Is Journalism Being Crippled by the Internet?

Dec 09, 11 Is Journalism Being Crippled by the Internet?

Posted by in Featured, News & Media

On more than one occasion, I have wondered how our species can be so self-absorbed that we seem not to notice anyone else’s needs, yet at the same time be so curious about the worldly happenings that we need to stay up to date with the latest gossip on an hourly basis. Centuries ago, people certainly didn’t go out of their way to find out what went on in that love shack two villages down – they were quite happy tending to their own affairs. What changed between then and now? When did we become so intrigued by events that have little or no direct impact on us, and why? Perhaps it was the availability of information that spurned this interest. The invention of the printing press marked the origin of journalism and with the circularization of newspapers, there began a reason for writers to investigate, verify and report events to a wider audience. As the dissemination of information became easier, the scope of our interest grew wider as well. Since then, journalism has evolved into so much more than just a few pages in the daily tabloid. The internet has given everyone with access the platform to broadcast their writing to the world. But is it always a good thing? At a glance, it certainly seems so. Social networking sites such as Twitter provide real-time updates,and like a Fibonacci sequence, it has the ability to spreaddata faster than any other digital or print media. It is a great tool for warning people against seismic waves, but because it bypasses the verification process of traditional journalism, Twitter also serves as a tool for propagating disinformation. It is akin to publishing a newspaper that has not been proof-read by the sub-editors or verified by the fact-checkers. Sure, the timeliness is a bonus – in fact, one journalist (Mac McClelland) went as far as live-tweeting a rape incidence involving a girl in Haiti – but should we sacrifice accuracy (and maybe even ethics) for the sake of sensationalism...

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Kelly Khumalo: The Glam behind Women Abuse

Jun 24, 11 Kelly Khumalo: The Glam behind Women Abuse

Posted by in Culture

A few weeks ago South African artist Kelly Khumalo opened up about a secret that she has kept from the media – a secret pertaining to her relationship with murder-accused hip hop artist Molemo “Jub-Jub” Maarohanye. The secret came at a time when there are constant disagreements about Maarohanye’s innocence regarding the murder case. Maarohanye was responsible for the deaths of four school children during a drag race with his co-accused friend last March in Soweto. Khumalo’s sudden revelation is commended yet raises questions about the motive behind it. This is primarily because of the nature of the relationship between Khumalo and Maarohanye. Khumalo has been to many court appearances supporting Jub-Jub but she recently opened up about the abuse she experienced in the hands of Maarohanye. Kelly’s coming out is commended but also met with criticisms, simply because of the media hype that came with it. Women in South Africa are abused every day but they do not get the media hype that was accorded to Kelly Khumalo. Drum magazine gave Kelly Khumalo a cover page and a spread to tell her story. This media attention raises questions on the importance of women abuse in South Africa. The terrible ordeal was turned to “how a celebrity survived abuse”. Kelly Khumalo is like any ordinary woman and for her to get a spread on a magazine for surviving such an ordeal is disturbing. The issue of women being abused in South Africa was turned to become a promotion of her career. As much as the media attention was meant to empower other women it rather questioned the motive behind it. The article provided a discussion of Khumalo’s career move since she has not recorded an album for a while. Women abuse is a serious matter particularly in South Africa and making society understand that it is not acceptable is very difficult. This kind of stunt only brings about mockery of initiatives taken by women to stand up for themselves, primarily because women abuse campaigns...

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The Media’s love affair with Julius Malema

Jun 13, 11 The Media’s love affair with Julius Malema

Posted by in News & Media, Politics

Julius Malema, love him or hate him, is in the news again. Or shall I say, still. It’s no secret that the South African media love the ubiquitous ANC Youth League President, or as Floyd Shivambu, the League’s spokesperson likes to refer to him, “the President”. And why not? His near-daily exploits are the stuff of many an editor’s wet dream. Edgy, controversial and antagonistic, the man certainly knows how to get attention and keep it. And of course the kinds of attention-grabbing statements and publicity stunts he is now well-known for sell newspapers, draws in a readership and get advertising revenue flowing. Despite his detractors’ claims of stupidity and simple-mindedness, the evidence is stacking up that Mr. Malema is in fact rather clever in his own way and is playing the media like a well-tuned fiddle. Nary a day goes by without images of our favourite Youth League President being splashed across front pages of our newspapers and online news services, and while it may not be true that “no publicity is bad publicity”, the adage does bear some weight in this context. Of late, that context has been the widely-publicised hate speech trial recently concluded in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, which at this time is awaiting judgement. For those who followed the court case itself, and not the mud-slinging that occurred outside it, the debate inside the courtroom was rather important and as such has had a significant presence in the public mind. More than this, and in no small part as a result of the high profile nature of the case, the exchange has been of a very high quality and an intensity that would put many a Friday night legal drama to shame, thanks in no small part to the level of experience and seniority on display from the legal fraternity. Despite this however, the headlines we are reading include such juicy tidbits as Winnie Madikizela–Mandela’s pre facto proclamation of victory and posturing outside the court buildings or Mr. Malema’s own extra-court dancing, singing and built-to-be-headline statements. The actual discourse within the courtroom has seemingly been sidelined in favour...

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On Media Sensationalism

May 16, 11 On Media Sensationalism

Posted by in News & Media

I hold the opinion that melodramatic segments of African media houses hold too much sway in the industry. I therefore find many headlines, photos and sound bites too over the top to warrant attention. Two incidents in Kenya and South Africa caught my interest mainly for the sensationalism that surrounded them. Besides the fact that the two stories shared the similarity of protagonists appearing in court, I thought of no connection whatsoever. Nevertheless, the degree of rumour mongering and speculation that had circled these events provided me an awareness that led me to build a comparison regarding the nature of hyped news items. The first incident was Winnie Mandela’s ‘embrace’ of Julius Malema captured in a cheekily titled “PHOTO OF WINNIE KISSING MALEMA” as the latter left court on one of his recent appearances. Expecting a spectacularly scandalous photo I was disappointed to find a snapshot meant to play mind games on whoever stared at it too long. In the second incident, one of Kenya’s leading dailies reported the loss of $10 million by one of the International Criminal Court (ICC) suspects on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi from The Hague. Though the article named no names it was full of innuendo and a spontaneous internet buzz targeted at Uhuru Kenyatta, the son to the country’s first president currently serving as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance. It was later reported that all that was lost was a bag containing an ipad and cell phones. I dislike the sensationalism for its deliberate generation of loud attention-seeking, self-centered and theatrical nature. Driven by elaborate corporate structures of media networks, advertising agencies and sponsors, it combines show business, advertising and news. I am averse to the negative effects of the inefficiencies that arise from all three. Considering the almost miraculous power of the media, these influences directly affect society, culture and heritage by encouraging escapism, indifference and insulation from the realities of their contexts. Mainly by the means of distraction, media...

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Why is no-one talking about Malawi?

The successful popular uprising in Egypt has raised various questions. Questions like, “to what extent did the sustained interest of foreign media enable protests to continue for long enough to be successful?” Attempts by security forces to shut down foreign media reporting, as well as the interest of foreign governments, in response to the concerns of their own people, seem to suggest that the presence of foreign media helped. Foreign media coverage seemed to open up or at least sustain a space for protest in a country where the leadership was attempting systematically to shut down the democratic space – a vital factor in the success of the Egyptian protests. Egypt is lucky. Most African countries don’t get that kind of media attention. Malawi, for example. Malawi hasn’t been under dictatorship for 30 years but they do find themselves in a situation where increasingly draconian laws are being enacted by a president determined that his brother is going to succeed him, and where local objections are having less and less effect. When governments shut down the democratic space and limit the local media, foreign and international media play a key role in opening that space back up and giving the people a voice. The Malawian government recently passed amendments to the penal code that give the information minster the power to ban any publication deemed contrary to the public interest. The amendments also harden Malawi’s stance on homosexuality, explicitly criminalising lesbian relationships. Local courts were recently created, raising fears of a modern reincarnation of the “traditional courts” used to persecute political opposition under Malawi’s previous dictatorship. They also create a parallel (and incompatible) legal system with magistrate’s courts, undermining justice and equality before the law. The Muslim Association of Malawi has joined the Catholic Church in expressing concern about the press laws and infringements on personal freedoms, such as the ability of police to search without a warrant. Police have also been instructed to shoot to kill when criminals are caught ‘red-handed’. In the...

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