Local reporting under threat?

American media scholar Eric Alterman writes about how the ongoing demise of newspapers in the USA is threatening investigative journalism at the local leve, with the danger that the lack of good watchdogs will allow corruption to thrive. Read a summary here or Alterman’s full article here.

In South Africa we’ve never really had strong investigative journalism at the local level (aside from one or two exceptions) and from what I hear, many local papers are increasingly focused on producing poorly disguised advertorial for local businesses and charities. Organisations seeking coverage are being told to get in line behind advertisers, which creates a huge problems for those charities, NGOs and CBOs which don’t have a budget for advertising.

Right now I can think of three implications for those seeking media exposure at the local level. Firstly, expect to see less and less serious content in local papers. Secondly, local organisations will have to start being much more creative when thinking of how to make the news. The photo of the cheque handover is no longer enough. We need to come with stories so complelling, that they simply can’t be ignored. Secondly, organisations need to think about media more broadly. The local paper or ‘knock and drop’ as they are known in South Africa is just one medium among many. Community radio for one, should be getting a lot more emphasis, but organisations also need to start using new media such as SMS and Facebook to reach their audiences.

Obama and new media in Africa

US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Africa has had a lot of media attention. Obama of course is known to have used new media very effectively in his election campaign. He carried that approach through during his Africa visit, using new media such as SMS, Facebook and Twitter, to enable Africans to put questions to him, and to disseminate his speech in Ghana. Crucially though, the new media were used in combination with radio to ensure maximum reach. Ndesanjo Macha wrote about this before Obama’s visit on Global Voices Online.

One of the brains behind the strategy was White African. See his blog post on Obama’s African visit here.

Building Advocacy Campaigns

Oxfam GB has published a very useful book on advocacy called Building National Campaigns: Activists, Alliances and How Change Happens. The book is based on the experience of Oxfam and its partners in campaigning for improved employment standards for workers in five countries. It looks at the various steps or organising, strategising and campaigning for change. There are many useful lessons that can be learned from the juxtaposition of theory with case studies from the five countries. Building National Campaigns can be downloaded free.

There is also a web page with powerpoint slides, photos and other material, and users can also add their own experiences to the content.

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