Media Alert / Review

What makes good journalism?

MISA-Swaziland | Review
September 26 2013

In June 1997 twenty-five journalists met at Harvard University in the United States. At the table were leading reporters and editors, influential radio and television people, and respected academics and authors. They felt something was wrong with the media.

“They barely recognized what they considered journalism in much of the work of their colleagues. Instead of serving a larger public interest, they feared, their profession was damaging it,” said Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, author of a book about the meeting.

In response to these fears, the Harvard group — brought together by the Committee of Concerned Journalists — asked the question: What is journalism for?

After the meeting — through research, surveys, interviews and public forums — they identified the “essential elements that define journalism”.

A book was released in 2001, written by leading editor Bill Kovach and journalist Tom Rosenstiel, called The Elements of Journalism. Informed by the research, surveys and public forums, the book identifies and explains ten elements of good journalism.

  • Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
  • Its first loyalty is to citizens
  • Its essence is a discipline of verification
  • Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
  • It must serve as an independent monitor of power
  • It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
  • It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant
  • It must keep the news comprehensive and in proportion
  • Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience
  • Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news

In Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa, the media is not free. Censorship is ingrained. The freedom to debate, question, and criticise is curtailed; as is the freedom to search for the truth. And here, the truth — more often than not — is not a defence.

Swaziland’s Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland), a media freedom NGO, reaffirms its belief in free speech and a free media. It encourages the media to be guided be the above elements of journalism.

For comments or queries, please contact:
Mr Vuyisile Hlatshwayo
MISA-Swaziland National Director
Email: misa.nd@realnet.co.sz

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