#TheDisrupters: Currently the group executive editor at Independent Media, Karima Brown has been noticed, and often criticised, by the industry for her unapologetic, unique approach to journalism, particularly political reporting.
Having worked with her at CNBC Africa, I know for sure that she has always played by her own rules and strives to change the game. “It does not happen in a vacuum, it is not valueless, it is not without prejudice and it isn’t without bias,” she says of her reporting style. In other words, the journalist who is reporting always brings themselves along with the story.
“I’ve always put my views out there and argued that reporters and journalists have experiences and that come to their work. I’ve claimed my history, life experiences and ideology in my work. My responsibility as a journalist is to be balanced, accurate and fair, but I’m not going to be denied my history and my background. It’s important to own that as a journalist,” Brown adds.
She explains that she is one of the very few people in a senior position in South African media who puts forward the controversial belief that there is no such thing as objectivity or news without bias.
“The normative dominant narrative in South Africa is captured in neo-liberal, white privilege and that is perceived as normal”
Brown’s approach to journalism has certainly ruffled a few feathers along the way. “The normative dominant narrative in South Africa is captured in neo-liberal, white privilege and that is perceived as normal. I’ve always argued that my job as a journalist is to challenge that dominant narrative,” says Brown.
She also believes that the tendency in South African media is to reduce the country and the African continent to the sum total of their problems and challenges. She would like to see more stories being told about the complex individuals who are living on the continent and is trying to push for this approach to be utilised more.
Of course, Brown also wants more people within the industry to disrupt and do things differently. Independent Media, whose philosophy is that staff is the company’s most valuable resource, employs over 1 000 people. Part of Brown’s job is growing and ensuring the future of the business. “We live in a world that is interconnected, a world that has changed so drastically. If you don’t disrupt and innovate you are going to be left behind. Someone is going to come and eat your lunch,” she says.
Brown finds it very difficult to describe herself – she doesn’t like talking about herself. But, the one strong word that does come up repeatedly is ‘curious’. “I am a very curious person who wants to constantly understand and eventually explain the contradictions of our society. I have strong views, but I like to be convinced and have my mind changed,” she explains.
What can we expect next from Brown? Independent Media is focusing on innovations in technology, including mobile TV and TV for internet. She’s involved in projects like mobile journalism, online and print products for the African continent. “The biggest advent of disruption in our industry is the advancement of technology. The future is digital,” concludes Brown.
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