Future of journalism in the spotlight at local conference

COVERING THE BIG NEWS: Business Day editor Songezo Zibi. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

COVERING THE BIG NEWS: Business Day editor Songezo Zibi. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

This year’s Menell Media Exchange conference played host to much needed debates and commentary about the future of the media industry. 

The conference, which took place in Sandton, Johannesburg this Friday and Saturday, was not short on humour as delegates and speakers confronted the prickly issues of the future of the media industry and sustainability in the digital age. The second day kicked off with a comedy roast of South African media by the Late Night News (LNN) team of Loyiso Gola and Kagiso Lediga.

The duo took a stab at almost everyone in a media roast, including controversial media veteran Allister Sparks, to news organisations like the Sunday Times and the Mail&Guardian to radio host Redi Thlabi.

 

Celebrated radio personality John Perlman of KayaFM joined media strategist Shaka Sisulu, commentator Palesa Morudu and Business Day editor Songezo Zibi on the first panel that focused on how South African media covered the big stories of the day. These included the coverage of xenophobic violence in South Africa along with Nkandla. Perlman offered advice to journalists struggling with coverage of big stories which can be chaotic: “We need to be comfortable with confusion and not being right,” he said.

Sisulu was critical of what he referred to as a predetermined narrative in the media and added that the South African story needs to be told in a more diversified way.

While Zibi received much applause for his contribution to the panel discussion.

Wits University had a strong presence on the second day of the conference. Wits Journalism’s Ashfaaq Carim and Dinesh Balliah  formed part of the panel discussion on new ways of storytelling. TV lecturer Indra de Lanerolle presented a short talk on the 10 things you need to know about South Africa’s digital space.

Andrew Phelps from the New York Times highlighted the challenges when faced with breaking news in the digital world. “No one remembers who was right first but everyone remembers when you were first and wrong.” He said that journalists need to choose accuracy over speed when working with online stories.

The conference wrapped up on a positive and optimistic note although the uncertainty around the future of journalism and in particularly, sustainability, will linger long after.