Solutions based journalism sorely-needed, but newsrooms may impede own progress, speaker says
BY AMELIA CHEATHAM, August 12, 2017
As societal attitudes increase the need for solutions based journalism, trends within the media industry threaten its implementation, SABC executive producer Krivani Pillay said Friday at the Duke Menell Media Exchange.
Pillay says solutions based journalism, also referred to as solutions focused journalism and solutions oriented journalism, emerged around 2012.
This reporting technique involves “coverage of responses to social problems” that “also interrogates the solutions themselves”. However, solutions based journalism doesn’t promote specific perspectives and adheres to basic reporting principles, including balance and objectivity.
“You don’t solve the world’s problems in solutions (based) journalism, but you do attempt to paint a fuller picture,” Pillay said.
Calling the tactic “layered” and “nuanced,” she presented several examples of this kind of reporting, including her own coverage of an HIV-positive woman’s story.
Part one of Pillay’s report on Conny, a woman living with HIV. Audio/Krivani Pillay
Pillay says the media industry itself presents obstacles to producing this type of coverage. “Careful crafting of a story is lost in our journalism because we’ve come to a point where we need to beat the competitor, we need to beat our colleagues in the industry.”
Current social media-based reporting also impedes solutions based journalism.
“Everything that we’re doing right now is all here in 140 characters, and in doing so you’re not going into the … in-depth parts of a story,” she said.
Newsroom resource constraints will limit solutions based journalism, which takes longer to develop than other types of coverage.
With the emergence of alternative facts and fake news, solutions based journalism is “needed now more than ever,” she says.
According to a September 2016 post on The South African National Editors’ Forum website, there has been “an alarming trend by fake news websites to publish inaccurate information under the guise of news.”
Pillay urged older editors, who she says are more hesitant to embrace solutions based journalism, to integrate the approach into their coverage.
“It can’t be business as usual now,” she says. “People have so much choice now from online to radio to satellite. If you want your audience to listen to you, give them something worthwhile to listen to.”
Extra caution by journalists encouraged amidst increased misinformation on social media
BY PATRICIA ARUO, August 12, 2017
With the rise of fake news, veteran South African journalist Raymond Joseph, said journalists and other social media users should be more sceptical than ever about the information they chose to publish.
Journalists should not publish content for the sake of being the first to do so, said Joseph, during his Free Online Verification and Fact Checking Tools For Journalist presentation Friday, at the 2017 Menell Media Exchange. The mistakes of one journalist often led to a casting of doubt over all journalists.
“It’s not a fact until you’ve verified it,” he said.
He referred to a recent social media outcry involving the insurance company, MiWay, which was the victim of a fake email that suggested racism at the top levels of the company.
The falseness of the email was obvious, said Joseph. In the screen grab of the email ‘the cursor was still in the picture. You could see that someone had edited it.’
There are a variety of free fact-checking tools including RevEye, an image verification tool, and AfricaCheck, a data-based fact checking organisation.
eNCA multimedia producer Rianté Naidoo, admitted that she was aware of only one of the tools, Google reverse search.
“I didn’t know about most of them and I think that it is a pity because digital journalism is the future,” she said. “I think they should make it mandatory especially at institutional level.”
She added that the image search tool ‘Tin Eye’ was one of the most interesting for her especially with the rise of memes.
Joseph said journalists should believe nothing and question everything.
Young people making waves in radio
BY KHINALI BAGWANDEEN, KARABO MASOMBUKA, ZINHLE MOTLOPYE, August 12, 2017
Breaking new ground in community radio, young people are building community journalism on the foundation of truth and trust. The question on everyone’s lips was how community journalists ensure truth and trust with their limited resources.
Alex FM serves the community of Alexandra, in Johannesburg. Takalane Nemangowe, 25, station manager at Alex FM said they work hard to ensure that all stories they cover are verified.
This is done by speaking to more than one source as well as going to the location of the event. Their hard work has paid off as the community now trusts them. “Alex FM deals with the issues of the community as well as being a safe-hub of the community,” he said. The radio station is used as a safe-space for the people, almost functioning like a police station, with the goal of truth of reporting and in return, receiving the trust of the community.
Video/Khinali Bagwandeen, Mathama Bility, Karabo Masombuka and Zinhle Motlopye
Speaking at the workshop, Nina Callaghan of the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) said CRF’s aims to train youth by creating as many avenues as possible for youth participation in community radio.
“It’s about expressing the value of the youth and who they are right now,” she said. “They are not only leaders of tomorrow, they are leaders now.”
Student reporters trained by CRF and placed on the production teams at Alex and Mams FM (based in Mamelodi, Pretoria) elaborated on their experience as youth community journalists. They discussed how youth were able to have a voice and facilitate youth discussions. These are topics that young people can’t speak to adults about but still need information on so the shows become information sharing platforms for young people.
Mary-Ann Nobele, a reporter at Alex FM, also reflected on how much participating in CRF made her more confident.
Lessons from Everest: The importance of reputation management
BY NEREESHA PATEL, August 12, 2017
Reputation has become a priority more than ever within corporations and a rapidly evolving media landscape, according to Patrick Conroy, the managing director of Platco Digital.
Conroy is a veteran journalist who covered the 1996 South African expedition to Mount Everest, during which British photojournalist Bruce Herrod died. He shared tips with delegates at the Menell Media Exchange 2017 (MMX17) conference about reputation management for media organizations based on his experience covering the expedition.
The tips were taken from the account of his time on Everest, which he chronicled in his book, Everest Untold.
– Pre-plan your reputation. Whether you’re an individual, in a business or in a newsroom, protecting your reputation is how well you plan ahead. It’s about the work that you do that others will never get to see rather than it depending on how well you react in a crisis. Conroy linked this to his feeling guilty for not planning ahead whilst he covered the expedition.
– People matter. Regardless of the situation, how you treat people should be a thought-out and documented policy. You will be forced to turn to others for help in an emergency. Communication with and reliance on fellow climbers on Mount Everest was key, although leadership at the time did not take this into account.
– Manage expectations. In most cases, nobody plans to fail. However, failure is always a possibility. You must predict the possibility of a crisis or a failure. The expectation of expedition members was to successfully summit Everest, although none of them considered the strong possibility that fatalities could occur.
– Stability trumps expectation. In the quest for perfection, you may achieve nothing. Leaders must be able to bring to the situation the most stable point possible, not the ideal. Without recalibrating plans, challenges encountered by expedition leaders could have been dealt with differently.
“In the modern era, [reputation management] is really about being truthful in order to earn trust,” Conroy said. “When I talk to corporates about truth and trust, it’s that you have to be truthful with your audience. Those who are responsible, own up to their mistakes and show compassion are going to gain the trust of the public because they are being authentic and truthful.”
Kaizen encourages deeper coverage to combat “infobesity”
BY ODWA MJO, August 11, 2017
Journalists need to change how they tell stories by transforming the way in which newsrooms distribute content, according to Max Kaizen, co-founder of Treeshake, a digital communications company.
Journalists need to focus on “content thickness” – deeper coverage with richer context – to help people feel transformed through the way journalists tell stories, said Kaizen, who spoke on story crafting at the 2017 Duke Menell Media Exchange in Johannesburg.
People are overly consuming news, causing what Kaizen terms “infobesity” and “scandal fatigue,” which are the opposite of content thickness.
Infobesity is when people are exposed to an influx of information in the media and don’t go deep enough in telling stories about the real issues that affect people, she said. Infobesity excludes ordinary people from the storytelling process.
Kaizen also explained how journalists could push content through various platforms which encouraged active public participation using “fan power.”
Instead of producing news stories in the traditional and centralised newsroom, this
model pulls in audiences through involving them in content production, she said.
“Is there a way in which we can draw fans with us and use their energy, their sense of delight to create these narratives that are connected, meaningful and allow us to certify a trust with each other?” she asked.
This way provides a “fan based platform that allows people to know, to share and to get deeper into your story,” she said. It is important to create a context in which you pull in audiences instead of simply pushing out content.
Some of Kaizen’s proposals, including working with experts and community members, set off heated debate. One journalist in the audience argued it was not the role of journalists to educate people but to inform. Another audience member praised the Daily Dispatch newspaper for working with communities and taking a grass root approach to storytelling.
Build trust to build a brand: Why news organisations need to pay attention to reputation management now
BY KAREN MWENDERA, August 11, 2017
JOHANNESBURG – Media outlets should pay more attention to how their brands are portrayed, according a South African media consultant working in the reputation management industry.
Yavi Madurai, founder and managing director of Black Box Theory, warned that journalists must think of their stories as part of their brand. In doing so they would maintain credibility for themselves and their organisations.
“News is not something to be trusted at first sight,” Madurai told an audience of professional media and journalism students, during her second presentation at the 2017 Menell Media Exchange (MMX17).
Madurai, a Johannesburg media consultant, runs a branding and business design solutions company. She has worked with eNCA’s mobile journalists and her business provides branding solutions and reputation management to media companies.
Content producer Nqobile Khumalo said well done stories contribute to reputation.
“The journalists together with the media house (they work for) makes a credible story,” he said. “I follow people that I trust and I don’t doubt them.”
eNCA’s Head of marketing Cecil Lyons spoke on what happened when trust breaks down. This followed the firing of one of eNCA’s employees in May.
Reporter Nontobeko Sibisi was dismissed from eNCA in May and some social media users made various allegations about her dismissal. eNCA critics claimed Sibisi’s dismissal was linked to the doek scandal which occurred last year.
“The firing was actually the end of a much longer engagement,” said Lyons. “There was some engagement over the doek and I think that that was managed in an honest and truthful way from an eNCA point of view.”
Lyons added how important it was for the media outlet to be honest. However, in the Sibisi case there were certain facts and personal information he did not think “necessarily needed to be in the public arena. And I think that as a brand to be trusted you have to have honesty. Sometimes to be honest is hurtful. It’s not easy to be honest all the time.”
In another prominent case, a blog published on HuffPost South Africa in April put the brand’s reputation in jeopardy and sparked vigorous debates on social media.
The post was deemed “racist and sexist” by the South African Press Ombudsman who found the publication guilty of publishing hate speech.
Crises like these test the credibility of news organisations and media companies and journalists need to be proactive when it comes to managing their reputations, said Madurai.
“You shouldn’t wait for anything [bad] to happen,” she said. An organisations’ name must be built proactively on a day-to-day basis.
Young journalists tackle newsroom realities
BY AYANDA GIGABA, August 11, 2017
It can be difficult for young people to break into the field of journalism. When discussing the integration of youth and journalism, there are often more open-ended questions than definite answers. A group of young journalists tried to find the answers at the Duke Menell Media Exchange:
1. How do we get more youth driven content on bigger platforms?
Young journalists have to jump through many hoops to even get their foot in the newsroom door. Work experience has been conflated with age and young journalists are forced to branch out in order to disprove this fallacy. Budding journalists can create their own online platform and network with others in the field who share a similar vision in order to solidify the platform. The presence of members from “Bigger than life” crew, a youth-run radio show on Alex FM, in the audience was a testimony to the viability of this solution.
2. How should young journalists go about engaging with older generations?
Regardless of age, journalists are expected to effectively engage with people from any and every walk of life. Sympathetic listening, constant respect, and assertive communications of one’s thoughts and opinions are components that bridge the generation gap. The panelists advised against feeling intimidated by one’s age because the voice of the youth is an invaluable part of the newsroom.
3. How easy is it to navigate the media industry as a woman?
Systemic prejudice is an element to consider in almost any work environment. Female journalists in the room shared experiences of being undermined and overlooked by their superiors. Solidarity among women is crucial in overcoming this gendered obstacle to challenge the patriarchal culture in the newsroom.
Youth talk show producer Zola Brunner moderated the discussion for the “Youth Issues” workshop at MMX 17.
Surveying, accessing and using open data
BY LINDOKUHLE EMMANUEL DLADLA, August 11, 2017
Most journalists who are not in tech and financial journalism fear the thought of sourcing specific data. But Adam Oxford from Hacks/Hackers Johannesburg and SABC digital media specialist Siyabonga Africa, provide tips and tools that make data journalism more accessible, not only to media specialists, but the general public too.
Africa brought his audience at the Duke Menell Media Exchange conference up to speed on how anyone can freely access, use, modify and share data for any purpose.
“Data should be made free and available to everyone because we pay for it,” he said.
Africa demonstrated how commonly-used software like Google Sheets can come in handy when trying to scrape data from complicated documents. He used municipality data from Wikipedia as an example to breakdown statistics, showcasing them as a simple excel spreadsheet.
“Google in data journalism is highly effective and any searches can be refined for a specific parameter,” he said.
Another recommended app is Tabula, which can open PDFs and also enables the user to extract information from tables, saving time and excessive work.
The speakers highlighted that as much as data is readily available, it may still contain errors. “Just because data is there, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question it as a journalist,” said Africa.
Most journalists go in search of stories within the data not realising that the actual story could be what is missing. “To me the absence of information is a story in itself,” he said.
BY AMY PIETERSE AND NONKULULEKO NJILO, August 11, 2017
Leadership isn’t simply about sitting behind a desk telling people what to do — it’s also about understanding the people around you.
Darryl Wright and Karen Roux, from Duke Corporate Education and workshop hosts on “Design Thinking,” talked about the human element of leadership and the importance of empathy — and how each applied to media organizations. They argue that through fostering an empathetic, understanding environment, people are able to be more creative and innovative.
Wright said empathy forms an important part of leadership philosophy and enables people to unlock design thinking. This requires engaging, observing and immersing yourself in the people around you. Empathy also provides the basis for creative thinking, which in turn results in design and products that are both useful and meaningful.
According to Wright, design thinking is a five-step process of empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing. He points out that it can be used to enhance learning, engagement, and skills acquisition. Good design evokes good behavior and with a good process, people are able to work more freely and imaginatively.
As part of the workshop, Wright and Roux hosted a Creativity Café, where attendees gathered into separate groups. They discussed issues related to media today such as fake news, technological advances, and crafting better stories, which were relevant to the theme of truth and trust and placed the activity in context.
The workshop demonstrated how a fun environment can encourage people to be creative and think of solutions to pertinent problems. Leadership that focuses on human connection is able to promote inventive and productive thinking — which the media needs today as it constantly re-invents itself.
Mobile diaries of low-income South Africans
BY VUKILE DLWATI AND KAYLEIGH DAMITA, August 11, 2017
The Journalism and Media Lab (JAMLAB) at Johannesburg’s University of Witwaterstrand has brought to light eye-opening research on how poorer South Africans use cellphones and data.
Wits lecturer, Indra de Lanerolle is at the helm of these investigations and has focused his attention on the personal experiences of individuals through mobile diaries.
One of de Lanerolle’s mobile diary users, Thandiwe, is a hairdresser. She admitted to keeping her data switched off most of the time unless she wanted to check or send messages.
In the midst of the job crisis in South Africa, Deliza, another mobile diary respondent, said he bought a smartphone in order to access the Internet to find job opportunities. This was an attempt to save him transport money.
According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate of 27,7% in the first quarter of 2017, is the highest unemployment rate observed since September 2003.
In her mobile diary, Xoliswa used her phone to record church services that she would listen to whilst doing her daily chores. She also refused to purchase data because she did not know how to buy data bundles.
There are a variety of ways that poor people get around the cost of data.
Apps like Shareit have been created which can be used to share various files including videos, music and other apps. This new phenomenon is known as “pavement internet” which allows people to share media without requiring an Internet connection.
Wi-Fi hotspots have also become quite prevalent in public spaces which benefit low income Internet users.
“Sometimes the Wi-Fi hotspots are farfetched and inaccessible for many members in particular community,” said De Lanerolle. “People want to get around the internet because it’s not affordable.”
He asked the attendees to tell him about their access to Wi-Fi, mobile data and the limitations of access to information. Almost everybody in the room had good access to online sources.
In South Africa, not everyone has access to good internet and cell phone connections.