April 24, 2014

Amplifying the voice of women leaders

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paula-frayCommunication is a core skill for a organisational leaders in the modern era. It requires the ability to sell a vision to an internal staff while influencing an external audience.

Yet research shows that women make up between 17 and 22% of news’ sources. Women are virtually invisible on the opinion pages which drive thought leadership.

With this in mind, frayintermedia has launched its “Women Thought Leadership Programme” to address the diverse needs of high level or senior women in business, public service and non-government organisations.
The first programme will take place from April 2-4, 2014 at Greenwood Manor, Linden, Johannesburg.

“The intense three-day programme with mentoring support seeks to amplify the voice of women leaders in the media. We want to ensure that women’s perspectives are acknowledged as we approach 20 years of celebrating democracy in South Africa,” says MD of frayintermedia, Paula Fray.
Fray added that the programme includes an understanding of the media environment in which business leaders operate, effective usage of media platforms and the ability to craft key messages that meet the needs of the target audience.

The in-depth programme will explore engaging the media with confidence, presentation skills, building and promoting arguments, self-editing and developing a media profile. Candidates will also be exposed social media training and managing media relationships.
“We understand that women leaders have limited time and effective training programmes have to take this into account. In order to ensure a bottom-line impact on the business, the training includes one-on-one mentoring to produce a host of communication tools,” said Fray.
Women in business at board and senior management levels; public relations practitioners; conference speakers; women in government communication departments; women organizations and associations are invited to attend the three-day intense course.

To book, contact Nevasha Naidoo at (011) 706-1160 / 463-8190 or email nevasha@platinumpr.co.za

Storify: Thapelo Mokoena talks money and values

In defence of the Specialist Reporter

As newsrooms shrink and breaking news becomes more digital, more and more media organisations are finding it hard to justify the cost of a beat (specialist) reporter. Stories must be told for the “everyman”, we are told. Specialists are often too immersed in their beats to translate the story for their audience, is an oft-repeated refrain. And so stories become more general, less in-depth and lacking analysis.

A recent opportunity to judge the PwC Tax Reporter of the Year award reminded me of the benefits of specialisation. It’s not that general reporters are not able to adequately cover these issues but the reality is that some stories require more than a quick splash into the subject matter, a clever turn of phrase and a volley of “he said/she said” quotes passing themselves as insightful reportage.

These areas of coverage require in-depth knowledge, a solid network of sources and an inquiring mind willing to challenge conventional views when appropriate. These are reporters who don’t only tell us what happened but why it happened and what it means. They are not solely reliant on press releases to find the story or friendly sources to provide leading quotes. Instead, they find the stories that add value to their audiences and help make sense of their lives.

The reality is that in cash-strapped newsrooms, the specialist reporter is becoming an endangered species. Our assumption is that specialisation is a luxury few can afford. We not only want generalists but we want them to be able to turn a vast range of topics into stories on multiple platforms for different audiences.

So let’s consider then the opportunity cost: In an era when breaking news is digital, when reporters can expect to be scooped by the Twitterati and any internet-savvy person can find almost any information they need if they have the time, what do journalists offer? In an era when everyone thinks they are a reporter, what is the value of the journalist?

Curation. We curate the issues, the facts, the angles that inform. Implicit in the role of the curator is the need for expertise in order to source and organise. Curators of content need an understanding of what issues matter, what facts compel, what angles hook.  So the opportunity cost of eliminating beat reporters is the loss of the uniqueness that creates value that our audience is willing to pay for.

In an interview with Time magazine, journalist and popular author Malcolm Gladwell not only advocated for specialisation but did so specifically in regard to financial journalism. “The issue is not writing. It’s what you write about,” says Gladwell, citing the case of Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Weil who broke the Enron story – something which was only possible because Weil knew how to read a balance sheet.

The role of the generalist is diminishing, says Gladwell. Journalism has to get smarter.

The challenge to get smarter is the challenge of expanding the edges of excellence in our journalism in times when newsrooms are under great pressure – pressure of technological change, transformational demands and shifting business models.

But there is also a challenge for the audience. We get the media we deserve. We vote with our remotes, our subscription fees, our clicks and our silence in the face of mediocre reporting.

Without real investment in specialist reporting, we can expect the law of diminishing returns to take effect. No longer confined to local information sources, our audiences will find new sources of information.

 

Experienced specialist reporters are a reminder of the potential for excellence in media. We should not squander that potential for short-term budget gains.

 

 

 

 

 

Show, don’t tell: how to strengthen editorial with detail

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How do some journalists manage to strengthen their editorial with detail that takes their reader, viewer or listener to the scene of the story?
Speaking at the 2010 Narrative Journalism Conference during last year’s Wits University Power Reporting conference, authors Melinda Ferguson and Leonie Joubert both shared a trade secret: They were avid journal keepers.
In this age of technology, the journal seems like an anachronism: Outlook is our diary; our thoughts are scattered across Twitter, Facebook and rushed emails.
While completing her Masters on Marion Island, Joubert recalled that she “journalled compulsively” and this made her narrative stronger.
“I was quite moved by the whole process, so my journal was emotional as well. I was fascinated by this place and I think that the fascination came through in my journal notes … and that proved to be very powerful when the writing process came about,” recalled Joubert
Her journal helped provide the multiple entry points into climate change stories which later led to the first of a series of award-winning books.
Ferguson, in turn, kept notes on anything and everything even while she was in a drug haze and this helped ensure that when she wrote her best selling book “Smacked” it was filled with the detail that helped bring her story alive.
In doing so, both were able to follow that old adage: “Show, don’t tell.”
Any tool that helps strengthen our writing is worth adopting. A leading narrative writer once told me he took photographs to help him set the scene in his story. Since then, I have carried a small digital camera to take photographs wherever I go. And, whenever I transfer these into my computer, I am surprised at how much detail I missed at the scene: the faces of people lost in the crowd; the details of the landscape swept over in the rush of the moment…
While useful for daily breaking news, the journal and writer’s camera become invaluable for long-term features and investigations – allowing the writer to refresh their memory and bring in precise detail into the content.
Recording even the mundane allows the writer to observe the change and context – what might not be interesting today could have a new significance down the road once the reporting process is completed.
The journal also helps us hone our powers of observation. As stories get shorter and less detailed, the journal reinforces the art of long-form writing.
frayintermedia will be focusing on these and other tools of the trade during various courses over the next year. Click here for upcoming courses.

Zambian journalism has come a long way

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 Miriam Zimba of the Times of Zambia gives her insight into the state of Zambian Journalism and the challenges faced by women journalists in her country.

1. What is the state of press freedom in your country?

The battle for press freedom in Zambia has come a long way and we have now reached a pinnacle where we can safely say the media in Zambia is enjoying relative freedom.
Having practised as a journalist for 19  years starting in the so called dark days of the one party state when privately run newspapers or broadcast stations were not allowed, to this point when the airwaves have been liberalised and privately run newspapers are flourishing, I can say the media in my country has come of age. The fact that privately owned newspapers and television stations and community radio stations are allowed to publish and broadcast without inhibition speaks of the extent to which the present government which ushered in multiparty politics is willing to let democracy flourish.  For you cannot talk of a true democracy without a free press.
However, despite these milestones, more still remains to be done to firmly entrench press freedom.  We still have laws in place that impinge on press freedom such as criminal libel for which a convicted journalist can go to jail. Criminal libel should be repealed and libel should only be a civil matter attracting a fine.  The freedom of Information Bill which has been debated for too long needs to be enacted into law to allow journalists access to information.  We also hope the new constitution will enshrine freedom of the press unlike now when it is interpreted as part of the clause on freedom of expression which is totally different from the former.

2.What are the biggest challenges for women journalists in your country?

Journalism is still male dominated and the ladder for upward mobility for female journalists is still steep. There are reasons for this and  one of them is motherhood which costs women’s progression.  The maternity leave periods are enough excuse for bosses(who are men in most cases) to by pass a woman for promotion in preference to a male colleague.  By the time maternity leave is over, the male colleague will have moved a step ahead.
However I must say female journalists are being recognised for their perseverance as seen in an increase in the number of women editors heading desks although we are yet to see a woman head a media organisation.’

3. How do you and other women journalists face the challenges?

They say if you cannot beat them, join them and that is what most of us are doing. Some beats like covering disaters, riots, football matches which were seen as too musculine  are being covered side by side with the male counterparts.  Women have become more assertive hence the increase in number of editors thanks to the women’s movement in the country which has helped women believe in themselves.  The important thing however is for women to tackle hard tasks while still retaining their femininity.

This interview forms part of the IWMF Network Voices series.

Does the media ignore the plight of the poor?

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The Journalism Dialogues come to East London

The Frere Hospital baby deaths scandal raised awareness about the huge challenges faced by under-serviced parts of the country such as the Eastern Cape.

What is the role of the media in highlighting the stories affecting the poor?

Do media focus on the affluent in a bid to increase advertising profits?

Do media widen the information gap between the rich and the poor?

What is the ideal balance between elite / business interests and poor / social interests?

Don’t miss this crucial public debate with the Press Ombudsman Mr Joe Thloloe; Daily Dispatch Editor Phylicia Oppelt; Grocott’s Mail Editor Steven Lang and regional leaders. Debate this and more at the Journalism Dialogue to be held in East London this month.

Date:Tuesday 30 September

Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm

Place: Fusion House, No 36 Darlington Road, East London.

Parking is available. Refreshments are provided.

Organised by frayintermedia in partnership with the Mail&Guardian as well as local media houses in the regions the debates are held, the monthly Journalism Dialogues have got journalists, policy makers and the public talking about journalism in South Africa, a critical pillar of our democratic society. The main aims of the Dialogues are to foster a common understanding of the role journalism plays, to examine how journalists and the media operate and to provide a forum for journalists to discuss how they practice their craft in a transforming and developing country.

Contact person: Avile Nkushubana. To RSVP please contact Avile on 011 341 0767 or email admin@frayintermedia.com

Click here for transcriptions of previous Journalism Dialogues.

Opinion does not include discrimination

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The media has no right to discriminate and remove dignity from its subjects, even if the Constitution does ensure them the right to an opinion.

This was the conclusion of the sixth frayintermedia Mail&Guardian Journalism Dialogues that took place in Cape Town in August.

Taking its cue from Jon Qwelane’s controversial opinion piece on homosexuality the Journalism Dialogues under the topic: When does free speech in the media become hate speech thrashed out the do’s and don’ts of opinion pieces.

Whilst panelist Brendan Boyle, Business Times Associate Editor, said the media had the right to an opinion, panelist Dr. Yvette Abrahams, Commissioner with the Commission on Gender Equality, said she was shocked by some of these opinions expressed in South African media.

Boyle’s perspective on the issue of media license and freedom of the media to print opinion was that journalists had the right to an opinion – enshrined in the Constitution He noted, however, that certain comments often existed merely to sell newspapers and gain a reaction from the public.

Facilitator of the Dialogues, Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe, said whilst this was true, journalists did not have the right to be discriminatory as was the case in the Qwelane piece.

According to Thloloe, Qwelane’s comments were in breech of the Journalism Code of Conduct.

Thloloe said that the piece was seen to discriminate against homosexuals and that it removed dignity from that preferred sexual orientation. The right to opinion did not allow for this.

Dr. Abrahams said she was often shocked by the South African media – not just by the opinions expressed, but also in the very chauvinistic way in which reporting was taking place in the country more than a decade after democracy had been declared.

She said that according to research, only 7% of sources quoted in newspapers were female and that the media was largely to blame for the public notion that women were not equal to men.

Vanessa Ludwig, Director of the Triangle Project and also a panelist, agreed with Abrahams that the media had significant strides to make in terms of fair reportage.

“You’ve got to examine the medium used to create conversation. It does not always work to just throw in a statement and let havoc reign,” she said in reference to Qwelane’s comments that homosexuals were abnormal to society.

Dr. Abrahams said it was important for the media to remember that whilst it did have a duty to report the truth, that dignity should be upheld as well.

Tabloid newspapers were heavily criticised for removing dignity from the subjects in the articles printed.

There was a comment from the audience that daily and weekly newspapers could also be found to be lacking in awarding dignity to the subjects written about.

Said Dr. Abrahams: “Why is it that we read about the young black lesbian, who was raped in Khayalitsha?”

Her comment questioned the media’s unequal focus of attention on homosexuals.

Her recommendation was for renewed commitment from the media to ensure they were not being gender biased in their reportage.

In conclusion Ludwig said that she wanted to see more editors controlling the ways in which journalists were allowed to get away with blatant stereotypes and unfair comment.