DIGITAL media experts have said there is need for journalism to revisit the issue of ethics in light of the changes the media is going through in the new media ecosystem.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Speaking during a Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)-organised meeting on ethical challenges facing the media in the digital age in Harare on Thursday, experts said the production and dissemination of news had changed, posing new ethical and quality control issues.
Financial Gazette News Editor Maggie Mzumara said issues of privacy, objectivity and fairness were compromised by the new media.
“In the digital era, we have more subjectivity. We have bloggers, for example, passing their opinion. Internet users are giving us opinion instead of objectivity,” she said.
Mzumara added that people’s right to privacy was also compromised by the use of technology, while false information transmitted via the gadgets had also led to false stories such as the purported “deaths” of prominent people.
Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) Online Editor John Mokwetsi said journalism needed to go back to time-honoured ethics of journalism that premise on accuracy and fairness.
“The ethics have not changed. What has changed is the way we produce and consume news. In the 24-hour news rush and the fight for eyeballs, credible journalism has been crucified. While I appreciate what user submitted content is adding in terms of news we can use, I am cautiously aware of the pitfalls of abandoning verification and putting too much trust on such content,” Mokwetsi said.
He gave examples of a story on a local website that wrongfully announced the death of a prominent politician as typical pitfalls of mainstream media crowd-sourcing wrong information.
“We are not in competition with citizen journalism media, but we are complementing each other. We recently introduced a user-generated content site called the AMH Voices platform where we give readers a platform. We are aware of the need to report on community stories and this is what AMH Chairman Trevor Ncube is calling for and that is news we can use. News that gives the reader a solution,” he said.
ZiFM head of news Kelvin Jakachira said the advent of the new media had helped in information dissemination, but had also brought about challenges denting the journalism profession.
“Anyone with the right gadget can now report events online, but do they follow all the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why) and an H (how) for the whole story to qualify as a journalistic piece? The obvious challenge is that some of the people are not journalists and do not either understand or comprehend the ethics of the profession,” Jakachira said.
He said some social media users where posting events and harmful information without verifying facts with lots of it turning out to be concocted.