News24, South Africa's biggest news website, has been named by the Reuters Institute as South Africa's most trusted source of news.
"News24 has a strong reputation for trust built on the back of investments in breaking news," concluded the Reuters Institute in their first ever digital news survey in South Africa.
In its Digital News Report for 2019, the institute includes South Africa for the first time.
The institute was particularly impressed by News24's reach. 70% of the Reuters Institute's Englishspeaking sample access News24 at least once a week, which was "one of the highest reach levels seen anywhere in our global survey".
News24 outperformed the SABC, the public broadcaster, that came second on being accessed weekly by 45% of respondents, followed by ENCA on 28% of respondents.
"South Africa has one of the most diverse and independent digital news sectors in Africa. The online news space is dominated by a digital-only brand, News24," the report remarks.
"This success is partly a consequence of its parent company’s early adoption of the potential of the internet and prescient attention to mobile delivery platforms, but also a testament to News24’s focus on making news that is designed for digital consumption timelines and attention spans."
The institute highlights the role played by News24, the Daily Maverick and amaBhungane in cooperating on the #GuptaLeaks series of articles, that contributed to the end of the Zuma era of state capture and corruption.
News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson said the acknowledgment by the Reuters Institute was “incredible and humbling”. “The recognition is testament to the investment Media24 has made over the past decade to improve the quality and quantity of News24’s journalism. I am incredibly proud to lead a team of such hard-working and dedicated journalists, who have embraced technology and data to give their stories wings.”
Basson said trust and integrity are key ingredients for any successful journalistic brand. “With so much fake news around and the resistance of social platforms to act against the purveyors of misinformation and hate, readers are increasingly turning to us for the truth and balanced opinion. We must earn that trust and the only way to do so is through quality journalism.”
The Reuters Institute is concerned about recent attacks on independent journalism, especially the harassment of female journalists, and highlights EFF leader Julius Malema who published a journalist's cellphone number on Twitter. They also express concern about media owners who dictate editorial narrative.
Despite high news trust scores, the institute is concerned about the high level of the sample (70%) who said they struggled to separate fact from fiction online and contributes this to the proliferation of fake news on social media.