ANC TODAY – Telling our story on our own terms

kusela-viewpointTraditional, English-language print media, newspapers in particular, are in decline locally.

Newspaper circulation in general is in decline, and with that, declining revenues. The 2015 Q2 ABC figures indicate a 5.3 percent drop since the same period in 2014. Only vernacular titles like Isolezwe continue to maintain good levels of circulation.

Add to this stiff competition from digital/social media platforms, and reader and viewer migration towards on-demand broadcasting services.

These factors continue to play a role in what appears to be increased cynicism by members of the public towards the mass media. And that is not to even consider the credibility crisis facing some elements of the local media.

The manufacture of news to favor one or another position taken by the media is a scenario we as the ANC know well; as a number of recent high-profile retractions and “comedowns” by media on stories involving the organization and its leadership show.

For example there is the miniscule retraction published by a leading Sunday newspaper earlier this month apologizing for carrying a false story about ANC Secretary-General Cde. Jessie Duarte: the size of the apology being wholly disproportionate to the front-page prominence accorded to the original article in the same newspaper. Such kind of actions undermine credibility in journalists and their ability to be impartial and objective.

Consider the results of the latest world famous Ipsos MORI Veracity Index on the most trusted professions in Britain – which has released its results since 1985, making it ‘the longest running series on trust in key professions in the UK.’

Of the 24 professions ranked, journalists ranked fourth from the bottom: higher than ‘politicians generally’ but lower than builders, bankers and hairdressers.

They fare no better in South Africa. According to the GfK Trust in Professions report of 2014, journalists are amongst the least trusted professions in South Africa – next to insurance agents and taxi drivers.

It is necessary to provide this context to appreciate the pressure facing the media to ‘deliver the goods’ – against the pressure of falling circulation, competition from digital media, and credibility crises. It gives rise to a tendency to chase sensation over substance; gossip over substantiated facts; and opinion over objectivity.

It has become an increasing challenge for the ANC to get its voice ‘heard above the noise’ in this kind of environment. As the governing party of South Africa – and despite a well-established track record in service delivery and in uplifting the lives of millions of South Africans, especially the indigent : we find no media platforms willing or prepared to offer us an opportunity to tell the story of our successes.

Accepting though as we do the old adage of “if it bleeds it leads” – we do not expect sunshine journalism, but fairness.

Regretfully the track record of some elements of the local media lead to the inevitable conclusion that objectivity is an unrealistic expectation. Fairness, however, should be the hallmark of good journalism. Ultimately, the governing party and the media share a common goal: to contribute towards a better, more prosperous South Africa.

The ANC wants to tell our story on our own terms: unfiltered and not clouded by opinion masquerading as objective reporting.

ANC Today will be a vital platform for us to achieve this. This brand new site doesn’t just only contain breaking news, reportage and opinion by the supporters and leadership of the ANC: but has a new interface that enables us to connect directly with readers – where they are able to post comments and engage with the organization.

ANC Today is the online voice of the organization. As we state on the site, we make no claims of non-partisanship – the viewpoints articulated on our pages are Proudly ANC.

The goals ANC Today sets itself is in alignment with the realities of a converged media world: where the ‘intermediary’ of the news-desk has been blurred by the advent of social media. Brands, organizations and governments are able to reach audiences directly, instantly and promote their point of view.

To those who would argue that as a political party the ANC should be satisfied with being written about, instead of writing about itself: we offer the famous adage by John Stuart Mill:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

The ANC has a view, and a voice. As the governing party we want our voice to be heard and for our stories of success to reach our people, to resonate with them, and to offer them hope.

We encourage all who want to know more about the work being done by the ANC to engage with us on these pages. We welcome outside contributions, but will continue to give preference to objective analysis, reportage and commentary that offers a nuanced view of the ANC’s role in building our nation; and that is not out to criticize, attack, mock, ridicule and condescend at all costs.

Through the dissemination of ANC Today, we want to inspire confidence in our people that despite what they may read on the pages of the mass media, we are Moving South Africa Forward.

CDE. KHUSELA SANGONI IS ACTING ANC COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

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