This research was carried out to ascertain Uyo resident's perception of the credibility of select online newspapers (PUNCH and Vanguard). The main objective of the study was to find out their perception of the credibility of select online newspapers. The survey method was adopted for the study. The population of the study was 427,436 being the population of the residents of Uyo and the sample size of 400 was reached using the Taro Yamane formula for determining sample size and the research instrument used was the questionnaire. After the analysis of the data gathered from the study, the findings revealed that majority of Uyo residents perceive PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers to be credible and do not have doubts about what they read on these papers online. Majority ofUyo residents believe PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers ensure objectivity in their reportage and are free of bias. Majority of Uyo residents also believe that PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers report balanced news with all sides of the story duely reported and containing all the information/details it should. Majority of Uyo residents consider PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers to be competent and trustworthy. The study therefore recommended that PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers should put in more efforts to ensure that facts are presented accurately in their reports. PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers should make sure facts in their reports are always verified to avoid discrepancies when compared with those of other newspapers online and lastly, PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers should update their website/app regularly to enable prompt update of breaking news.
1.1 Background to the Study
With the significant proliferation of Information and Communication Technology (ICTs), it is not very surprising how the internet has become integrated into our lives as an important, if not indispensable tool for information and communication.
The internet continues to evolve into a major source of information, including news. This, of course among other issues gave rise to newspapers opting to have an online presence. (Shor, 2005).
On a typical day, millions log onto news websites to obtain news from the web. As a matter of fact, more news sites are becoming profitable and news organizations are investing more money in online journalism. (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2006).
However, questions have been raised about the credibility of online news sources. These concerns are significant because journalism is built on credibility. The large quantity of information and news available online as well as the heavy dependency on the internet by information seekers raises concerns of the credibility and/or quality of information and news found online.
Credibility in this context refers to the believability and reliability of the news and its sources. If the public does not believe or trust the online press, they are less likely to pay attention to it.
Essentially, credibility can be multifaceted with two primary dimensions namely expertise and trustworthiness. Expertise has to do with the skill and knowledge being put to use in the management of online news while trustworthiness is the ability to be relied on to do or provide what is needed or right. In other words, trustworthiness denotes one to be deserving of trust. Other secondary factors that affect the credibility perceptions are attractiveness and dynamism.
It is assumed that the credibility of a message is a receiver-based judgement which involves both objective judgement of the information quality or accuracy and the sources’ trustworthiness, expertise and attractiveness.
Basically, online newspapers have become a familiar way of acquiring and sharing information that also allow users to contribute and express themselves. (Shah et al, 2015).
As stated earlier, credibility refers to believability and reliability. In the case of online news sources, credibility will refer to the believability of the online news.
It is evident that issues relating to credibility of online newspapers are important and it is necessary to evaluate the information and news available online based on credibility. The ideal solution to this is to involve information editors and professional gatekeepers in the assessment of online news sources credibility. (Flanagin and Metzger, 2007).
However, the solution is not practical or realistic since news and information is being added and updated at an alarming rate and it would be practically impossible to evaluate the contents successfully.
Instead, let the responsibility be given to the users. The information and news seekers who will assess based on their perception, daily read updates and their general beliefs as they go about their daily routine holding conversations with other people about the news they read on the online news sites, this shaping their perception. (Shah et al 2015).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Online newspapers have become quite ubiquitous in recent times. Many people especially the youths who wish to stay informed now depend on online news sources.
Taking cognizance of the fact that the internet is not regulated, citizen journalism is thriving, one cannot but question the credibility of online news.
In recent times, independent online news sources such as news websites and blogs allow anyone to publish stories on everything from on-the-spot news coverage also known as eye witness reports to opinion and sometimes even rumor.
The effect of the increased diversity in online news sources, their distinguished reporting style and perspective makes it necessary for credibility assessment.
Assessing the credibility of online newspapers is a major issue among readers thus it is necessary to investigate the extent to which they believe the contents of online news sources.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This study is initiated to;
i.) find out their perception of the credibility of select online newspapers.
ii.) to ascertain if online newspapers are objective
iii.). to ascertain if the news stories on online newspapers are balanced.
iv.) to ascertain the criteria used by Uyo residents to ascertain the credibility of the select online newspapers?
1.4 Research Questions
To attain the objectives set for this study, the following questions would be considered.
(i) How do residents of Uyo perceive the credibility of select online newspapers (PUNCH and Vanguard)?
(ii) Are PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers objective in their news stories?
(iii) Are news stories on PUNCH and Vanguard online newspapers balanced?
(iv) What are the criteria used by Uyo residents to ascertain the credibility of the select online newspapers?
1.5 Justification of the Study
The study will prove useful to communication researchers in Uyo on perception studies. The study will also be useful to the management of the select online newspapers (PUNCH and Vanguard) as they would have an insight into Uyo residents’ perception of their content.
1.6 Delimitation of the Study
The study will be limited to the online versions of the PUNCH and Vanguard newspapers while the scope of the study will be among residents of Uyo.
Also, two major online newspapers will be considered in this study namely PUNCH and Vanguard.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
This study sought to examine Uyo residents' perception of the credibility of select online newspapers (PUNCH and Vanguard) with a sample size of 400. Considering that Uyo has a heterogeneous population of 427,436 people, the study cannot out rightly generalise the results based on the responses of 400 respondents which is barely one percent of the entire population.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
Uyo residents: People who live in the city of Uyo metropolis, Akwa Ibom State.
Perception: the way one thinks about or understands something or someone.
Credibility: the quality of being believable, reliable and worthy of trust.
Online Newspapers: these are websites that provide breaking news and other information on the internet. PUNCH and Vanguard are examples.