The State of the Nation address, statues, xenophobia, signal jamming, load shedding and more have been a catalyst to many to step back and take a long, hard look at our beautiful country, says Nicole Capper.
Working as a PR and communication specialist, and talking to media daily for over a decade, my personal introspection included the growing challenges in the media landscape – political leanings, commercial versus editorial and a rapidly evolving digital landscape, among others.
We have a wide diversity of clients so we trade stories related to medical, health, technology, media and marketing, art, beauty, fashion, music and more. Which, of course, dictates that we deal with media across all channels.
Print: Under increasing pressure
Most of the traditional print channels continue to uphold their editorial values while working in an increasingly pressurised environment with dropping circulation figures and increased digital media competition. Where this pressure shows is in the lack of specialist desks, one journalist dealing with multiple beats and the juniorisation of news rooms.
Some of the newspaper print titles are pulling this off with alacrity and continue to show editorial excellence, investigative ethics and the verification of sources; some are drowning in a riot of resignations, inexperienced editors and political pressures. It’s immediately apparent which we are dealing with.
Will print die? There is the ongoing debate, but we hope not – some of the best journalists we’ve ever dealt with are still in print and if our story is accepted, we do a dance of achievement in the office. Often, the breaking news story broken by consumer journalism and digital news is investigated and detailed in print.
There is also the migration of journalists from one publishing giant to another – usually a solid indication of which title is continuing with journalism of integrity and which is employing strategies that no longer empower quality journalism (or are dancing to agendas outside of providing the news).
News wires: Up and running
We loved SAPA. Specifically the court and political teams. With the launch of the independent news wires – run by the very entities that supported SAPA, we are working with them all (at least those that are up and running)! It was with relief that we noted the proliferation of channels dedicated to ensuring that independent news still has a place. We’re still finding our feet with them, so no opinion offered here.
Digital: A move to cherry picking content
They love content, and we love providing content. Press releases are almost a thing of the past for this channel (unless we’re pitching for an interview). Infographics, multimedia, articles, opinion pieces – if they’re well constructed and written – are usually accepted. In spite of many opinions to the contrary, we very rarely find that we’re dealing with channels that will just run anything we send to them. They’re as content savvy as print, as aware of their readers, and in many cases, the editors never sleep. Yes – there is a high amount of consumer journalism and in the less mainstream channels, very little fact checking. And yes, we often hear the mantra that the days of teams on the ground are over.
We beg to differ. We increasingly see an investment by digital news channels into quality journalistic teams. It’s a constantly changing landscape that demands rigorous deadlines, transparency and good writing. We note a move towards cherry picking content – which we like. There is a lot of gumph out there, but there are also channels where excellence is demanded. Now to monetise them…
Broadcast: Radio is huge, TV a minefield
Radio is still huge. And there is still investment. We do find that some stations have gone the route of supporting advertisers only when it comes to interviews, but they are thankfully, the minority. Television is a minefield. SABC has not successfully negotiated the digital migration, the commercial stations are…commercial stations… and there is an intricate negotiation involved that has increased over the years. Our success with TV news depends on what other news is happening on the day, as it always has done. But now we also have to contend with what editorial policy classifies as ‘news’. Politics is unfortunately very much alive and kicking.
In a nutshell, while there are still the media out there fighting for independence (and we have to tip our collective hats to them), there is a sinister move, across all forms of media, towards political ownership of media that is becoming increasingly evident from ground level. We have had to adapt our own media communication policies to accommodate it and we pray, we really do, that the press code wins out at the end.
At the end of the day, without accountability and independence, there is no freedom.
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