Widespread criticism of media - report

2013-10-01 18:25

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Johannesburg - There is widespread criticism of the press, including from the ANC and SACP, a report into the state of newsrooms in South Africa has found.

"Although the ANC, the SACP and various government institutions were often the most vociferous in their criticism, accusing the media of falsehoods and sensationalism, the number of complaints from these quarters did not stand out in the data examined," according to the executive summary of the report, released on Tuesday.

"Complaints came from a wide range of people from both the private and public sectors," it continued.

The report, "State of the Newsroom (SoN) South Africa 2013: Disruptions and Transitions", looks into the new press code, race and gender compositions of newsrooms, among other issues. It was released by the University of the Witwatersrand.

Wits' 2012 research found that in most newsrooms most editorial staff were black, but not by a huge majority.

R70m invested in training

The survey that yielded the report was conducted from 2012 to 2013 in nine newsrooms: CNBC Africa, EWN, City Press, Mail & Guardian, the Sunday Times, Beeld, the SA Broadcasting Corporation, The Witness, and the Sowetan.

"The just over 100-page report describes the state of the newsroom as a ship sailing into extreme headwinds of change... It tackles shrinking newsrooms and retrenchments and declining circulations in print media," journalism senior lecturer Glenda Daniels said in statement.

The report revealed that nearly R70m was invested in journalist training between March 2012 and April 2013.

"Media24 spent R35.75m, the SABC R23m, Times Media Group R7.4m and Independent Newspapers between R3m and R4m," the summary reads.

The head of Wits's journalism department, Anton Harber, hoped the report would be an annual fixture.

"Professor Harber hopes that the research would be useful and create debate and discussion in the media industry," Daniels said.

Varied interests for readers

On Monday, the Times Media Group publicised its provisional group financial results which made mention of plans to improve editorial policies for its general reporting.

"Over the past decade, South African newspaper editors have generally been drawn from a pool of political reporters.... [resulting] in an increasing bias towards news of political interest, often catering to the political elite," the TMG results noted in its 'Commentary" section.

TMG said it had appointed new editors for seven of its 10 titles in the past year, under strict instructions to produce publications that serve varied interests for its reader base.

"We are also establishing two journalistic 'centres of excellence' with one hub aimed at court and law reporting and the other hub focused on local government and provincial legislature," TMG announced.
Read more on:    mail and guardian  |  wits university  |  anton harber  |  media

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