12 September, 2007

New journalism, new generation

THE PAST few years has seen considerable debate about the merits of 'new' versus the old or 'legacy' media - print, radio and TV - and the effects this may have on 'journalism'. This week, that debate came to Highway Africa - the continent's largest annual gathering of media intelligentsia in Grahamstown, South Africa.

The dystopian chorus tends to emanate from an old guard who sees journalism as an immutable practice based on fixed values and ideal principles. They nostalgise about the purity of the past and relate how journalism is threatened by new technologies and the young upstarts who challenge the status quo.

There is nothing new in this. The monks who wrote books by hand were not thrilled with Gutenburg and his movable type. Radio hacks had their nose bent out of joint by television, and less than two decades ago, the transition to PCs and desktop publishing offended the sensibilities of many newspaper sub-editors.

Change is inevitable. A thoughtful and critical examination of the impact of any technology on the established value and quality of an existing practice such as journalism needs to be considered - especially in developing contexts such as Africa.

Who benefits?
What can be added through ICTs?
What could be lost?
How can old and new coexist?
The solution is never either/or but will continue to color newsroom cultures for years to come.

Future Journalists
The future of journalism belongs to those who believe in the ethical values of journalism, who competently 'precision storygather' and 'storytell' in the public interest using multiple modalities, and who have the balls to bravely tell the "African story".

The African story is not just about the elite, big business and breaking events. It is about how power affects us all and about how African citizens are every day reclaiming their dignity after centuries of feudal, colonial and authoritarian repression.

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