The African National Congress has taken a very bold step towards keeping the country’s infant democracy intact and vibrant, by ensuring freedom of expression and the right of free speech is not stifled by the fear of criminal defamation. This is a major victory for press freedom but did you hear anyone shouting from the rooftops for the entire world to hear.
Perhaps I must have been asleep or my twitter handle blocked or the front pages of all newspapers sealed from my eyes, because clearly I didn’t see, hear or Phillip (feel it, in case you forgot about him), that 2010 rousing roar or the screeching sound of the Public Protectors report amplified for the deaf.
SANEF Deputy Chairperson Moshoeshoe Monare downplayed it as “rare occasion”, while his counterpart Katy Katapodis says it as “I said unfathomable to think journos could end up in jail for
#criminaldefamation”. In the meantime Right2know campaign had a mere two tweets about “decriminalization of expression conference in Joburg”.
It could be possible, they don’t find it important but then again do South Africans see this as a talking point or are we so sensitized in consuming media from the point of view of those only interested in searching for corruption and exposing the iniquities of those in the public sphere. As beautifully put by Alex Aliseev “I’m sorry that there are not nearly enough career journalists who make it their life’s work to annoy politicians and presidents”.
Is this what Journalism is about?
Unfortunately a big yes, in South Africa that’s what they are good at. That’s what their eyes see, noses smell and even the language is that way. The language is BOTTOM-LINE. Journalists run newsrooms, newsrooms are businesses, and businesses are run by business people. Regardless of what some may try to convince us otherwise. In an ideal world content would drive sales but ours is far from ideal.
But what about South African’s right to receive information? Which is also enshrined in our constitution with the freedom of the press. A right that is violated on a daily bases by media houses through priming (exposing the public to stimulus influences, words and phrases hoping for a positive response to a later stimulus) and filtering news through their tea sieve. Leaving the public with nothing but watered down information, no cream. (intloya).
Who is standing up for the public in this regard? If you’re the one please stand-up.
Most journalist wish to stand up but they know too well, their editors will tell them, “that story isn’t good enough, what makes that different to all other fires that killed kids, what makes shooting man in Mannenberg a story, why would people in Constantia care about a robbed old lady in Gugulethu, what makes this a lede selling story”?
The sadness about it is that most senior journalists are being laid off for juniorisation of newsrooms. That will also be a thing of the past as companies are toying with the idea of Robo-Journalism, where Associated Press’s automated system is producing 3000 reports quarterly up from 300. And in this month Bloomberg laid off 90 journalists to refocus the organization’s coverage.
What will happen to all this human capital? With declining revenues and lack of public’s interest due to saturation of advertising in prints and broadcast, the only disposables are jobs.Marketing scholar Prof Herbert Jack Rotfeld says “Magazines have multiple pages of advertising before you even get to the table of contents while newspapers’ the free-standing inserts alone fill their own recycling box. This increasing advertising-to-editorial ratio is really a function of simple media economics”.
So it looks gloomy, but is there a future in Journalism? A big hell yeah, Journalists just have to find their own voices and purpose.