet. Almost all forms of traditional media, such as radio, television, and newspapers have extended their work into this new field. Online media distinguish themselves from traditional media. Online media allows readers to enjoy browsing their content and offer not only texts but also digital images. Online media can present the most recent information and links to related news articles from local to international topics. The interactive features of the Internet seemingly imply that online media have more advantages than traditional media forms. People’s expectations for new types of journalism are driving them online. Some have begun seeing the Internet as an alternative to traditional media and this has raised credibility questions.
In communication research, the credibility of the communicator has widely been suggested to influence the processing of the communicated content and the change of audience attitudes and beliefs (Kang, 2010). Also, it has been suggested that the credibility of the channel/medium of communication influences the selective involvement of the audience with the medium (Metzger et al., 2010; Metzger et al; 2003). Accordingly, individual audiences are paying closer attention to the media that they perceive to be credible (Johnson and Kaye, 2010). When individual audiences rely more on a certain communication medium for information seeking, they are likely to rate the medium more credible than other media (Johnson & Kaye, 2010; Kiousis, 2010; Kiousis, 2001).
Generally, credibility refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message. News credibility has traditionally been considered a multidimensional construct, although the composition of credibility dimensions has been inconsistent across studies (Mitchelstein & Boczkowski, 2010; Mertzger et al; 2010; Rahman et al; 2009; Kiousis & Dimitrova, 2006). Along with believability, the most common components of media credibility emerging from past studies are accuracy, fairness, lack of bias, completeness, depth, and trustworthiness (Flanagin & Metzger, 2001; Johnson & Kaye, 1998, 2002).
The concept of credibility has been researched along source, message, and media dimensions, and most literature on new media relies on these measures (Metzger et al., 2003). For example, early research focused on source credibility by examining the accuracy of reporting in news (Gaziano & McGrath, 1986). Internet-related credibility research draws mainly from source credibility and the interpersonal communication literature, but also includes items from the traditional media credibility literature. Common variables include the extent to which websites and information online is believable, trustworthy, unbiased, etc. Other dimensions include assessments of accuracy, relevance, and comprehensiveness (Metzger et al., 2003). However, since Hovland, Janis, and Kelly (1953) first began studying credibility, communication scholars have identified trustworthiness and expertise as two primary dimensions of credibility assessment (Chung et al., 2010; Fogg & Tseng, 1999).
The credibility of the interpersonal channels became a subject of debate among communication scholars recently (Chung et al, 2012). Gradually, the modern media systems emerged to close the obvious gaps of audiences’ inability to promptly get the news as they break while putting some checks in place to ensure credibility of the news items they communicate. However, ownership factor and other interests led to the politicization and commercialization of news items among the conventional media. At a point, audience members took the news from these media with a pinch of salt. Today, various social media have emerged and they have become sources of news dissemination. Some of such media are: Blackberry, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Badoo, Nimbuzz and Whatsapp.
The traditional media have been acknowledged for years as reliable sources of getting news.....

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