Should SA journalists show their true colours or not?

Journalists are human-beings and human-being can be journalists too. With this in mind one’s humanity can easily be influenced with one’s views of the world and in turn influences how one may think when it comes to one’s profession. In this case, the act of whether a journalist should wear certain political party regalia in public is the issue; is it right ethically or not?

According to Daily Maverick journalist, Marianne Thamm, in her opinion piece; True colours shining through: Should journalists be draping themselves in party political colours? “Journalists are human and by nature gravitate towards specific ideologies and ways of thinking shaped by a myriad of influences and factors. We are not blank slates”. She then also continues by saying, “Ultimately, however, our job is to monitor and hold power to account – whatever its colours”.

As a journalist is seen to be someone who holds a certain position in society, a position that should never be influenced by politics. A journalist is seen to be someone who should not be ‘for’ politics and more for writing about it. Looking at it in a humanitarian point of view everyone is entitled to their own points of view in politics. As a citizen of South Africa you can belong to any political party you want. So how can wearing party regalia actually influence one’s thinking? Can one not be as objective as when one is wearing a normal sweater?

One should know that as a journalist wearing party regalia is not illegal. There is not a law that states that journalists who wear party regalia can pay a fine or face a jail sentence. According to the SA press code 2.1.; “The media shall not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence or slant reporting. Conflicts of interest must be avoided as well as arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the media’s independence and professionalism.” Meaning that journalists should not allow any of their personal views based on the latter infringe on their reporting of news. In this case the political part stands out the most. It doesn’t in any way state anything about political party regalia (yet?).

This may seem as a deontological way of seeing things. One lives by a set of official rules; in this case the official rules could be the South African Press Code. Because it is nowhere stated in law that one may not wear political regalia, it could not be too wrong. The deontologist within the journalist will decide to wear the blue shirt anyway because he/she would feel like it is not wrong because nowhere in the press code does it state that they may or may not wear political party regalia. Plus everyone has the “freedom of association”.

The incident where Karima Brown (Independent Newspapers Group Executive editor) and Vukani Mde (Opinion and Analysis Group editor) posted a selfie of themselves in ANC regalia on their way to the 103rd birthday celebrations of the party caused quite a stir in the public eye. Yet according to a SAPA article the press ombudsman didn’t see much wrong in what they were doing. According to SAPA, “The press ombudsman cannot judge two journalists for wearing ANC attire at the ruling party’s birthday celebration because their behaviour was not followed by publication“.

Yet as a journalist one should know the consequences of wearing a political shirt and that you’d immediately be thrown under a certain umbrella; your integrity, objectivity and balance will be questioned immediately. So when you know the consequence of your action and decide to act on what you think the consequence may be, you are looking at it in a teleological sense. The teleologist within a journalist will immediately think of how wearing a political party shirt could look in the eyes of the public.

One can look at this in various contexts as one does not only have political reporters wearing party regalia but also other journalists within other fields e.g. entertainment, environmental, lifestyle etc. Would it be much of a problem if these kinds of journalists were wearing party regalia on duty? Not much, because they do not report on politics even though politics involves a lot of things and not just political party regalia. Even though politics is everywhere wearing party regalia in those certain newsrooms should not be much of a big deal.

All these situations could maybe work in print media, but not in broadcast media like television. Even though an entertainment journalist wearing party regalia could not be as wrong as one would think it would be, but seeing them report on entertainment on television would make for another story. It would be complex to see Bonang Matheba wearing a Democratic Alliance shirt on E! News or Denise Zimba wearing an African National Congress hat on V-Entertainment. Yet on Social Media during election-time in August, one would see various celebrities (those working in the entertainment industry in specific) wearing party regalia; from ANC jumpsuits to DA caps.

Which brings one to the next point of context; the higher ones’ standing in society the less you are able to do as you please, in this case wearing political party regalia in specific. If one were to see a student journalist or a journalist who is not as well known yet for their work might be able to get off free from wearing party regalia, but if one were to see someone like Ferial Haffajee boasting with a Pan African Congress shirt or news readers like Lynette Francis or Lukhanyo Calata wearing an ANC shirt, that would be quite confusing too.

Looking at this overall, one may come to the conclusion that in this case of journalists wearing political party regalia falls in line with Immanuel Kants’ Categorical Imperative ethical framework. It deals with the issues that one has a duty to ones’ conscience. In this case the journalist who is wearing the political party hat knows that he/she is supposed to monitor power at all times and not visibly show support.

At the end of the day as long as a journalist is objective and balanced in their way of reporting; its party affiliation should not matter at all.

Fretting about food

Within the grocery trolley of a rich person one will find products of a very expensive nature. Products that are from a food brand, whereas in a poor person’s grocery basket one will find the standard products, standard foods that one would have just to get through the week. The products could be cheap and not from a specific food brand. It could maybe be a part of the grocery store’s no-name brand.

The challenges identified within poorer communities could be that they can’t afford a healthier lifestyle, as healthier low GI food could be seen as more expensive. They can only afford standard things in their refrigerators and their food cupboards. Media plays a major role in how we see food as well and how we should eat.

Burger special from Café Mojito in Long street.

Social media has played a role in the facade of making people believe that having a lavish meal is what makes one part of the rich. A heavily filtered picture of a very healthy looking salad seems a lot more appealing to the eye than a picture of “pap” or “aknee” which may not be very appealing to everyone’s eyes. Proof of this could be found on anyone’s social media feeds.

Here’s a picture of a very simple Sunday lunch which was prepared for a coloured family on the Cape Flats. To most other families on the Cape Flats a meal like this could be lacking a lot. As Sunday’s are always seen as the days to go all out in the kitchen, yet this family did not have much to put together for the day. A meal like this would not necessarily be posted on Instagram.

Made with Square InstaPic

Vegetable Curry served with rice and braaied chicken.

As student life get to the best of us; the meals had by the students are valued very much. In this meal we have pap and wors served with healthy cooked chunky vegetables. These students are not very well off as well. In this image you’ll find an example of the heavily filtered image of a salad ready for Instagram. Little would people know that that was all a first-year student had in her refrigerator to prepare for the day?

Freshline chicken salad.

Pap ‘n wors served with vegetables.

Social media plays a role in all of this. We as the generators of certain news should be able to make sure that people know it is fine to struggle and that the meals reviewed on certain pages by chefs should not always be the norm. We as the media need to highlight the issues of malnutrition within the communities one finds oneself in. Most children who are under-nourished on the Cape Flats usually get a special porridge at their local day-clinic, which could be the only meal they’ll ever receive.

Every time a soup-kitchen comes around many people in under-privileged areas become excited. People are misinformed when wanting to give back to the community as the solution of distributing soup and bread is not very sustainable and long-term. We as the media need to make sure all of these problems are highlighted.

 

Reviewing the review

reviews

A review seems to be quite a complicated matter. Reading magazines almost all my life I have come to think of it as an easier task than that of writing a news story (not that I’m saying writing a news story is easier than writing a review). But I have come to notice that a lot of thought and research goes into actually putting a review together.

Take Brent Meerman’s ‘body of work’, he doesn’t simply go to a restaurant and say whether their food is good or bad or that their floors are dirty and unhygienic. The first review I read illustrates his passions for his career in writing restaurant reviews. He not only writes restaurant reviews but he is also a good cultural feature writer.

His reviews are way more than just giving his opinion on how the food tastes. He delves on the history of the various cuisine within our country in one of his reviews. I’ve noticed that this is also what makes his writing unique and how it keeps to the strict review writing code. His opinions are constructive and well informed; which is a result of the research he does to make sure he has gotten his facts straight. Yet I also saw in the review where he sort of advertised a 5 course meal from his “friend’s” restaurant. One would maybe notice some bias in it. This could constitute bad review writing because the owner being his friend could have clouded his judgement when he wrote the review.

A review shows one another side of the normal journalist; not the journalist that chases news all the time (though reviewing a restaurant or a movie could also be seen as news). Even though these reviews are like that of the traditional journalistic stories, one still has to be objective in the writing of the review, produce facts to the potential consumer who would like to visit that specific restaurant or watch that specific movie. That truth factor has to be there as well.

A review could also be seen as an article, but within a different structure. Still following the principle of the 5 w’s (who, what, where, when, why) and the h (how), but in another format.

Reviewing frees one from the basic life of a journalist, it seems way more exciting and is the type of journalism-writing field that I see myself in.

South Africa: to data or not to data

Image compliments of Google.com

Image compliments of Google.com

Technology and Data is slowly taking over the world it is just a matter time before it invades the whole of South Africa. As one analyses technological development in South Africa, it is quite slow, but new technological trends do eventually reach us. Now with data journalism making its way into our media industry slowly but surely. Data journalism, as explained in the previous posts about the rise of Data journalism around us, is more a computer assisted journalism. So why is it important that South Africa join in on this transformation of journalism? Maybe because we are very quick on following global trends, so why not follow it when it comes to media?
Well from as far I can see, Data journalism is actually starting to show face in our country. But according to Raymond Joseph, South African media is very slow on the uptake of data journalism and coding. He refers to a technological organisation, Code For South Africa, and he also describes their aim; “The aim of what we are doing is to promote informed decision-making and we do this by taking data and building tools that deploy it in a way that journalists and other non-tech people are able to use without having to know how to code.”, but then goes on to explain that this process in South Africa is long and a “hard slog”. Code4SA wants newsrooms to not only use data journalism with illustrations like maps and visualisations, they also want “actionable information that people can use to get a better understanding of a situation and act on”. And South Africans can learn a lot from this.
Stephen Abbott Pugh goes on to say that rest of African media should adapt onto the Technological change within media. He, this time, refers to the Code For Africa association (Code4SA is like a sub-association under Code For Africa). “Code for Africa has had great success with projects that focus on creating “actionable data” for citizens.”, like what the Code4SA is trying to do in South Africa.
So in conclusion, even though when it comes to data journalism in South Africa, it is a very slow process, but it is here and many organisations are here to make it a reality (Code4SA). Code4SA even organised winter schools in South Africa for Data journalism, this might be to speed up the process of bringing data journalism here. Attracting the youth, so that they can grow within data journalism.

Open Journalism Matters

Image compliments of Google.com

Image compliments of Google.com

Open Journalism has been on the rise for many years. As new social media platforms are being opened so are job opportunities for certain people who feel they want their “say” to be put out there. Open journalism is close to citizen journalism whereas the ordinary citizen, who also does not have the certain “paper qualifications”, has a chance to have their opinion heard whether it be by SMS, a comment section online or by writing letters to the editor. With open journalism “There are no style guides to be read, no editors to be consulted, no rules to be followed.” Today’s piece will discuss how News24 and other news organisations that limit comments on articles and other forms of UGC inhibit the potential for ‘open journalism’.

“Creating relevant and engaging content, gathering and amplifying citizen voices and Opening up innovative news sources” these are all the things open journalism brings about; it sparks interest and engagement amongst readers. It makes the reader feel important and that their opinions actually count for something. Another source of open journalism not only lays in comments for articles but also on the social media platforms as said by Dunja Mijatovic on a blog post; “Open Journalism is an appropriate catch-all for these new sources”. So all won’t be forlorn, for one can just share the article on twitter or Facebook and spark some conversation around it via a comment by your friends or followers. So maybe one can still tell these organisations limiting comments that they may limit their comment section as there are other ways of letting one’s concerns be known, but this still leaves their transparency in question.

Open journalism is very much needed in the society one finds oneself in today. A society that wants to keep important information private and secluded, and journalism and secluding information would never work. “Journalism in a sense is a mechanism for transferring power to people who are in the dark”, said by Melanie Sill.

Well, to me these news organisations that limit comments on articles are really limiting the potential on open journalism. Open journalism has the potential to create a story within a story. Open and Journalism are actually two complimentary terms as open means to be honest, transparent, truthful etc. these terms are equivalent to what journalism should also stand for. To be transparent, open and truthful at all times. So limiting comments on articles could take strain on open journalism and limit transparency and truthfulness.

The Revolution of Journalism

Journalism is dying? Well I haven’t seen it going into cardiac arrest as of recent. What people mean by this is that compared to the new age of journalism; which is robojournalism, datajournalism, social media with its microblogs etc journalism is losing its essence. In my opinion, I think it is only changing the face of journalism as we know it. When one thought journalism in the past, immediately you’d think reading a newspaper, watching news on television or listening to what is happening around us on the radio. Today it is not that simple anymore.

As Randy Bennett (famous journalism blogger) mentions in his blog, “data will be at the core of everything media companies do going forward” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-bennett/why-the-future-of-media-a_b_5175710.html). Sure, but then I couldn’t agree more with a statement made on Aurora Comms blog which is as follows: “Well yes they would, and rightly so. Blogs offer opinion but can they really match up to the global reach of a highly-trained journalist network and can bloggers, even ‘super-bloggers’, present the quality of visual content we all know and love from the BBC?” (http://www.auroracomms.com/people/the-future-of-journalism/#.VfvynKkaK1s). And that is exactly why I think traditional media can not ultimately die.

Steven Buttry then argues that: “I’d argue that it’s also an essential form of community engagement.” (https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/), it all comes down to how interactive and engaging that media platform is. And I must admit when it comes down to that, the new media is winning, commentary is faster and everyone has a chance to have “their say” put out there almost as fast as you can say go.

future-of-journalism

Journalism is dying? Prepare to get underpaid. Image compliments of Google.com.

Journalism has changed but it’s not ultimately dying. The new age journalism is just a result of transformation within the industry. The principle of collecting and gathering news honestly and fairly basically stays the same. Saying that it’s dying basically means that it will no longer be around as a career or it being non-existent in the near future. This can be argued with the various styles of journalism maybe, like the traditional journalism and yes it is a fact that technology is taking over, but news channels should still be around, newspapers should still be around. As when one reads anything on social media, one reads shortened versions of the series of events. With traditional media one still has a chance to read to fully understand and grasp the context of what has happened. So sure, with the new media news travels faster, but traditional media is still the best way to understand news.