COMMENTARY: Journalism in the digital age

SHARE   |   Sunday, 19 July 2015   |   By Staff Writer

Journalism is an important calling, but it is not an easy line of work. And it is becoming increasingly more dangerous. Journalists should give a voice to the voiceless, expose injustices and holds leaders accountable
The media must ensure that readers are armed with the information they need to effect change, to make decisions about whom to vote for, and ultimately to hold the parties and the people who voters put in positions of power accountable. Both political and community leaders must respect the public's right to know and must use openness and transparency when engaging in public affairs. These leaders must sustain a legal and political climate that nurtures and protects media freedom, even when the media throws unfair and inaccurate reports at them.
To underscore the importance of press freedom and the key role journalists play in a democracy the theme for the 2015 World Press Freedom day commemoration "Let Journalism thrive. Towards better reporting, gender equality and media safety in the digital age", was chosen.
As the theme also suggests, the impact of the digital age on journalism has become centre stage, creating a challenge for the media to reform or perish. As others have suggested the media only have themselves to blame for the decline in the quality of their stories, which in turn is driving the readers away to other sources of news being the internet. But all is not lost, as the media has an opportunity to redeem itself by providing well researched and investigative reports, which other platforms are not delivering. Continuing to reproduce press statements, speeches, recycling of material and uplifting material from social media networks can only work to the detriment of journalism. Material lifted from social media platforms, and the internet in general should instead be used as news sources providing tips and leads, which can be pursued by journalists in their quest to provide quality reporting.
The current environment in which journalists operate (digital age) has created opportunities and challenges for journalism in equal measure. Now, ordinary people can use the internet to disseminate information/ news stories. Such posting by ordinary people about events they witness on social media platforms cannot always be taken at face value. Those postings may help provide journalists with news tips, but it remains essential that journalists confirm the facts about the events in order to write truly well-informed stories. Journalists must verify the facts of the story in order to avoid losing credibility. As eyes and ears of a society journalists also must be accurate, objective and comprehensive. Personal and political views must not shade a journalist's reporting of the facts. Stories should be objective. Most importantly journalists must check the facts before a story is published. Without these practices, sensationalism will creep in.
Journalists face harassment, dangerous working conditions, and jail sentences in their quest to publish stories, hence the need for governments to re-evaluate levels of press freedom around the world and to defend the media from attacks on their independence. In 2015, Freedom House rated Botswana only partly free when it assessed freedom of the press, thus buttressing the need for a Freedom of Information Act. Media freedom keeps societies and economies vibrant, energetic and strong. It provides the transparency and accountability needed to ensure the success of democracy and the continuation of good governance. Without adequate access to independent information, citizens in a democracy cannot understand or assess the decisions made on their behalf by their elected representatives and by others in positions of power. The media should form strategic partnerships with key stakeholders to improve the media climate in Botswana. These include universities who produce journalism graduates, and the US Embassy who support the media through a spectrum of programming and outreach, including professional development training, journalist exchanges, visiting speakers, advocacy for access to information, and monitoring of press freedoms in the annual human rights report.
As other have said before "you cannot have a democratic political culture without open media and open access to information"

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