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1 Reporting our biggest problem Guy Berger Rhodes University.

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1 1 Reporting our biggest problem Guy Berger Rhodes University

2 2 What is this problem?:  Aids?  School crisis?  Corruption?  Women/child abuse?  Economy?  Race?  Government-media relations?

3 3 SECTION A: Introduction Inyoka nesele? Chalk ‘n cheese? One of the problems: Govt vs Media

4 4 Should & could it ever be … Umtya nethunga? (milking harness and pail)

5 5 Or is it a case of … Singamaphuti ahlathi linye? Media & Govt in the same boat?

6 6 It depends what you look at: For me, one problem stands out as our country’s worst pest, and we need combined Govt-Media work in order to tackle it

7 7 Its ugly name is: POVERTY Let’s look at: Why Poverty is Public Enemy no. 1 Learning from elsewhere The journalism of poverty in SA The poverty of journalism in SA Conclusion: what’s to be done?

8 8 SECTION B: Public Enemy No 1. Whose problem is poverty:  the poor?  government?  civil society?  business?  individuals?  media?

9 9 The pinch of poverty What’s bad about poverty?  People are cashless, foodless, homeless, landless, illness, stress, powerless.  Note: jobless does not = poverty Many indirect effects:  doesn’t cause crime & Aids, …  but it does contribute.

10 10 The pillars of poverty An act of God, or an act of man? Quiz: What are the underlying causes? A local issue, or a global issue? Quiz: UN Millenium Goal for 2015?

11 11 Questions 1: What’s the delay in ending poverty? What are the solutions? Who is part of the problem?

12 12 Questions 2: Can media help change poverty? What’s media’s role in relation to other actors: govt, business, civil society, individuals? How “poor” is our journalism in reflecting & serving poor people?

13 13 Impact on policy & practice? On govt policy? On govt practice? Investment strategies? Conscience of the rich? Empowerment of the poor? On local-global compassion?

14 14 SECTION C: Looking elsewhere for answers: “Development journalism” in Africa Free market media in USA/India

15 15 Development journ discredited Theory: educate, uplift, nation-build But:  Poor grasp of causes of poverty  Top-down view of passive poor  Parrot of inappropriate ideologies  Buttressed bad governance.

16 16 Development journalism effect: Reinforced poverty. Bad journalism: “lies, easy victories” Responsibility, no freedom. Backlash = community media, Backlash = watchdog media.

17 17 Lessons: Community and watchdog media roles are good for fighting poverty but … Baby thrown out in bathwater: we still need to educate, uplift, nation-build.

18 18 Elsewhere: Free market model 1 USA: little journalism on poverty, Middle-class audiences resent it, “Comfort the afflicted, afflict comfortable” versus “Neither publishers or readers clamour for stories about the poor”. Indian media “panders to elite”. Freedom, no responsibility

19 19 Free market model 2: Stereotypes of lazy, failed people. Disproportionate racialisation:  “most US poor are white, but you’d never know from the media” Individual, rather than govt/societal issue. “Deserving poor” vs blameworthy. Absence of voices of poor people. Clearly: Elitist model is wrong for SA media

20 20 SECTION D: Journalism of poverty in SA There is some coverage here. Overview comments. Some examples coming up. Analysis and critique.

21 21 Not negative – (due to our history). But it’s racialised – starving or fat cats. Racialised – empowerment gloss-over. And: poor voices are absent – esp. in policy issues. Also: poor portrayed as purely victims. Too little debate about cause & solution. SA coverage of poverty – overview

22 22 SA: journalism of poverty – examples: Business Day: high finance-politics  Generally, wealthy are uninterested – but not in South Africa  Kevin Wakeford: “Put poverty on top of the agenda”  Neva Makgetla: “Poor pay more for services”

23 23 SA: journalism of poverty – examples: Sowetan: grassroots poverty.  “Stink over bucket system”  “Lonely, exiled death of woman with Aids” Dispatch: charity angles  Donation of rugby kit to school  Africa wants better aid  Rejoice R40m to uplift poor  Little too late, G8

24 24 SA: journalism of poverty – examples: EPH: Implicit, rather than explicit  Grenades used on stone-throwing pupils  Big brother man at Aids-charity dinner Critique of DD and EPH: Neither looked at how cold hits the poor. Housing protests, pensions – no poverty info. Very little on how development relates to poor. Money comes into E Cape– but for who?

25 25 Analysing journalism of poverty 1 Comments:  Party-politicisation coverage players eclipse the ball (BIG, Psam)  Little scrutinisation of stats unemployment: 30% or 40%?  Little debate – except in Sowetan  Reliance on external columnists

26 26 Analysing journalism of poverty 2 Comments  Little follow-up (cf. Poverty Hearings)  Absence of poor voices on policy issues.  Dichotomy: Stories of people who are poor Stories of “poverty”  Starvation coverage – a charity or govt issue (no depth)

27 27 SECTION E: Poverty of Journalism in SA Spinning the story:  Our journalism in general needs changing –  Why and how.

28 28 Complex coverage: Poverty has many faces:  Hard to reduce, so therefore singular stories or broadest concept, and no connection.  Poverty hidden under other frames – crime, gender, AIDS, strikes, unemployment  Challenge to cover a process vs. event

29 29 Problems in journalism Poverty does not have to be covered. Poverty = enterprise reporting  Few press releases! Few lobby actions. We remember women, race (sometimes), not class. Survival not seen as an achievement. Solutions-oriented journalism is atypical.

30 30 SECTION F: Conclusion What’s 2B done?  Conscious editorial strategy: Proactive Making links Allow new formats: not only events. Use newspegs (petrol, weather) Get voices Build sources (AIDS orphan families)

31 31 New agenda:  Recognise real achievements  Seek out solutions  Stop conflating race & poverty  Remember gender  Train for debate, depth & think-pieces  “Demand more time, agitate for more space, revisit the subject”

32 32 Summing up the point: Poverty is everyone’s problem. While media must be free, it can well keep responsible spirit of developmental journalism. and SA must avoid elitist role of free market media. Inform, expose, debate, hold accountable, give frontline voices, inspire, educate, empower. Even break hearts.

33 33 Summing up the point: Are editors giving leadership? Is govt playing ball? Can we construct consensus about prioritising this problem, and to transparency, and debate, in tackling it?

34 34 Making impact together: On policy, practice, agendas, public opinion, understanding, attitudes, emotions, skills. Only then will govt & journalism become the rich resources for reconstructing our society.

35 35 And one day, perhaps, we will not have this biggest problem to report anymore. Thank you

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