Some good news please

2010-11-19 00:00

I HAVE a healthy obsession for collecting magazines. This is because like a well-composed song or a well-written novel, one is able to keep a magazine for decades and read it repeatedly, the same way one would listen to a well-composed song for years.

Apart from being creative, people in the publishing industry, be it publishing magazines, books or newspapers, need to recognise their role as opinion makers and mood creators. This makes the fourth estate a very significant pillar of any democracy, especially in our context as a developing nation.

I am writing this resisting the temptation of giving myself away regarding my opinion on the much talked about media tribunal (it is a rather difficult temptation to resist). There are many roles that mass media play in our society. It is astonishing though that there is only one role that media practitioners magnify above all else, and that is their role as the watchdog of society, keeping the government in check. This role is without doubt very significant, but the media are supposed to be responsible for more than keeping the government and politicians on their toes. Media need to recognise their role in shaping values and feeding perceptions through what they constantly publish.

The need for e-publications like Good News South Africa was necessitated by commercial media’s inability, or should I say reluctance, to publish positive stories about our country and its people.

Recently, I read in one of the lifestyle magazines about Vusi Gumede. At age 35, Gumede (born in Mtubatuba) is an associate professor of development studies at the University of Johannesburg. Gumede completed his PhD at the age of 27 and featured in Who’s Who of Southern Africa in 2005 and the American Biographical Institute’s Great Minds of the 21st Century in 2003. In 2007, he was honoured as a distinguished Africanist Scholar by Cornell University and as a World Fellow by Yale University in the United States in 2009. All this was achieved by a 35- year-old man from a deep rural area of KwaZulu-Natal.

I then asked myself why I, an ardent reader who knows most things about most people, was unaware of Gumede’s accomplishments. The answer is because our media have no business publishing such positive “lame” stories when there are many controversial and jaw-dropping stories to grab our collective imagination.

Granted, media should publish all they need to publish about the credit crunch, Robert Mugabe’s marriage, the arms deal and even give their interpretation of the reason behind the cabinet reshuffle, but is it too much to ask for the media to spare one page for the positive stories of our country and its people? Our young people in rural areas and elsewhere in the country need to read stories of young achievers like Gumede. That is another very significant role that the media need to play.

I understand in the media world it is said if it’s bad it’s really good, but can we for a moment ignore the jargon and focus on what is good for the country? For now I am going to go back to my 1991 copy of Tribute magazine and read about the story behind the success and entrepreneurial spirit of Herman Mashaba of the Black Like Me empire. I am going to do this hoping that soon I am going to read my daily and weekly newspapers and read about stories and people who inspire me. I need and am desperate for such stories. As a South African, I have read enough stories that remind me of how bad and doomed I am.

 

• Sihle Mlotshwa is an independent social commentator.

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