A group of women receiving training in Citizen Journalism at a workshop by Women Coalition of Zimbabwe

A data driven report by ZNCJ.ORG

Citizen journalism is significantly shaping public opinion in the information spaces in Zimbabwean communities.

There is distrust by the public towards state-owned media houses in Zimbabwe due to censorship and being vehicles of propaganda and political rhetoric.

A survey conducted by Zimbabwe Network for Citizen Journalists sampled a target group consisting of media consumers in urban areas in Zimbabwe. The survey quantified the media preferences in Zimbabwe and how social media and citizen journalism are impacting the media industry in Zimbabwe.

A total number of 300 participants were recorded as respondents in the survey 90% of our sample group consisted of people with access to the internet and social media platforms in Zimbabwe.

The media survey revealed media preferences in Zimbabwe have largely shifted to digital technologies, where news consumers prefer news websites, apps, and social media platforms for information.

The migration from print to digital technologies is now a reality among the youthful population of Zimbabwe.

This investigation will dismiss the assumption that the public is passive when it comes to the information disseminated by the media. The investigation uncovered that the public is more critical and demanding of factual and unbiased news carefully personalised to improve user experience.

The emergence of digital technologies is offering thematic variety for the public to access information from media houses of their choice between state-controlled media and independent media.

The majority of the sample group from this investigation revealed that the public is migrating towards independent media for free and independent investigations into the public sector.

The impact of Citizen Journalism in modern Zimbabwe

 

The survey revealed that the public trusts most of the multi-media (Videos, audio recordings and photos) posted on social media by micro-bloggers in the social media networks.

According to ZNCJ, citizen journalism” means all collaborative media, participatory journalism, democratic journalism based upon public citizens who play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and disseminating news and information”,

zncj.org

From this definition, citizen journalists making use of micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook, are influencing the media preferences of the public.

The investigation uncovered that stories are broken on social media before mainstream media houses can unpack the story for the public.

Further research was conducted on sensitive stories broken on social media by citizen journalists and micro bloggers.

We uncovered that the public admitted to following breaking news posted by citizen journalists than news reports from mainstream media. The public is more interested in the timeliness and recency of the news and the wide range of opportunities for more uncensored developments and updates that could surface during the case.

Moreso, public office-bearers can also be questioned in real time on social media , and the public may demand instant responses from whoever might provide crucial information.

A real-time case study (The disappearance and murder Moreblessing Ali)

The story of Moreblessing Ali was broken on social media by micro-blogger before the national broadcaster (ZBC) aired the report. Micro-blogger and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Fadzai Mahere Citizen’s Coalition Change (CCC) spokesperson amplified the story with allegations that Moreblessing, an opposition party activist of the CCC, was abducted on 24 May 2022 by a known terror gang in Chitungwiza.

The public engaged the breaking news of Ali’s disappearance with a keen interest in further developments on her case. Micro-bloggers managed to follow up on Ali’s disappearance and gathered information from eyewitnesses on what happened on the day of the abduction.

Pius Mukandi Jamba, the mentioned suspect in her disappearance during the social media engagements happened to be a credible accusation as he handed himself to the Police in connection with the case.

Keep in mind that citizen journalists and micro-bloggers who were coming forward with raw information did not evaluate if the information they posted on social media was harmful or could interfere with the police investigations.

On 12 June 2022 – Ali’s body was found decapitated in a shallow hole in the same area where here abduction took place. State-run media broadcaster ZBC reported that Ali’s death is a suspected case of a crime of passion.

The ZBC report was received with mixed reactions by the public on social media, criticising the report that it was a premature assumption that Ali died as a result of a crime of passion before the finality of investigations.

The Findings from Ali’s case regarding Citizen Journalism

The public chose the narrative of their understanding. The series of updates on social media by citizen journalists and micro bloggers regarding Ali’s abduction and murder had a significant impact on the story.

At zncj.org, we discovered that the public would follow and trust micro-bloggers and citizen journalists who have a credible reputation for posting breaking news. In most cases, these micro-bloggers are socio-political activists.

Journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono is widely followed on social media for amplifying underreported issues in the media thus citizen journalism is making an impact on media preferences in Zimbabwe.

Our observations on the impact of citizen journalists and micro-bloggers on Ali’s abduction and murder case supports and resonates with the findings in our survey covering media preferences and usage in Zimbabwe.


Overall findings of survey

Does the public trust-breaking news post by Citizen Journalist on social media?

56% (168/300) of the respondents said they follow and trust breaking news updates they see on social media. These breaking news updates are posted by Citizen journalists and micro bloggers who are usually eyewitnesses with first-hand information on the breaking news.

Such as the case of slain Moreblessing Ali whose disappearance and murder was broken on social media by citizen journalists and micro bloggers.

We observed that micro blogging platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow the public to evaluate and further investigate the facts by engaging other sources in real-time.

16% (48 /300) of the respondents said they are unsure if trust and follow news updates posted by citizen journalists on social media. This sample group is not always sure if they trust everything they see on social media.

We observed that the respondents who said they are unsure usually focus on micro bloggers with a trail of credibility on social media platforms.

They usually wait for a series of confirmation of the news updates before they consume social media posts as fact and verified news.

A stern 28% (84 / 300) said they do not follow, or trust news updates posted on social media by Citizen Journalists and micro bloggers. We observed that the sample group depends on editorial standards set by media houses.

 

When respondents were asked where they access their news?

270 of the respondents which are 90% said they access their news on websites and news applications. The results revealed that news consumers between the ages of 25 – 45 prefer to access information on the internet.

The majority of the internet websites in Zimbabwe are owned by independent media houses. According to data collected on Google trends, newzimbabwe.com is the most visited news website in Zimbabwe.

In the second place, there is NewsHawks, which is also a privately owned media house with an investigative edge in its reporting. The NewsHawks produces investigative stories that expose maladministration and corruption in both the public and private sectors.

However, a staggering 7% constituting 21 respondents preferred listening to their news on the radio. 100 % of the 21 respondents said they listen to internet radio stations and podcasts for news updates.

Whilst the remaining 3%, 9 respondents – said they preferred reading their news in National papers. The age group of respondents who preferred reading newspapers is from 50 – 60 years of age.

The results indicated that the economically active population depends on digital technologies for their news updates and they, peruse various platforms from news websites, social media posts, and podcasts to access the latest news stories.

When respondents were asked if they watched and trusted news by the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)

More than half 56% (168 / 300) of the respondents said they are not sure if they trust news from the state media broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for their news.

Our observations revealed that a significant 56%, watch and listen to the national broadcaster to catch up with developmental issues happening in the country.

A staggering 25% (75 / 300) of the respondents said they do not trust news from the ZBC.

Whilst the remaining 19% of the respondents said they trust news from the national broadcaster and rely on the information.

When respondents were asked if they read state-owned newspapers

A stern 50% (150 / 300) of the respondents said they read state-owned newspapers whilst 36 % (108 / 300) of the respondents said they sometimes read the newspapers.

Meanwhile, 14% (42 / 300) of the respondents said they do not read Zimpapers publications.

We observed that the public is reluctant to purchase newspaper editions, they would rather access the news on websites and Zimpapers social media handles.

The main finding of the query on readership trends is that the public prefers digital technologies to purchase newspapers.

When respondents were asked which media they prefer (Local Television and Internet streaming services)

97% of the respondents, all 300 said they preferred YouTube and other streaming services compared to local television.

The internet services offer more audio-visual quality and a customised and tailor-made user experience.

Local television is programmed to the media houses’ preferences whilst the internet designs information to the best preferences of the user which results in a limitless thematic variety

We observed that local Television station stations currently ZBC,3Ktv, and ZTN are lacking thematic variety.

Moreso, the sample of respondents have full access to the internet and all of them prefer streaming news on YouTube and other platforms such as internet podcasts.

The public prefers to use their mobile phones, laptops, or any other digital devices including smart TVs to access YouTube and other streaming services.

When respondents were asked which media they prefer (Local radio stations and internet radio stations.

62% (186 / 300) of the respondents said they prefer listening to internet radio stations. We observed that internet radio stations offer a personalised listener experience. The heavy listenership of internet radio is popular among groups that have internet access.

Meanwhile, 25% (75 / 300) of the respondents said they do not listen to radio stations at all. Our observations through interaction revealed the news and entertainment needs of the people who do not listen to the radio.

  • They do not set aside time to listen to the radio
  • Most of their news and entertainment needs are covered by personalised experience streaming services such as YouTube and Spotify.
  • Poor radio frequency in their areas of residence.

The remaining 13% (39 / 300) of the respondents said they listen to local radio stations. We observed that the sample group is accustomed to and depends on news and entertainment offered by local radio stations.

They have access to radio sets in their homes and workplace whilst others listen to the radio in their motor vehicles during drive time and traffic peak hours.

If you would also like to factor in your opinions Click here to participate in the ongoing media survey.


If you support independent community focused journalism in Zimbabwe, you are welcome to donate towards ZNCJ.ORG fund to provide reporting grants for investigative stories like this.

Click here to make a PayPal donation or contact us at zncj@yahoo.com

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By Richard Matthew Kawazi

Richard Kawazi is a media policy and tech enthusiast, also a multi award winning journalist with a keen interest in Experimental Media Development.

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