The impact of diversity in reporting on the editorial independence of small-scale regional community newspapers based in the Eastern Cape

Zazini, Novela (2002-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Journalism in South Africa has to be looked at in its historical context. South Africa was a country characterised by disparities. The same can be said about the media in this country. Mainstream media concentrated on the priviledged few and projected their views. On the other hand small regional community media aimed at marginalized communities provided a "voice for the voiceless." These small newspapers focused on the disadvantaged, rural and semi-literate communities. As a result of the history of this country, mainstream media neglected the marginalized communities. A need arose for redressing that imbalance and diversifying reporting. Small community newspapers were the means to achieve that. Unfortunately these newspapers fail to attract advertisers for various reasons. A large percentage of the marginalized communities were unemployed and very few could afford to buy newspapers. One copy of a newspaper was shared by between eight (8) and ten (10) people and that meant low circulation figures. The level of literacy was low and those who were literate, had to read to those who could not. The advertising industry was and is still biased and prejudiced against community media. Most small community newspapers died because of these economic factors. This brings about a need for funding of these newspapers. Are funders prepared to pump money without interfering with editorial independence of newspapers? This Assignment sets out to analyse the conflict between the necessity for diversity in reporting (accommodating the previously neglected) and journalistic independence (related to the need for funding). For the purposes of this Assignment, the focus will be on small regional community newspapers in the Eastern Cape, the Border/Kei- area in particular. The purpose of this Assignment is firstly to ascertain whether moves to diversify media/reporting are taking place - an ethical concern. Secondly to establish whether those who fund these newspapers interfere with their content. Various methods of research are used to establish the purpose of the Assignment. Research methodology in use reveals that attempts to diversify the media by focusing on marginalized communities becomes futile. The reason being that those who provide funding directly or indirectly impose their ideas on the newspapers. Small community newspaper then project the ideas of the priviledged people as result of the pressure from funding. It can be concluded that a solution that regards diversity in reporting and editorial independence as ethical principles is necessary (deontological model). That same solution would have to provide consequences that benefit the greatest number of people (utilitarian approach). Such a solution would in essence ensure the survival and sustainability of small regional newspapers and their editorial independence.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Joernalistiek in Suid-Afrika moet binne die historiese konteks beskou word. Die land was gekenmerk deur ongelykhede. Dieselfde norm geld vir die media. Die hoofstroom media wat op die kleiner, bevoorregte groep gekonsentreer het, het uiteraard slegs hul siening geprojekteer. Andersyds is die kantlyn "stom" gemeenskappe tog voorsien van 'n stem deur die klein, gemeenskapsgerigte media. Dié klein koerante het gefokus op semi-geletterde, minder bevoorregte inwoners van die landelike gebiede. Dit was juis hierdie kantlyn gemeenskappe wat om historiese redes verwaarloos was. Die behoefte het dus ontstaan vir die regstelling van die wanbalans en 'n diversifisering van verslaggewing. Kleiner gemeenskapskoerante sou ideaal geskik wees om hierdie doel te bereik. Ongelukkidg misluk hulle om verskeie redes om adverteerders te lok. Die hoë werkloosheidssyfer en gepaardgaande armoede in hiedie kantlyngemeenskappe het koerante onbekostigbaar gemaak vir die meerderheid. Een kopie is deur 8-10 mense gedeel. Dit het op sy beurt die sirkulasiesyfer laat daal. Dié wat kon lees, moes voorlees aan die meerderheid ongeletterdes. Die advertensiewese was en is steeds bevoordeeld teen die klein gemeenskapsmedia. Gevolglik kon hierdie projekte in die verlede om verskeie ekonomiese redes nie oorleef nie. Dit op sy beurt plaas die behoefte vir befondsing onder die soeklig. Die vraag ontstaan nou of sodanige befondsers die redaksionele onafhanklikheid van hierdie media sal respekteer? Hierdie tesis poog om 'n analise te maak van die konflik wat onstaan wanneer aan die een kant gepoog word om alle kantlyn groepe te betrek deur diversifisering en aan die ander kant die befondsing wat bekom moet word sonder om joernalistieke onafhanklikheid prys te gee. Vir die doel van hierdie tesis sal die fokus wees op die klein gemeenskapskoerante in die Oos-Kaap, meer spesifiek die Grens/Keigebied. Die primêre doel van die tesis is, eerstens om vas te stelof daar enige diversifisering plaasvind in die joernalistieke/media area - dit is 'n etiese kwessie. In die tweede plek moet vasgestel word of die befondsers inmeng in die inhoud van die ontvangerkoerante. Verskeie vorms van navorsing word gebruik om bogenoemde doelwite te bereik. Navorsingsmetodiek het bewys dat huidige pogings om te diversifiseer sodat kantlyngemeenskappe betrek kan word, misluk. Die rede hiervoor is dat die befondsers - direk of indirek - hul idees, wat uiteraard die bevoorregte gemeenskap weerspieël, afdwing. Die slotsom is dat enige oplossing gebaseer moet wees op beginsels/reëls wat die meerderheid sal bevoordeel. So 'n oplossing sal aanpasbaar moet wees by omstandighede. Dit moet egter ten alle tye die oorlewing en volhoubaarheid van die klein gemeenskapskoerante en hul redaksionele onafhanklikheid, waarborg.

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