Mmegi Blogs :: A media that doesn't inspire public confidence- a recipe for disaster, an assault on our democracy
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Last Updated
Wednesday 18 October 2017, 06:00 am.
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A media that doesn't inspire public confidence- a recipe for disaster, an assault on our democracy

The media without a doubt plays a key role in the development and maintenance of any democracy. The media is a critical player as an oversight body into governance and informing the general populace of events that are ongoing within the country.
By Owen Nsala Wed 20 Sep 2017, 13:13 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: A media that doesn't inspire public confidence- a recipe for disaster, an assault on our democracy








In its quest to inform, the effect of that lies in people becoming knowledgeable and whatever is read may become of a persuasive nature and influence to the reader in future decisions. Many readers will take what appears in newspapers as gospel truth and put very little effort or attempt in verifying or scrutinising sensational reports from the media.

To this end and given the key space that the media plays in our day-to-day lives, there is need that the media must come across as credible as possible. The reports being made by the fourth estate must of course be for and in the public interest. The reports must carry substance and steer as far away from sensationalised mockery and jokes. The media must not use the power it possesses to attack public figures who do not have a similar platform to publicly air their rebuttals in similar manner, fashion and sting as a newspaper headline or article would.

If it becomes apparent that the media has lost its plot, the biggest loser at the end of the day becomes our democracy. If people give up on reading newspapers simply on account of their lack of credibility or on account of silly headlines which are not educative but comical, then we run a risk of having a key player in a democracy sidelined. We run a risk of having a government that would then do as it pleases knowing that the key watchdog is on its deathbed and has lost credibility and sting. 

A less than credible media industry clearly vindicates President Khama and many political and civic leaders who have thrown scorn at media houses for  their lack of professionalism and failure to adhere to well known principles of ethical journalism. With a growing chorus by many civic leaders on the unsatisfactory credentials of our media houses, it may be time for self-introspection by our journalists. The argument that civic leaders despise the media simply on account of the exposes cannot sell anymore. It is way more than that and very soon the people will move from the side of the media to the side of civic leaders who continue discrediting the media. Therein lies the danger, in that once politicians win the war and malign the media as a non-entity, their word then becomes gospel truth.

The credibility of journalists’ lies in the nature of the stories

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published and the worth attached to those stories. Reporting on issues that are far from the public interest, but may interest the public may potentially disarm the media of its worth. Reporting on non-issues and bar or salon gossip similarly has the potential of loosening the credibility of the media and as earlier stated, the effect is likely to be felt on our democracy and governance. It may become hard for newspapers to win the trust and will of the people in future. The downside to it is that once the people are unable to ascertain who to believe between newspaper reports and politicians, there is a likely inclination to support the politician and rubbish the newspaper. Even truthful reports would receive a similar sigh and disgust  as does happen to the silly headlines that sometimes cover our newspapers.

It is important that the media must move away from petty reporting and concentrate on its meaningful role in the upholding of the rule of law, the dispensation of justice and the overall maintenance of our democracy. The media has a multi-dimensional role to play in the promotion of society’s values and virtues as well as in the dispensation of justice. The media can become instrumental in uncovering crime and further plays a role in highlighting failures of public institutions, bodies and persons.

In its multi-faceted duties and responsibilities, the media however has a reciprocal obligation of maintaining its good name and a clean health bill. The public expects that reports being made in the newspapers are meant to serve the good of the public. The public demands that before the media houses tarnish the credibility, standing and worth of public persons, then first and foremost, the media houses must demonstrate a sense and semblance of worth and good standing. A reader must not think twice on whether to believe a particular story simply on account of mistrust on the journalist given past reports.

The authority of the media is possessed neither of the purse nor the sword- ultimately it rests on sustained public confidence on its moral sanction. Public confidence is not an incidental or peripheral aspect of the media industry. It is a fundamental and essential component of it. The media therefore must endeavour to maintain public confidence at the top of its priority list. The stories published must similarly inspire public reading and confidence.

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