The advent of social media has worked wonders for others, in so many ways, making life easy and bridging the gap by creating a society that feels much closer than the actual distance across the world. Now we all feel like a small village instead of being worlds apart as it takes a few seconds to get in touch with someone from the other side of the world. It is so easy to feel each other’s energy and communicate because we live in a digital world.
Different industries have been affected, in different ways, by the same technology. Just recently, we saw the sad closure of Kick Off magazine, with only their digital and social media platforms still operating, because of the impact of the digital world. It is because people have fallen in love with the immediate impact that comes with the digital world rather than the old-fashioned way of reading newspapers and having to write to the editor, when you can reach out to them via social media. Print media is under severe pressure like never before because people find it easier and user-friendly to go digital than traditional print. To keep up with the demands, journalists have had to up their game, but in the process, dropped the ball big time! It is time for journalism gatekeepers to stand up and protect what’s left of this important industry, the Fourth Estate. Truth be told, sad as it is to admit it, our industry is in shambles! Our industry, which happens to be one of the most important around, is in danger! Our industry has lost a lot of credibility and is in dire straits. Our industry needs some serious shaking up because we’ve really lost the plot. This comes from someone who believes there are still some really good journalists out there, doing wonderful work in ensuring that they keep their audience informed, entertained and educated on a daily basis. However, we can’t run away from the fact that our industry has been diluted over the years, with very little attention to what this profession is all about. These days, anyone who has a strong opinion and a decent following on social media can be regarded as a journalist. This is shocking and heartbreaking for this wonderful industry, to say the least.
The lack of credibility, ethics, rationale and empathy that we see from those masquerading as journalists is destroying the little that we still have left in what some of us refer to as a “Calling” rather than a “Job”. Unfortunately, it is not enough for some of us to plead ignorance or claim to practice what we preach when we don’t do anything about those who are ruining our industry. We need all hands on deck to protect this profession so that its values are held high and it continues to play the role it was designed for in our communities and the country as a whole. As much as we are sometimes left wondering where did we get it wrong, with all the media ethics thrown out of the window, our audience (readers/viewers) are equally shocked and expect to find answers as well. Maybe it is time for the real journalists to stand up and condemn those who are rubbishing our industry and even put a stop to their ongoing amateurish behaviour. Discussing this pandemic in the corridors is not enough and the only recourse is for every self-respecting journalist out there to do something to help the situation. Play your part so that we can reclaim our pride and dignity because people have really lost faith in us.
The most heartbreaking part is the simple fact that our people can’t even tell the difference between parody accounts and the real media houses’ accounts. That says a lot about the standard, or lack thereof, because there are fundamental aspects of reporting that one expects to see in a real media house story, but sadly, because of the reasons given above, these crucial components are sometimes either overlooked or plainly ignored. We need to go back to the drawing board to revive this industry, especially in football journalism because people are slowly losing interest, trust and respect for us. It is not mainly because they don’t like us anymore but simply because we’ve given them more reasons to doubt us than to believe us. Also, the fact that we are so desperate to be the first, at times, to break a story at the expense of fact-checking, dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s makes us look no different from the parody accounts. We have allowed people to walk into this industry, do as they please and even accommodate them with sexy titles without even undergoing any journalism training and that’s the subsequent result of what we see today. We can’t claim to be surprised or plead ignorance when we are guilty of folding our arms and watching things happen as they shouldn’t.
With social media and the digital space consuming content so rapidly, we sometimes throw the rulebook out of the window because we want to remain relevant and be chasing the numbers. It is no longer about being the best at telling the story, through covering all the angles, it is more about being the first to tell the story. We even ‘break’ the news, only to backtrack and refer to it as ‘media reports’ when you finally realise that there was never any truth to the initial story. People are watching and because they’re not saying anything, we are sometimes stupid enough to think they know no difference. This, unfortunately, gives credence to those who don’t believe in media independence or journalism as they see us as a captured and biased lot. Some of such unfortunate statements are borne out of this “tell it now and verify it later” approach that we take at times.
We’ve been quiet for too long, talking in the corridors with no action. Maybe now is the time for those who still love and remain passionate about this industry to stand up and be counted. Someone has to halt this phenomenon because it has now led to some degenerating to social media celebrities rather than journalists, whose main purpose is to serve – not to be served or worshipped. The celebrity cult attitude sees some of our journalists looking down on the very same audiences or followers they are supposed to serve, seemingly forgetting that these are the same people who pay their salaries, who should be treated as our bosses. Instead, they are treated as second-class citizens who are done favours by being engaged on social media. Journalism was never about that but telling life-changing stories and holding people accountable. It was never about journalists becoming stories or about popularity. Ours remains to serve and tell the truth, notwithstanding the challenges that come with the evolution of the digital world and social media space. It is time for a concerted effort to restore our dignity and pride, so that our audience believes in us again. That can’t be too much to ask, so that we clean our journalism house and put it in order rather than looking anywhere else. Let’s get our journalism act together! Someone has to say it!