Following Media Freedom Week hosted by Media Monitoring Africa last week, Chris Louw, Digital Strategist at Caxton Local Newspapers says that the rise of fake news, anonymous advertising and the influence of political leaders on the media is concerning.
As a guest on the panel discussion ‘Are we “post truth” or “post journalism, and does it really matter’ Chris said that number of questions were raised, one of them being, whether or not journalism is under threat.
“Too often the media is deemed to have ulterior motives around their reporting. Due to terminology like ‘fake news’, someone like Donald Trump can look at something that is reported and if he doesn’t like it, he says it’s fake news,” says Chris. “This phenomenon is being repeated around the world. Credibility of things are being incorrectly questioned. The people who say the media has ulterior motives often have ulterior motives themselves.”
In recent times, brand safety has been in the spotlight, along with credible journalism. Chris feels that accountability is an important solution to this problem. “The media needs to start questioning itself more and asking itself more questions,” he says.
He reiterated that one important aspect to keep in mind is the fact that the media still acts as a fourth estate, and still holds power to account. Local media publications are one example of how the media continues to act as a fourth estate, giving citizens the platform to be heard, as local media is often a first point of contact.
“Local media should continue speaking to what they know and that’s reporting on local issues without fear of favour. If local media can maintain a standard of quality and credibility, they will be able to stand out from the rest,” he said.
He added that the solution to the current problems faced by media requires a multi-focal approach, with innovation being an important avenue.
“One of the most important things that is not spoken enough about is that we need to innovate. The days of regurgitating are gone. We need to ensure we are more involved with our communities. People don’t feel heard and local media has a massive role to play in that sense. They are the first point of reference.”
Marc du Plessis, Joint CEO of SPARK Media agrees, “Fake news is a global problem and very difficult to identify and avoid. To combat this, an easy solution is to make use of whitelisted, trusted, known publisher market places and websites. We also agree that local media has a crucial part to play in maintaining journalistic credibility, and can confidently say that our local print and online products under the Caxton banner are doing just that.”