“You are tarnishing our reputation”
Journalism and the media has always been a great passion of mine. In fact, from as far back as I can remember, books, writing and information gathering have made up a great deal of my life.
I was obsessed with all things media! I felt like the defender of truth and the God of justice! Such a powerful position to be in . The pen indeed is mightier than the sword, I though! All I had to do was go to a story, observe, ask questions, get stories from both sides, get an opinion from relevant authority figure, and voila! The perfect recipe for a great balanced story!
I did my internship in the fourth year of my studies at the prestigious Star Newspaper in South Africa, Johannesburg. There I learned that accurate reporting was key! A wrong name, a mispelt name, a wrong date, could mean the world’s difference to the people I was reporting on.
On return to Namibia after my studies, I got my first real job at a broadcaster, and I was ready to take on the world – armed with qualifications, practice and a passion for my job! If there was a truth to be told, I was going to tell it!
Unfortunately, it was not too long into my very important job, that I realized that not all journalists shared the same ethics and principles that I did about journalism and the media with regards to fact and truth, and balance.
It happened. The reason why I knew for a fact that the information the nation would be reading in the paper was NOT true, was because the story was about me!
I was there, every step of the way when the event, that we shall not mention because it is irrelevant, happened. However, when I read the story in the paper, it was a completely different version! I was shocked!! Was it possible that there were some journalists who would compromise their journalist ethics to publish a story! It could not be. But it was.
The journalist lied! Or, the journalist did not bother to get the correct information, and decided to write his own information based on his own suspicions. How crazy it that!
Statements such as: “journalists lie, and journalists twist the truth” caused me much dismay. It was sad and really disturbing for me to think that it could be true.
There were unethical journalists amongst us, and they gave all of us a really bad name! I was naive, indeed!
Recently, I started working for a government institution. A journalist called, asked me a question or two about how I felt about my new position. I answered. It was an off the record conversation as far as I was concerned because the journalist never alerted me to the fact that they were busy writing a story, and wanted a quote from me. (For those who don’t know, they should inform you.)
Next day the paper comes out. My unauthorised quote about how I feel about my new job, as well as some questions that I apparently did not answer because they did not get hold of me were in the paper.
The media has an important role to play. If you had gone through any kind of training or had accumulated enough experience in the field you would understand that role.
It is time that those journalists who have lost their way, sit down and re-evaluate why they joined the profession.
Next time when you decide to publish a story that you know is not factual, or that is not representative of all sides of the story, or that you do not have enough information on, it is time to quit. Do your job. Investigate. Get all sides of the story. Get all the information. Be honest and fair. Be objective. Have balance. If you cannot do any of [these] you no longer belong with us. Perhaps take up a hobby and start writing fictitious tales about fairies…or something.
Deputy Director: Information and Research
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(Contribution shortened – Ed.)