Media credibility in crisis situations: the case of social media and the Cameroon Anglophone crisis

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In crisis situations, the media is always at crossroads but the media must play the role of being balanced so as not to aggravate the situation. With the ongoing Cameroon Anglophone Crisis, this study sought to examine if Cameroonians (this case University of Buea students) find social media more credible over other forms of the media and to determine if the public lost trust in the media during the crisis. For this study, the quantitative approach was used. 372 questionnaires were administered to students of Campus A (University of Buea) through the random sampling technique. This sample was selected because the University of Buea is in Buea,South West region of the country happens to be one of the regions affected by the ongoing crisis.

Results from this study show that social media is used by a great part of the population but is not considered as a more credible source over other forms of media. Reports from traditional media are still considered objective but the public generally believe that the media lost credibility during the crisis. This means most Cameroonians spend a lot of time on social media, prefer information from traditional media over social media but consider the media untrustworthy in crisis situations.



1.1 Background of Study

Mass media refers to a diverse array of media technologies that reach a large audience via mass communication (Maureen green, 2019). Broadcast media transmits information electronically through media such as films, radio, recorded music, or television. Digital media comprises both internet and mobile mass communication. Internet media comprises such services as emails, social media sites, websites, and internet-based radio and television.

Social media are forms of electronic communication such as websites for social networking and microblogging through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (Merriam Webster, 2019). Social media can also be defined as interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. (Obaret al, 2015)

Media Credibility in crisis situations                                                                      

Media credibility refers to the perceived believability of media content beyond any proof of its contentions (Kavitha,2018). When becoming an active consumer of media content, source credibility is a very important aspect. People ought to be skeptical but the idea of believing that everything is a lie is as much as a problem of believing that everything posted or published is true. Trust and credibility are not new to the digital age. The credibility problem of traditional media goes much deeper. Almost everyone who has ever been a subject of a news story can point to small and sometimes large errors of facts or quotes, while accurately written down, are presented out of their original context in ways that change their intended meaning. The new media is rich with potential for excellence but is equally open to errors and persuasion that becomes manipulation. (Dan Gimor, 2008)

In recent years, new media such as social media have changed journalism. Most people rely on social media platforms, websites, and blogs for daily information. The problem is online information can be created by amateur sources and the issue with instant news increases the chances of inaccurate and unverified information being published online.

A crisis is an unpleasant event, which goes beyond the everyday levels due to high intensity and cannot be controlled. Characteristics of crisis are; they are serious disorders of the function of a society, causing widespread human, material, social, and environmental losses. A crisis is a response to a dangerous experience that mental equilibrium is put to test the existence and operation of an entity to four basic levels. Society, organizations, groups, and individuals.

1.2. Statement of Problem

The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon started in October 2016 with lawyers and teachers asking for professional reforms. It became more popular through the dissemination of information on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on. One thing that is extremely shocking but a real fact is how Cameroonians especially the University of Buea students easily believe anything posted on social media whether verified information or not. Most information posted on social media is often unverified mainly due to the fact that anyone can post any information on social media even if they are not a journalist or belong to a news house. There is a high possibility of finding wrong statistics, manipulated stories, and even manipulated pictures to make matters worse. During a crisis, it is very essential for the media to be credible so as not to worsen the situation, cause an uproar and eventually lead to a full-blown war. It is therefore a problem that most Students depend on and believe everything posted on social media without verification. In this study, I will be trying to find out why the University of Buea students believe social media and consider it the most credible in crisis situations. 

1.3. Research Questions.

Research questions for this study were;

  • Do the University of Buea students find social media more credible than other forms of media during the crisis (the Cameroon Anglophone crisis)?
  • Have the University of Buea students lost trust in the media in general?

1.4 Hypothesis or Assumptions

  • The University of Buea students find social media most credible during the Anglophone crisis.
  • University of Buea students lost trust in the media during the crisis.

1.5. Objectives

Main Objective

The general objective of this study will be to determine why social media is considered the most credible news source by the University of Buea students during the course of the current Cameroon Anglophone crisis.

Specific objectives

The specific objectives of this study were;

1)To determine whether the University of Buea Students trust social media over other forms of media during the crisis and examine why.

2) To determine whether University students have lost trust in traditional media.

3) To examine whether the University of Buea students find the media credible in crisis situations.

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