Teaching economics journalism: Why? What? Who for?

September 6, 2009

 

(Paper presented at “Journalism Education and Training: the Challenges”. Conference, Department of Journalism, 16 – 18 October 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Abstract

A recent survey of South African business editors revealed a need for specialist training of business journalists (Rumney 2008). But editors held widely differing views about the focus and form of training, while none offered a coherent vision for the further education and training of their staff. This raises important questions about the relationship between educational institutions offering economics journalism courses and the business media. What do we teach? Whose interests do we serve? An approach which simply attempts to replicate current practice runs the risk of turning economics journalism education into a commodity, with the business media as the consumer. What about the interests of society, and of the educational institution itself? This paper argues for an approach that attempts to produce reflexive journalists who are able to practice their craft, but also to question and challenge accepted practices and procedures and reflect on the role and effects of their work. It sees journalism teaching as a form of social intervention that has the potential to change the way journalism is practiced. The challenge is to design a curriculum that not only straddles the theory/practice divide, a common challenge in journalism education, but that also accommodates the imperative simultaneously to teach and to question prevailing practice.

Introduction

The turmoil in financial markets over the past five weeks has focused attention on economics journalism[2] as never before. The credit crisis, bank failures, government bail-outs, stock market crashes and the deepening global recession have played themselves out day after day, relentlessly, on television, in newspapers, on the radio, in the blogosphere and on the internet – and not only in specialist financial or business media, but in mainstream news bulletins, current affairs programmes and newspapers.

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Between privilege and subpoena: the protection of journalists’ confidential sources

September 6, 2009

(Ecquid Novi African Media Studies 2006 27 (2): 111 – 134.)

Abstract

 Recent events in South Africa and elsewhere have focused attention on the position of journalists faced with legal action aimed at discovering the identity of confidential sources. It is widely accepted in the journalism community that journalists have an ethical obligation to protect the identity of confidential sources. The obligation derives from the central role that journalism plays in democracy, yet in South Africa it may bring journalists into conflict with legal measures aimed at forcing disclosure, such as Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act. Journalists may find themselves in a position where they have to choose between acting ethically or upholding the law. This article explores the rationale for the protection of confidential sources and compares the normative ethics and jurisprudence relating to protection of sources in various jurisdictions, including South Africa. It examines processes currently under way to establish legal protection of journalists against forced disclosure, considers a number of options that may be pursued. It concludes that any such measure should cover both criminal and civil proceedings, and suggests that the answer may lie in the proper interpretation of the right to freedom of expression to accord a qualified privilege to journalists.

 Keywords: Confidential sources, Criminal Procedure Act, democracy, ethics, freedom of expression, journalism, media law, media freedom, privilege, South Africa, subpoena, freedom of expression.

1.         Introduction

The duty to protect confidential sources of information “is a basic tenet of journalistic ethics” (Kruger, 2004: 190). It is a near-universal feature of journalism ethics codes in South Africa (Retief, 2002), Europe (Ronning & Kasoma, 2002) and the United States (Son, 2002). Although there is wide acceptance of the ethical obligation to protect sources who have been promised confidentiality, the question of whether this obligation should be recognised in law is more controversial. It is embodied in some form in jurisdictions as diverse and far-flung as Mozambique, Sweden, and all but one state of the U.S.; in others, including South Africa, legal protection is not yet established.

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The business of business news: South Africa’s financial press and the political process

August 18, 2009

The business of business news: South Africa’s financial press and the political process[1]

(Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, Mexico City, July 2009)

Robert Brand

Abstract

This paper explores the historical development of the financial press in South Africa, and theorises the role played by the financial news media in the political process, with particular reference to the development of economic policy. Using a new institutional approach, it traces the origins and development of the financial press from the early 19th century to 1996, when the ruling ANC adopted the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) strategy as its economic policy, a decisive moment in South Africa’s economic policy development. Focusing on the Financial Mail, South Africa’s first financial newspaper, as a case study, the paper argues that the financial media could be seen as an institution in the economic and political sphere, and that such a view aids an understanding of the political role of the financial media.

 Introduction 

What is the role of the financial media in society? Are they simply providers of information for the business and investment sectors, or do they also have a broader political role? These questions have become especially pertinent in the light of debates about the role of the financial media in the financial crisis which lead to the current global recession.

This paper explores the function of the financial media[2] both in the economic and the political sphere in South Africa. Such an exploration requires a historical approach, examining the development of these organisations and their practices over time within a changing economic and political context. Ryfe (2001, 2006) has linked historical research in political communication with the “new institutional” approach, which arose as a reaction to the behaviourist paradigm in economics, political science and sociology, and which helps us to understand how institutions, structures and processes interact and change over time. Cook (1998) and Sparrow (1999) apply this approach to the news media, equating news routines and practices to “institutions” in the sociological sense. They argue that the news media should be seen not as a collection of distinct organisations, but as an institution which not only constrains, but enables the production of news (Cook 1998: 15). Building on the work of Cook and Sparrow, this paper argues that the financial media could be seen as an institution; and that the financial media are more than an economic institution: through their influence on the opinions of elites, including policy makers, they play a crucial role in articulating a particular economic ideology and persuading governing elites to adopt this ideology in the policy-making process. The financial media could therefore also be said to be a political institution. Read the rest of this entry »