Proliferation of online newspapers in Nigeria: Concerns, challenges, possible way out



By Salim Umar Ibrahim

January 14, 2021, I served as a panelist alongside a colleague from the media, the publisher of News Tunnel, Mallam Hisham Habib at the maiden National social media summit, organized by young, vibrant students from Bayero University, Kano to treat the topic; “Proliferation of Online Newspapers in Nigeria: Concerns, challenges and possible ways out” in a panel of discussion.

When few months ago, October to be precise, Rabiu Musa, the president, National Association of Information and Media studies students, NAIMSS, approached me with the invitation to serve as one of the panellist’s, I was perplexed and not too sure if it is really me he wanted. And I ask myself; this is for the experts, technocrats. Am I even qualified enough to be given such recognition? It’s alright; at least, I have an experience to narrate which will definitely go a long way in motivating many about the contemporary issues around technology and digital news platforms, I responded in the affirmative and later sent my acknowledgement.


February 2019, I took a new job with Norwegian digital news giant; Opera News as Editor for one of its news channel. It was a time that really hold and define my almost a decade journey in the field of journalism. This is a digital news platform that has hundreds of millions of users across its several platforms and channels.

Virtually flanked by two Instructors/Supervisors, their monitoring, mentoring and grooming strategy has really carved an edge for me in my less than two years stay with the company. The experience will forever be there.

It was a job I did remotely. I went through an intensive training for six months. These two gentlemen will be with me from 6.00 am to 6pm, at times till 9pm working with different application software’s I have never worked with before while building another, all thanks to my computer science background that made a lot of processes easy for me. I wouldn’t have succeeded coping with the distance coaching. And I must admit, one of the most challenging moments I had in my life, for I could hardly had a bath until after closing of work and I am at home.

When I started working, I was expecting as in the traditional way be introduced to my team members and the general staff, but to my surprise, I was introduced to AI (Artificial Intelligence) as my co-worker, ‘someone’, then introduced into a couple of WhatsApp groups, one for editors and the other for the general staff. AI, I will have to always interact with to have my daily target met. Helping AI becomes better every day while making its target and AI helping us also do our job easily. Sounds strange right? Let me tell you, if you are still unaware that robots are taking over jobs, you better be. The way robots are taking over jobs across sectors in the contemporary world, it is now in journalism also. I was later promoted and confirmed as an Associate Content Editor.

When the ‘almighty’ pandemic resurrects, I saw colleagues being trashed out of the system one by one, I was watching them from other channels bidding farewell, leaving, until it reaches my domain and it hits hard! The only human editor I was exchanging shifts is now going, leaving me as the only operational staff alongside my supervisor who only supervise. Josh, as we used to call him left. Things were never the same. I took over both shifts unfailingly until I went used to it.

Onwards, I still saw people being relieved of their jobs, leaving. One day it dawns on me and my instincts were hitting me hard where I must give it a listening ear. And I said to myself; man, you need to save your career and move on. That’s how I sent in my resignation before I also received a termination letter that’s hovering over many heads. And I left.

I think I was right. What happened to the channel I was managing after I left? Absolutely nothing much in the negative! My supervisor went back to another desk and the channel was left for AI to manage alone with little or no supervision and it’s doing fine. This is to tell you that my presence was making little impact in making it better and I could have been the next.

Many were of the belief that the pandemic was responsible with the mass reduction in staff strength of the multinational news giant as it did to many sectors especially those who rely on rendering services as source of survival. Yes, but in this case, never subscribed to that because, when the pandemic was hitting hard and forcing people to be indoors, more than majority retired to their phones and digital news sources were given the most attention ever. So, source of revenue for them was indubitably on the rise.

Pardon for the unnecessary narration. It’s just to give an insight on how technology is playing with chances in this digital era. Avail me the opportunity and share with me an excerpt from the discussion.

Generally, online news sources began to proliferate in the 1990s. In 2001, the American Journalism Review called Salon (, an American online news platform) the Internet’s “preeminent independent venue for journalism”. That was how online journalism, an innovation that has changed the face of journalism practice forever began.

Between 2003 and 2010, there was an experiment of a strictly online newspaper in Nigeria. Among the early birds in the experiment were the likes of Sahara Reporters,, and the Nigerian Voice. At that time, not many saw the online evolution in Nigeria as a major threat to the regular print until later, when their impacts became obvious in various sectors of the society.

Today, the list of online newspapers in Nigeria is endless.

When the Internet came into being, newspaper managers were confused as to the right approach towards its usage. Their first reaction was to export their entire information on the web. News consumers got accustomed to free news; hence attempts to introduce pay walls thereafter by the newspapers were resisted.

More so, the emergence of news aggregators and online advertising platforms such as Google, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Yahoo, among others, robbed the newspapers of not only their readers but also revenues.

The development compelled newspaper owners to search for appropriate business models for survival. And of course, with the presence of Goggle news, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking media, the continuous changing phase of journalism becomes inevitable.


The benefits of online publications are enormous, and have indubitably shaped and changed the narrative of how we interact with the news media. Among these benefits are Timely release of reports; Free to access; Interactive and allows for immediate feedback; requires little capital to set up and requires fewer personnel to run.

Ethical Issues in Online Journalism Practice in Nigeria


Ethics are important in journalism practice because they prescribe acceptable codes of professional behavior. The birth of online media has with it an ethical challenge that calls for attention. Just as Gutenberg made everyone a printer with the invention of printing press, the advent of Internet has practically made everyone a journalist. Citizen journalism has made it a reality for everybody to be media creator, owner and actor, instead of passive user.

Among other haunting challenges bedeviling online newspapers in Nigeria are issues of accuracy, plagiarism, obscenity and of course, decency.


Reporting on Children and Minor

This is very worrisome. Ethically, a journalist is not allowed to identify, either by name or picture, or interview children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases relating to sexual offences, crimes and rituals or witchcraft, irrespective of whether they are victims, witnesses or defendants. Today, images and names of

Minors are celebrated online, not minding the implications of such on the lives and future of the affected children.


Why Are the Ethics not complied with?


Poor Training

A lot of the emerging online news organizations do not have adequate journalistic training, compared to those in the traditional media. This does not in any way exonerate traditional media practitioners from culpability in unethical practices. Most of them are as guilty as the former.

For the traditional media practitioners themselves, the quality of training is also a source of worry. The institutions that train the journalists, from polytechnics to universities suffer from shortage of the basic infrastructure required to train future journalists. What about their course contents? Most of them do not address contemporary issues in the journalism profession.

Way out


Online journalism has changed the face of media practice in Nigeria. It has given a voice to Nigerians and enhanced citizens’ journalism. Whistle blowing, aimed at exposing the rot in our society has also flourished, courtesy of online journalism practice. Indeed, online journalism and the accompanying technology are blessings to the Nigerian society and have helped in consolidating Nigeria’s Democracy.

Self-regulation is a sure way forward. Online publishers must come together and agree on some Operational, ethical and professional issues. Coming together under one umbrella will be helpful, as certain guiding rules are expected to be introduced on professional practice.

Journalism institutions are trying in the introduction of courses in online journalism in their faculties and departments.

This is to allow would-be journalists to become intelligently grounded in the practice in ways that are transformative.

Online media practitioners should avail themselves the opportunity of training and retraining, especially, in the area of responsible and professional journalism. Majority of the conflicts in the country today were escalated by the media. The media owes the citizens a debt—“social responsibility”. That must therefore

Propel them for regular training and retraining.

Media houses should create partnership among themselves; the news organizations that publish purely on online platforms, and the traditional ones that produce both hardcopies and publish online versions, can easily exchange stories, train staff, use the by lines of reporters, and even share offices in the areas where only one of the partners has a bureau. This could go a long way in addressing issues of plagiarism, originality and ethics.

We neee a paradigm shift in the way we do journalism, the mainstream media has not sufficiently upheld the its citizens right to know what is important to the majority of them. And that is why citizens have become journalists themselves.

Ibrahim wrote in from Kano and can be reached via his email: or 07032965551

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