Panel discussion laments ways the media has contributed to its own credibility crisis.
The site, newstools.co.za, will buckle down on the trend of “churnalism”, a word combining “churn” and “journalism”. Bird said many journalists have come to rely on churning out press releases which have just been copied and pasted.
“The site is in beta stage and many bugs still need to be addressed, but for now the site is available to any member of the public who wants to find out if a piece of writing is an original or not,” said Einkamerer.
Bird notes the decline of journalists working in newsrooms over the past years and at the same time the increase in the number of people in public relations .[pullquote align=”right”]“You can follow every single link to an article where the same paragraph has been used so you can determine where the paragraph comes from and how reliable the source is.”[/pullquote]
“We are seeing more and more stories that are being ‘churnalised’ and spin doctors are pleased with the new trend in media because they are getting copy all the time, which comes from the same source,” said Bird.
The website plans to name and shame journalists and media houses who churn out recycled news and press releases.
The site will allow users to find out who is “churnalising” the most.
“When you use our website you search a particular article or paragraph, it locates the same article fairly quickly and reveals where it has been found before,” Einkamerer said.
It also shows the percentage of the article’s match to other articles already online.
“You can follow every single link to an article where the same paragraph has been used so you can determine where the paragraph comes from and how reliable the source is,” said Einkamerer.
Einkamerer said journalism is the pursuit of truth and the website will allow for more transparency and bring back accountability. He believes that true journalists will get more credit and those who are lazy will be exposed.
The South African media serves a diverse audience in terms of class, gender, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality but offers no diversity, according to Prof Tawana Kupe, a prominent media scholar.
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), researched and compiled the report. Thandi Smith and Lethabo Dibetso from MMA said it was critical that content by the public broadcaster represented South Africa in all its diversity. They said they had monitored SABC’s programming from April 1, 2012 to May 15, 2012 and discovered that 76% of all programmes broadcast were in English across SABC 1, 2 and 3.
They also noted variety of children’s programmes and very few programmes that “spoke” to people in rural areas in the own languages. There was also concern over the dominance of North American programmes.
Smith said 62% of news sources were organisations’ representatives and spokespersons, and one “always knew what they were going to say”. Eighty percent of the sources were seen to be male, and they recommended that diverse and equitable sourcing be inculcated in all SABC newsrooms.
Dibetso said the SABC was failing in its mandate to “be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, education and entertainment meeting the broadcasting needs of the entire South African population in terms of age, race, gender, interests and backgrounds” as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act.
Carol Mohlala, from Save our SABC Coalition said she was unhappy about the non-representation of Ndebele and Sepedi and wanted to know what ICASA and parliament were thinking about SABC’s performance.
Responding to the issue of repeats, Ingrid Bruynse from Bright Media said repeats were no always a bad thing if they related to children’s education. “But poor repeats serve absolutely nothing.”
Akieda Mohamed, representing South African Screen Federation, said her organisation had face “a bleak, bleak time for the past five years” and had a vested interest in the functioning of the public broadcaster.