The final session at the seminar with Gwen Lister of The Namibian, Pili Mtamalike the regulations and standard manager of Tanzania, Churchill Otieno if nation media group! Kenya and Julian Rademeyer of Africa Check.
Africa Check is a fact checking organisation. They are going to launch an award for other orgs that also get involved in fact checking. Rademeyer starts this discussion by outlining the pressures of reduced newsrooms and sometime lack of fact-checking. Giving an example if a FALSE stat about HIV rates for schoolgirls which has spread and spread. Also tap water safety use of faith healers. All FALSE but all got traction.
Otieno introduces The Nation – the largest media house in Africa. Run 50 websites. Apply pre-publishing moderation. Through the moderation we ensure it stays on topic, edit out trolls and take care of libel. There’s a huge culture change to have reporters embrace that, there is a pressure to publish first and correct later. We tell journalists to verify first. Take the view that conversations on twitter and Facebook are not within The Nation’s control but they do take down hate posts on social platforms.
Mtambalike says 193 members. Was started to regulate print but now a lot of bloggers for news and information. Have complaints and problems from readers who don’t like the way they’ve been represented and about mainstream media using blog posts as source material without sufficient checks.
Chair is proposing – is a code of ethics something which can be applied across the board eg. Print, online, blogs?
Mtambalike says that would be a difficult thing to apply. The speed of publishing and blogs are an area where regulation isn’t possible in the same way. ‘Things that happen in social media are not of much interest to the ruling class until something happens.’
Rademeyer says we are talking about two very different things. We won’t be able to regulate blogs. For news organisations, we need to look much harder about how we check our facts. “Every time we get a story wrong we reduce our credibility.” Doesn’t have to be punitive, sometime just to admit something is wrong is enough.
Lister says mainstream needs to up its game as people now look for their own sources because they find the legacy publishers have lacked credibility and risk that becoming the situation even more so.
Lister – should we be regulating ourselves or out there will it be completely unregulated. Regulate part of cyberspace or all of it?
Uk journalist in the audience saying it doesn’t seem that libel repeated on African radio stations results in any action against them.
Audience member from the press council in South Africa saying, in the face of the revolution that has opened up the media, we should be talking about ethics as a society, not just as journalists. It is anachronistic to talk in those terms.
Bethel McKenzie says you can not regulate for taste. Not able to regulate for bloggers but when it comes to media we need to go back to basics and insist on standards.
Otieno says step back and look at what has changed. The medium is now available to share the thoughts we used to only share with friends. The power we yield and influence we carry is given to us by the audience. It may not come through regulation and laws. That audience will force me to behave in a certain manner and punish me if it falls short. Ethics is a principle and can not be defined through the medium.
Audience member from iWitness news. We are talking as journalists and it hits us hard if we get something wrong but a lot of people involved in the story aren’t. Shouldn’t there be a more formalised set of rules, some consequence.
Lister saying another issue is the ‘juniorisation’ of newsrooms and the fact that many enter the trade as a job rather than something they will ‘live and die’ for.
Raymond Louw, deputy chair of press council. Can’t even consider regulation on social media as you quickly get into censorship. As far as corrections go press council has changed it’s rules on publishing corrections and now has to be published on the front page of newspapers.
Mtambalike said they reached out to bloggers and found that they responded in a positive way having been noticed for the work they felt they were producing. They didn’t know there was a body interested in what they were doing.
Bethel mcKenzie says the community at large is confused as to where the line between the journalist and the citizen sits when they look at social media use.
Otieno field the forever question – if the public value quality journalism, are they willing to pay for it.