Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Media's responsibility

I was browsing my feed from News24 this evening and found this story "Kebble: Media given a blast"....

In the story Vusi Pikoli, the head of the NPA, stated that he thought that the media had left much to be desired from their reporting on the Kebble murder case.

His main concerns were that the media were not thinking about witnesses safety when they printed their names, thus preventing other witnesses coming forward and were too quick to print information they had received as "fact".

This proves to me that some journalism basics are no longer being followed- you verify your facts with someone...or at least try to before you print them and then if you could not verify them adequately enough but still want to print them they should be clearly qualified as unverified- better yet, don't print them at all.

Pikoli implored the media not to disseminate any information that could compromise the case and not to run parallel investigations, some of which are compromising witnesses.

I find myself agreeing with Pikoli on a number of points he makes in the story and admit that there is a fine line to tread between what I term reactive journalism- journalism motivated purely by commercial imperatives- and proactive journalism- the kind that actually informs the public without harming or compromising the investigation. Fair enough, the stuff that the NPA release might be boring and drab but I really wouldn't endorse fabricating information or trying to coerce members of the NPA to give information and in so doing put their jobs on the line.

I mean, call me idealistic but I do believe that its high time the media began thinking about the effect the information they package and disseminate will be having on the bigger picture- past the fact that Kebble stories sell newspapers and draw eyes and ears to watch and listen.

However, I do think that the NPA should also come to the party a bit. I the story Pikoli states that the media should give the NPA more time to respond to questions from the media. This is all well and good but, just as the media should make allowance for the time it will take the NPA to respond, the NPA should understand that there are deadlines that need to be met and not withhold information deliberately past the deadlines etc. Pikoli's suggestion of the NPA giving the media information three or four days after it was requested it is utterly unacceptable- they should realise that this is a high profile case which has generated a lot of interest to the public (the public interest of the story is another matter entirely) and at least appoint a dedicated media liaison to deal with the media and the public, oh wait, I forgot...they are underfunded and understaffed- great, and the government want to stamp out crime....

A three to four day waiting period for information, in my view, forces a sensationalist output by the press for a public hungry for skinner hence, I feel that both sides have to respect and understand certain boundaries set by the other side.

just my 2c on the matter....

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