Credibility crisis for media: Vick

2012-03-28 14:48

Johannesburg - The media faces a credibility crisis if ethics are not discussed, spin doctor Chris Vick said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"The weaker a newsroom the easier it is for people like me to run circles around you," Vick told a SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) debate on "SA Media in an Ethical Spin?"

He referred to reports of journalists being paid to either write favourable stories, or to make sure unfavourable stories were not written.

"Isolated cases give the impression that there is corruption and so people like me can move in.

"There are cases [of this] happening and they should be investigated."

Vick said he felt there had been insufficient discussion within the media about ethics.

City Press executive editor Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya said that when discussing ethics the media needed to decide whose ethics they were talking about.

"We need to discuss ethics and how they are ours, especially in a society that was so divided."

He used the example of a young journalist not realising that taking a "freebie" from someone could be wrong.


"We need to discuss if taking a free lunch from someone means you are in their pocket."

Moya said the media needed to be less intolerant of criticism.

"I found it amazing how us, in the media, sound like the DA and the ANC when we discuss ethics. When we lapse we become like the ANC that points out the glorious things we have done in the past."

On the other hand, the media acted like the Democratic Alliance by saying that its critics didn't like it, Moya said.

"Unless we... respond properly, the problems will always be there. The media needs to snap out of that thinking," said Moya.

Media trainer Paula Fray said the understanding of ethics had to be the guiding principles of journalism.

"If we know what the ethical principles are we should use it as a checklist," she said.

Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes said the establishment of a media tribunal by the government would not improve the ethics and standards of the media.

"Statutory regulation doesn't grow out of the fact that the ethics is bad but because they are uncomfortable with what we are reporting," he said.

Dawes said the Mail & Guardian reviewed its ethics policy and included all staff members' inputs during a workshop.

"There are simple things we can do in our newsrooms," he said.

  • mholthuysen - 2012-03-28 14:55

    Please get real - there is a credibility crisis in South African politics, particularly within the "ruling" party - and no credibility crisis in the media. If something is reported incorrectly - the courts are there already to punish. (Sorry forgot - there is a credibility crisis in those too....)

      werner.smidt - 2012-03-28 15:35

      I think it is important for the media to take responsibility when a story that is reported is not factual, instead of hiding behind the notion of "freedom of speech". Just because some of the government's decisions and practices are highly questionable, doesn't mean the media is an ethical bastion.

      Joanne - 2012-03-28 16:59

      "The weaker a newsroom the easier it is for people like me to run circles around you," Vick told a SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef)" When someone tells you the truth about themselves, believe them.The media is not operating as the custodian of SA's future, accountable for the taxes and services of & for 50 million+ people. We are being spun and we're so used to being reasonable that we're nodding and saying: "Sure, you could be right." And sure, he could be right, he probably is - but that doesn't mean we should allow ourselves to be muzzled and coralled so that the real skullduggery goes unreported. In a perfect, or even more functional, world I would be in agreement - but this is an already strange, strange situation.

      Joanne - 2012-03-28 17:00

      Tshililo - you only know what Zille said because she did it on social media, and it has also been reported. Media has served us well.

      joneethling - 2012-03-28 17:45

      SA media is biased, are scaremongers, exagerating the negative and ignoring the positives. Take Malema for example. They built him up to be this powerfull monster, playing on the fear and ignorance of their readers, and all it took to cut him off at the knees was a brief disciplinary hearing. Even though he has no standing, they still report every little negative thing he says. Why? To cause further devision? Our press is part of the problem in SA, not part of the solution.

  • Hugh - 2012-03-28 15:31

    Ethics like morals start at home. When People with the ethics of a flea bitten dog are employed that is the fault of the employer. One point that I wish to make is the selective Morals. Choosing the news to form opinion and garner maximum negative impact. An example will be as recently reported in News24. They are quick to report an any murder or insult that involve white on black but shy away from the reverse. The News 24 report was about a Youngester that was killed by a Civilian watchman however news24 on the same day neglected to report on two white men were murdered by a black fellow in cold blood to provide balance. Overall there is a definate trend by the media toward bias reporting and P.C. opinion making. Lastly unlike International print media ours only provide limitede international insight. An example is Malema. Surely the are morimportant items of news in SA? Finally it would be great to read an accurate reporting without gross errors.

  • pietopper - 2012-03-28 16:28

    Chris Vick should be the last person to pontificate about ethics. His job description can be summarised as "authorised liar"

  • Morne - 2012-03-28 19:06

    Well stories should be written on fact,seems that this spin doctor spins straw into gold!

  • Louise - 2012-03-29 00:36

    Excuse my ignorance, but could News24 or Sapa please tell us WHO "spindoctor Chris Vick" is! Failing to explain the who, where, what and why of the spindocter in the above article is a glaring example of SA's poor standards of print journalism - with a few exceptions such as Sunday Times's credible senior investigators Stephen Hoffstatter, Wa Afrika and Rob Rose. It's high time Sapa trained their writers in the basics of the profession.

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