The study was broken into several topics. The finding were as follows…
The ‘news diet’ (the variety of news content) is limited for two reasons:
- News content was dominated by one topic – national politics. The dominance of national politics prompts a pertinent question – is it the dominating topic because it ought to be, or is much of the political news being fed to journalists by government and, in fact, of little interest to the public? Unfortunately, analysing the nature of political reporting is outside the scope of this study. It is sufficient to note here that news content was for the most part political during this monitoring period and there were many issues that received very minimal coverage — poverty, economics, human rights, gender, HIV/AIDS — to name a few.
- The majority of news content originated from one region, Hhohho. This may be explained in part by the fact that politics dominated the news and Hhohho is the political hub. Although, this doesn’t fully explain the imbalance because the number of stories from Hhohho was over double the number of stories on politics. This lack of diversity in news origin may indicate that journalists are too heavily concentrated in the one region and not seeking news from the rest of the country.
There were two findings from the analysis of news quality that are cause for concern:
- The majority of stories were single-sourced.
- There was a serious lack of information with most stories containing just one of the six information criteria. These two elements combined – single sources and lack of information – results in news reporting that is of very poor quality. In addition to this, the lack of diversity among sources, with very few experts accessed, indicates the superficial nature of news information and lack of contextualising.
Monitoring gender aspects of the news revealed that women are underrepresented in the media. The marginal role women play raises two questions:
- Are women actively discouraged from pursuing news reporting?
- Is the lack of female news sources more a reflection of society or a reflection of the media’s failure to actively seek female sources?
There was a range of ethical violations taking place throughout the monitoring period. Almost half of these violations occurred in stories about child abuse or gender-based violence where the report failed to protect the victim and/or trivialised the event. This raises questions about the level of awareness among journalists of the need to report these issues responsibly and sensitively and, in particular, the standard of editing in the newspapers.
Fairness. The fact that there were 13 cases of unfair reporting in just two weeks is cause for serious concern. Unfair media coverage is extremely damaging not just to the subject, but to the media itself – bringing into question its integrity. Indeed, unfair reporting is often used by authorities to curtail freedom of expression and the right to access information. The monitoring revealed that the instances of unfair reporting can be reduced if journalists commit to seeking rejoinders from people who have a serious allegation laid against them, abstain from passing judgment on suspects and avoid damaging/demeaning language when writing about news subjects.
Research by MISA-Swaziland and the Media Monitoring Project, funded by OSISA