'Journalism's future in digital age hinges on ethical conduct'

By Staff reporter | 05 May 2019 at 17:28hrs
THE Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) held the annual Bornwell Chakaodza Memorial Lecture Series for the first time outside Harare last Thursday.

The public lecture, titled "The Future of Journalism in the Digital Age" was held at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust)  as part of VMCZ's World Press Freedom Day commemorations.

Guest speaker, Sunday News editor, Mr Limukani Ncube said the digital age had changed the practice of journalism  as well as the newsroom culture. He said journalism had a future in the digital age if it reverted back to its basic principles and ethics.

"Of significance to the history of journalism is that now we are at a time where almost every aspect of production, reporting and the reception of news is changing. The newsroom roles of a journalist are changing. We have moved from a typical newsroom to content factories where a journalist has to produce content for many platforms including print, online, radio and television platforms," said Mr Ncube.

Journalists have as a result been pushed by these forces to adapt to new trends and it remains important for media houses to continue training journalists, Mr Ncube said.

He said for journalism to remain relevant it had to reinvent itself in the digital age and do so while maintaining the basic journalistic principles.

"I argue that for journalism to retain its place in the sun it has to keep reinventing itself but that does not mean the principles of journalism should change. Just like when a snake sheds off its skin it does not change into another reptile of some sort," Mr Ncube told the attendees, who included Journalism and Media Studies students.

He pointed out that emergence of fake news has endangered the public's trust in the mainstream media.

"We are faced with all these adversities as the media industry that arise from lack of trust that people have on us because of the resurgence of fake news. Then what can save journalism? Only journalism can save journalism. What we are saying is journalism can save itself by going back to the basics, by going back to the basic principles and fulfilling normative roles."

He said the media can still overcome the calamity of fake news by reconnecting with audiences through principled and ethical conduct so as to establish trust.

"With trends such as the spread of fake news on social media there has never been a time that journalists have been more relevant. That's why I am saying the future is still bright. This might be the best time and avenue for growth for media outlets so they can set facts right and dispel half-truths", said Mr Ncube.

Adding to the conversation, Nust Journalism and Media Studies department chairperson Mr Thabani Mpofu said the media had lost the gatekeeping function which previously prevented fake news from reaching the public as many people now have access to the internet. Mr Mpofu said, the media now had to act as gate watchers looking out for fake news online so that they could point it out and set the facts right in a bid to keep the public well informed.

VMCZ executive director Mr Loughty Dube said  VMCZ came up with the series to honour the life and works of the late veteran journalist and editor, Mr Chakaodza, after his passing on in 2012.



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