The media industry has changed dramatically in the last decade, moving from the monologue type to enabling a two-way stream with the audience, where the public has limited opportunity to interact with publications regarding content and angles of stories. Unlike in the traditional print media, where the public could only respond to articles in the form of letters and editors could print them or not, filtering.
On the 11 September 2015 News24 closed off its comment section due to a number of reasons but the major one was the racist comments. “We have therefore made the decision to remove the comments section as a default option for users and to provide an alternative communication channel for those readers who wish to make considered contributions to debate and commentary.” Says Editor-In-Chief Andrew Trench.
The comments from the public as collected by one website vary at length from Dictators, cowards, ANC loyalists.
In an age of new media, online, social media and Blogs, the public has become sources news stories; eye witnesses on the scene with their own recording devices. The media needs to create space for more User Generated Content (UGC), where the public is seen as a contributor to media content not just relegated to comments. The one media company that jumps to mind is CNN iReport. Whom have a section dedicated to assigned stories for the John Does.
Stephen R. Covey describes our era best in his Foreword of the 15th Anniversary edition of 7 habits of highly effective successful people “we have transitioned from the industrial Age into the Information / Knowledge worker Age – with all of its profound consequences”.
News24 needs to take cognizance that the public find their content worth engaging with and use that knowledge to channel it to more useful ways than just commentary.
THE theme of the World Press Freedom day of 2005 was Media and Good Governance at UNESCO, seeing the role of the media as facilitators of good governance. Where it also goes on to say greater participation by citizens in decision making allows for more transparency.
“The citizenry can thereby use the media to express their assent or dissent or explore aspects of issues not considered through official channels. Government has a responsibility to allow the media to contribute to the participation process, especially in arenas where face-to-face participation is not possible”.
What this means is that the public is no longer the consumer of information, they care about their surroundings and the media needs to start acknowledging their contributions and open up channels where the audiences will be included in their editorial. Freedom of expression doesn’t only count where the media feels it’s being entrenched by politicians but they need to start publishing material that has the public in mind.
The internet has created space for citizens to express their views, the police brutality that was once a myth has left police management outraged cases in point Catz Pyjamas in Melville, Mido Macia murder case and the assaults in Kraaifontein. The media became part of the audience as the story unfolded; they just had to rehash the story to the masses. Reality Television is a prime example of the public’s fascination with their own stories coming alive, like Khumbule’khaya, Our Perfect Wedding; it would be a disservice if I don’t mention Keeping up With the Kardashians.
In the post UNESCO 2015 development agenda’s discussion document of 2014. It is stated “The significance has already long included political attention to the declarative embrace of the principles underpinning a free, pluralistic and independent media”.
Open Journalism has created the environment for the public not only to participate in the discussions happening around them but they have made media to be pluralistic, yes we have a free and independent media but it lacks different views and voices besides the fact that its monopolised by a few companies.
So regardless whether news24 has closed its comment sections or partially closed it, people will continue to voice their opinions in the platforms provided for by the social media space and the constitution allows them to express themselves.
Citizen journalist has developed people’s critical caps to an extent of being involved in the public discourse and help shape the narrative.