The influential scholar tackled some of the media’s most pressing questions.

By Busang Senne 

Nobel Memorial Prize winner and renowned American economist Joseph E. Stiglitz was in conversation with Caxton adjunct professor Anton Harber at the closing plenary of the 2019 African Investigative Journalism Conference. 

The discussion covered various themes. First, Stiglitz responded to questions of how media as a sector and industry should adapt to the pressure of social media. 

“One of the problems with the internet is that [social media] were so politically powerful that they effectively got exemption from two important pieces of legislation that [traditional media] is subjected to. Print is words on paper, why should words on an internet forum be different from words on paper?” said Stiglitz.

When asked about how the media should be resourced while maintaining its independent integrity, Stiglitz provided an economic lens of how the media should be funded. He defined investigative journalism in the category of public good along with fire departments, law enforcement, judicial systems and education as a sector that requires public funding and institutions to survive. 

The barriers, boundaries, limitations and potential for journalism were a central focus in how the media should move forward and define its shifting role in exposing corruption and advocating for justice and truth-telling amid socio-economic and cultural changes.

In terms of media as a tool to combat inequality and growing global populism, Stiglitz emphasized the importance of journalism in responding to the widening gaps and imbalances of power. 

“Journalism can play an important role [in combating inequality]. There’s a movement called solutions journalism that basically takes the view that journalists should not just expose the problems, but they should use the power that they have of investigating around the world of where things have worked and give people a sense of optimism and hope,” said Stiglitz. 

Harber, a professor at Wits Journalism and organiser of the flagship event, said in his closing remarks that the conference is not only an opportunity to interrogate the media’s role, learn new skills and witness great stories, but it is also a space to form real connections and networks that enrich and empower the work of investigative journalists. 

“The greatest value is getting together with colleagues and peers…this has been a great opportunity to grow networks of investigative journalists and we need to see more collaboration and support among journalists,” he said.

FEATURED IMAGE: American economist and Nobel Memorial Prize recipient, Joseph E. Stiglitz discusses how important importance of funding for investigative journalism, as it contributes to the knowledge of the public good. This was at the closing session of #AIJC19 which was hosted by renowned journalist, Anton Harber. Photo: Ortal Hadad


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