Journalism During Elections – Peace Journalism Approach to Reporting
WINDHOEK, MAY 1 – Unethical (or fake news) reporting create wildfires, and the implementation of open-source, correction-tracking services (like MediaBugs in San Francisco) are becoming essential to steer away from popular discourse where public interprets a ‘mediated reality’.
So we ask; what are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to trying to entice a journalist to run stories during elections? Assumption really is the root of all evil. Assuming that a journalist is 100% unbiased and informed with all facts, or the opposite, can create room for miscommunications. Consequently, and given the size of government, for a journalist to assume that all public officials are fully informed with all facts at all times, is also doubtful. Segregating fact from opinion remains key in all journalistic reporting, otherwise we’re merely distributing subjective ‘selected truth’ opinion pieces. This human error can transform our perceptions of the world and of ourselves.
The versions of truth that are selected ‘to be told by media’ – bares impact on public’s perception of government’s ability to deal with not only crisis, but growth goals. Recently government admitted that the Harambee goals were too ambitious. Waiting too long to deal with such realities publicly contribute to mistrust and at times, faction politics. The principle of popular sovereignty should prevent minority factions from gaining power, however we’re well aware that elections become the platform for minorities to voice their critique and alternate solutions to economic recovery. Is this helpful? Not always.
At the root, we find (in politics, economics, you name it) that we’re not always sure how to approach a topic we’re not working with on a regular basis. So in being life-time learners in leadership, we need to continue to ask more ‘why’ questions, and give less ‘because’ answers. Why do we see less/more budgets allocated to specific ministries, and how does that translate to these ministries’ relevance, and why is that significant? Also; we could give pride a break. The solution is only as smart as the network that helped to solve the problem. Edison did not create the light bulb on his own. So phone a colleague or bounce back-and-forth on the mentor-mentee relationships you’ve surrounded yourself with. If you don’t ask, you don’t learn. You’re allowed to ask questions and to want an answer that will help society move forward; don’t fall victim to stereotypes or labels; stick to cause.
If journalists make mistakes; it’s part of the job to engage with those that are critical (or even against) you and what you write, but the golden rule is that journalists who acknowledge other viewpoints and are humble, empathetic and curious are less likely to make mistakes.
Digital communications has truly affected electoral communications. We’ve literally built new roads for communications, new networks and new relationships that would previously not be connected. There is no ‘poverty of information’ and you have the ability to mobilise large audiences as was done with the land conference. You have the ability to intrude and choose what you want to ‘go viral’ if you’re good at it. The era of digital has introduced less electoral based politics, and more issue-based civic engagement. Think about it.
Citizens can now challenge established political elites and processes online. By engaging with more non-electoral issue-politics online, we enhance patterns of disconnection with electoral politics. Digital media is so specialized, we read what we want to read about – and we write subjectively and frequently with little context. Our perception becomes our endorsed reality in what we repost or comment or like. It’s wanting to co-establish the agenda and almost make your ‘topical votes’ count, in wanting to play an active role as a leader that contributes. However let’s continue to recommend and maintain a consultative relationship with government as opposed to mere rock throwing. It should be less about individuals and more about the collective good. We can’t Pin all our ideals onto people, it’s unsustainable.
Media plays a vital role and carries gross potential to contribute to a culture of sustainable peace and democracy.The Media should build trust. You incentivize civic participation by making people feel informed and involved, not hopeless. So our most immediate issue at hand is Namibia’s drought crisis, and that’s an example of where media portrayed government and financial service providers joining hands with communities. Some realities are extremely harsh and hard to stomach, but we must still have realistic hope. It honestly is about relationships, and media is constantly being the diplomat that has to represent the truth from various perspectives and sources of information and facts. There is no room for bias and favorites, you have to be able to communicate just as well for those that you secretly detest. If you’re in good relations with every protagonist that needs be placed onto the agenda, or at least call it respect, you can differ in opinion AND give the public perspective to draw
We’re confronted with needing a new asset: social media social capital. In modern communications, this has become part of your leverage for good communications and -relations as then further perceived via traditional (offline) media. You bare potentially positive influence from digital mobilization in what you like, share, and comment about.
However, similar to professional journalism be careful to fall trap and discredit yourself by this disruption called internet access. International politics (Africa now ‘close to home’) frequently report on the corruption of social capital to maintain economic and political capital.
Leaders or regimes that refuse to change, want to control the media, and what the public reads or says. We mobilize through technology. So if you take away technology; you’re actively discouraging and disarming public contribution and you’re becoming part of cause of failed relationships we see happening all over the world. Social media is about more than just freedom. It’s a powerful tool that has destabilized oppressive governments (https://namedia-nam.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=9be38e10a68c9e2532b3f0ff6&id=1430f83b4a&e=ab4c2f78e7) and saved lives (https://namedia-nam.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=9be38e10a68c9e2532b3f0ff6&id=f0342c2f85&e=ab4c2f78e7) . If you know, you can act, or you can change.
So how can professional journalism play a more visible and distinctive role, and compete with emotive content, disinformation and private messaging during elections? In shaping a story; the writer determines the ‘share of voice’. You need to work with reputable sources, and you need to constantly play a balancing role without getting pulled into one specific direction. Remain well-read on all current affairs, maintain connect with other media houses (national agenda setting with guidance from the editors forum), and build lasting relationships along the way because that’s the best capital you can draw from during times of crisis. – Natasja Beyleveld: Managing Director NaMedia