“As language barriers break down and cell towers rise, there will be no end to the number of new voices, potential sources, citizen journalists and amateur photographers looking to contribute. This is good… The effect of having so many new actors involved, connected through a range of online platforms into the great, diffuse media system, is that major media outlets will report less and validate more… The role of the mainstream media will become primarily one of an aggregator, custodian and verifier, a credibility filter…” — Eric Schmidt & Jared Cohen in The New Digital Age (John Murray)
A recent article in the Washington Informer looks at that difficult issue of journalism vs advocacy in Africa. This was an issue I found myself debating with some of the Reuters Foundation tutors at the Twenty Ten journalism training programme I was involved with a few weeks ago in Burkina Faso.
The debate of course is the extent to which journalists should inform and expose, and then leave the advocacy groups and general society to chase up the issues and hold politicians and the powers-that-be to account. My belief is that they should focus on the reporting of the facts and the background, giving the full story. Then, if advocacy groups don’t take the matter forward, pursuing justice, they should then be asking questions around that and reporting those facts to the public.
The Washington Informer article presents a different view, using the Kivu Women’s Media Association, based in the Congo, as an example. Radio journalist Chouchou Namabe Nabintu feels that journalism and advocacy can not be separated in war-torn countries: “The question I receive every day is how we can disassociate our work as journalists and activists. We can’t because of the war context in our country. We have to find a way to help voiceless women because we have the power of media and we use it to make that fight.”