Science and communication : a critical analysis of the coverage by the Namibian press of the introduction of communal conservancies as a form of community based natural resource management (CBNRM)

Barnard, Margaretha Magdalena (2004-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Science forms an integral part of our lives. It is tied to social practices, public policies and political affairs. Yet, very little is reported on it unless it is making hard news. This thesis was written from the premise that the public requires as much accurate information as possible to make choices and decisions. In many instances, they solely depend on the news media to supply that information. Journalists have a responsibility to reflect and explain the complexity of a world that is increasingly influenced by science. In Namibia the establishment of conservancies under the CBNRM programme of government, have an influence on many rural people's lives who would previously not have been too concerned about science news. Through the Media and Publicity Strategy of the CBNRM programme, communication of the environmental message of conservancies has been successful to a large extent, especially in terms of reportage in the local press. The messages conveyed in the press have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the system. From the perspective of the level of journalism practised in this regard, the effort has not been that great. Publications in Namibia operate on very limited budgets and have to manage with a minimum number of reporters. This means journalists are expected to cover a range of different beats, and are seldom offered the opportunity to develop as specialist writers in specific fields. The field of science and environment is generally not regarded as an area that produces hard news on a regular basis. This was evident in the articles reviewed for the purposes of this thesis. The majority of stories were written from press releases or field trips organised by the CBNRM programme organisers. Stories that were self-generated were not very well researched, or did not follow through on potential hard news angles or ideas. In a world of war, hunger, poverty, diseases and many other tragedies, the story of the development of communal conservancies is a wonderfully positive story that highlights the success of sustainable development, the upliftment of the rural poor and achievements in terms of conservation. It is a welcome change for journalists to tell a positive story to the world. However, as journalists should know, every story has two sides. The purpose is not necessarily to find fault with the conservancy philosophy or to shoot it down or find sensationalism where it is not due. Their role is to present a full, unbiased account of the facts so that their readers can make up their own minds on whether they support the concept, or not. If journalists failed to inform their readers about the problems experienced by the implementation of conservancies, then they have failed to give their readers the full picture. The conclusions drawn in this thesis on the level of science or environmental reporting in Namibia, serve to emphasise the urgent need for specialist writers in the profession. A handful of dedicated and committed science writers that increasingly raises the level of reporting will make a vast difference in the fields of science and environment in Namibia.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Wetenskap vorm 'n integrale deel van ons lewens. Dit is gebind aan sosiale gebruike, openbare beleidsrigtings en politieke sake. Tog word daar baie min daaroor geskryf, behalwe wanneer dit harde nuus is. Hierdie tesis is geskryf vanuit die oogpunt dat die publiek soveel as moontlik akkurate inligting nodig het om keuses te maak. In baie gevalle vertrou hulle uitsluitlik op die nuus media om daardie inligting te verskaf. Joernaliste het 'n verantwoordelikheid om 'n wêreld wat al hoe meer beïnvloed word deur wetenskap te verduidelik. In Namibië het die daarstelling van bewareas deur die CBNRM-program van die regering, 'n groot invloed op die lewens van baie plattelandse mense se lewens gehad wat voorheen nie veel sou omgegee het oor wetenskapnuus nie. Die daarstelling van bewareas het 'n hele nuwe wêreld met baie nuwe uitdagings tot by hulle voordeur gebring. Dit was belangrik om hulle genoegsaam in te lig oor die voor- en nadele van die stelsel om hulle in staat te stelom te besluit of hulle wou betrokke raak of nie. Die boodskap wat die pers oorgedra het, was oorweldigend positief met baie steun vir die stelsel. Vanuit 'n joernalistieke perspektief gesien, was die beriggewing rue so noemenswaardig nie. Publikasies in Namibië werk met baie beperkte begrotings en moet klaarkom met 'n minimum aantal verslaggewers. Dit beteken daar word van joernaliste verwag om oor 'n wye verskeidenheid onderwerpe te skryf. Wetenskap- en omgewingsberiggewing word oor die algemeen gesien as 'n gebied wat nie werklik harde nuus op 'n gereelde basis produseer nie. Dit het duidelik gebleik uit die artikels wat ontleed is vir die doel van die tesis. Die meerderheid van die stories is geskryf van persverklarings en uitstappies georganiseer deur die CBNRM. Die stories wat wel self gegenereer is, was nie baie goed nagevors rue. In 'n wêreld van oorlog, hongersnood, armoede en siektes, is die ontwikkeling van . bewareas 'n wonderlike positiewe storie wat dien as bewys van die sukses van volhoubare ontwikkel, die opheffmg van plattelandse arm mense en wat bereik kan word met bewaring. Dit is 'n welkome verandering vir joernaliste om vir 'n slag 'n positiewe storie aan die wêreld te vertel. Maar, soos joernaliste behoort te weet, het elke storie twee kante. Die doel van 'n joernalis is nie noodwendig om fout te vind met die filosofie van bewareas nie, of om dit af te skiet of sensasie te soek waar dit nie nodig is nie. Hulle rol is om 'n volledige, onsydige verslag van die feite weer te gee sodat hulle lesers self kan besluit of hulle die konsep ondersteun of nie. As joernaliste daarin gefaal het om hulle lesers in te lig oor die probleme wat ondervind is met die implementering van bewareas, dan het hulle daarin gefaal om die volledige prentjie aan hulle lesers te skets. Die slotsom van die tesis oor die vlak van wetenskap- en omgewingsjoernalistiek in Namibië is dat daar 'n dringende tekort aan spesialis skrywers in die professie is. Selfs net 'n handvol toegewyde wetenskapskrywers sal al klaar 'n groot verbetering bring in die kwaliteit van verslaggewing in die wetenskap- en omgewingsvakgebied in Namibië.

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