True news in the age of digital media

The business of journalism is to uncover the truth, while being fair and balanced in seeking the truth, Minister Counsellor for Public Affairs, US Embassy, Craig Dicker told over 100 journalists who were attending the Business of Truth Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa last week.

More than 100 journalists across the world converged in Johannesburg for a digital media and journalism conference that was moderated by renowned media experts from around the world.

In his opening remarks at the two-day intense conference that was held from November 28-29, Dicker reminded journalists that their core-business was that of truth telling while noting that although digital media had changed the media landscape, media ethics should be maintained.

“Your business as journalists is to uncover the truth, bearing in mind that the business of truth is a process to uncover the truth for journalists.

“Be fair and balanced in seeking the truth in the face of new media and technologies. Digital media has changed the media landscape but journalism ethics have to be maintained. The business of truth is really the process of truth,” he says.

Moderators of the conference included leading Ghanaian undercover investigator, Anus Anus, Cherie Blair of Foundation of Women Mentor from Uganda, Amy Brittain, investigative reporter with The Washington Post (US), Alan Soon, co-founder and chief executive officer for Splice Newsroom in Singapore among others.

Sponsored by the US Department of State Office of Citizen Exchanges through World Learning Organisation and Digital Communication Network, the forum focused on current trends and latest developments in investigative journalism and the way digital information technologies are reshaping journalism, communication and society behaviour in Africa and around the world.

Furthermore, the conference was an international association connecting professionals of the digital age from a variety of backgrounds, in order to generate ideas, tools, and products for media outlets, civil society organisations, businesses and public authorities especially in an age of the spread of fake news owing to social media penetration.

The first day of the conference pinned discussions on the standards, values, practices while focusing on challenges and opportunities for investigative reporters in Africa and globally.

Presenting on what journalists can learn from digital communicators and influencers, chief executive officer for Flow Communication in South Africa, Tara Turkington reminded the journalists to note the difference between journalists and media influencers.

Turkington reiterated that the motive of the journalist was to tell the truth, while motives of media influencers’ were agenda setting and influence behaviour change.

“There is a difference between a journalist and a social media influencer. The former is objective and the latter is subjective. You need to think about what you post and put out on social media as a journalist. You need to be very strategic about it.

“Journalists need to embrace social media as they execute their duty of telling the truth, which is the main motive of journalism. News values should continue to guide journalists.”

“WhatsApp and Facebook are the biggest social media platforms being used in Africa also although penetration to the internet is the worst here in Africa.

“Digital media has changed what it means to be a journalist today. I believe that media has an enormous amount of potential. While these technologies give you great power they also provide great challenges.”

Her presentation noted that the media was facing a myriad of challenges such as disinformation, sensationalisation, monetisation, poor quality, low media literacy and self-censorship arguing that there was need to address these challenges as a matter of urgency.

Turkington said the traditional media can ignore embracing digital media at its own peril as the world, Africa included was fast embracing digital media.

“Social media has become so powerful such that one in three marriages/relationships are starting online and are lasting longer.”

Zimbabwean journalist, Tatenda Chitagu who was also one of the panellists at the conference noted that tradition media remained relevant even in the presence of social media.

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