Please see the invite to a fascinating roundtable public debate about online and new media taking place in Johannesburg this week.
Please see the invite to a fascinating roundtable public debate about online and new media taking place in Johannesburg this week.
Please see the invite to a fascinating roundtable public debate about media diversity, ownership and transformation taking place in Johannesburg this week.
Sandiswa Sondzaba looks at a new crop of media moguls.
Whenever we think of media moguls, we often think of men such as CNN’s Ted Turner or Fox News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch. Although these men have had a profound influence on the media landscape, they are not the only people leading the media world today. As a result of the technological advancements, which have occurred in the past decades, there has been a new breed of media moguls, which have emerged. In this article, three of these game-changing moguls will be profiled.
Shane Smith is a co-founder and the current CEO of the, formerly Montreal-based, indie magazine Vice which, as of 2013, has become an influential multi-media company reportedly worth $1.4 billion. The magazine, which was formerly marketed to Haitian refugees and titled Voice, is now based in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood and it also has 34 other offices worldwide. The magazine is backed by Fox, WPP, the Raine Group, and former Viacom CEO Tom Freston.
Although Canadian Smith’s personal wealth is reportedly $400 million, he is ineligible to be featured in Forbes 400, as he is not an American citizen. However, that has not deterred him from making an indelible mark within the media as he aims to create a company, which will be a hybrid mix deriving influence from CNN, ESPN, and MTV. His unique approach to news reporting has amassed a large following as Vice irreverently reports on various stories, which affect the youth. An example of this reporting is the Vice-feature rockumentary on the emerging heavy-metal subculture in post- Hussein Baghdad.
28-year-old Pete Cashmore is the founder and CEO of the tech blog Mashable, which he founded out of his bedroom at the age of 19. Mashable highlights what is new on social media and it also teaches its users what to do with the social media. Its user-friendliness has led to Mashable becoming one of the top 10 as well as one of the most profitable blogs within the cyber-world. As a result of his success with Mashable, Cashmore has been featured in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2012, and he was named a Briton of the Year by the Telegraph in 2010. Cashmore is widely regarded as having expertise on how to use, consume and profit from social media. This university dropout is also considered to be the tech world’s “Brad Pitt” and some have said that his Adonis-like features have contributed to his blog having a prominent female readership. Although this observation can be interpreted as being sexist, it does highlight how for whatever reasons, Mashable is accessible to female readers; this is contrary to most tech blogs which are predominantly marketed towards male readers.
Arianna Huffington is the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. Launched in 2005, the Huffington Post is a news and blog site, which has become one of the most widely read, linked to, and frequently cited media brands on the Internet. In 2012, the site became the first online-only news organization to win a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Huffington has also been featured as one of Forbes magazine’s Most Influential Women in Media in addition to also being on The Guardian’s Top 100 in Media List. The Greek-American Cambridge alumna is proof of the fact that the media is an industry, which can be run by women; she has also played an integral part in the Huffington Post‘s transformation from the average news blog into a leading liberal voice within the news industry.
What these moguls have shown us is that there has been a clear shift within the media industry. This shift has resulted in many media proprietors being able to diversify their products and thus they have been able to create their own niche areas. Although there has been concern over the relevance of the media; what these moguls have done is prove that the media are able to change in order to best fit the needs of the consumers.
Refilwe Rangata looks at gender bias in the coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial.
The Oscar Pistorius trial has been receiving a great deal of attention around the world over the past three weeks. While many articles have provided information about the happenings within the courtroom, this article looks more at how people in the media limelight tend to be glamorized. What struck me however, was the gender bias in the process.
One such individual is Oscar Pistorius’ defense lawyer Barry Roux. All eyes have been on Roux who is now known for his aggressive cross-examinations on witnesses. With the huge numbers of media outlets covering this story, Roux has garnered global media attention and recognition. He has also become a viral sensation. An example of this would be a parody song performed by radio producer Brad O’Regan from South African radio station 94.7 Highveld Stereo. O’Regan created a parody rap song based on Roux’s popular saying “I put it to you”. Lyrics of the song include “I put it to you, that it’s true/ everything you say, I will misconstrue/ I’m Barry Roux and I put it to you ten times in a row just to confuse you.” While jokes were made about him, Roux was seen as thorough, aggressive and so on. An example of such can be seen in a recent article published in South Africa’s YOU magazine.
He however has not been the only person who has gained recognition from the trial. Roxanne Adams has been turning heads in the courtroom. Adams is a member of Oscar Pistorius’ defense team. Adams has mainly been seated taking notes at the trial. She has not been involved in the questioning of witnesses. However, her silence couldn’t prevent her from gaining the media’s attention.
The media has labeled Adams as “Oscar’s blonde” or “The hot blonde. This has given rise to the debate on how male and females are portrayed differently by the media. Where Barry Roux has received media attention due to his skills as a lawyer, the focus on Adams has mainly been on her physical appearance. South African radio station 5fm ran a poll on their website called ““who’s that chick?” What do you think of Oscar’s blonde lawyer Roxanne Adam?” 53.67 % of votes were “ phoar she’s hot” and only 6,2% of the votes were for the “ how insensitive this is a murder trial” option.
But Adams is not only the “hot blonde” or the “beauty of the team.” At only 24 years old she is a candidate for attorney at Ramsey Webber Inc, the law firm representing the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.
While it is clear that Barry Roux is a more senior lawyer, the discourse of looking at a man’s skill and a woman’s appearance is common. The media tends to glamourize certain players in certain stories. What makes this case of the media glamorizing certain players so disturbing to me is that there is a sense of gender bias from the media that creeps in, even in the coverage of a case based on violence against a woman.
Sibongile Malgas looks the worrying trend of stereotyping about nationality in the media.
The Wits Vuvuzela newspaper was under the spotlight recently, but for all the wrong reasons. The paper stands accused of promoting xenophobia after reporting that a Campus con-man, allegedly had a Nigerian accent, among other attributes. Quoting one of the man’s victims-John Kelm (Not his real name):
“On Tuesday morning John Kelm* was approached by a man near the Planetarium at about 10:30am. Kelm said the man had a Nigerian accent and asked if he could use Kelm’s phone to call a friend to pick him up. The man made the phone call and told Kelm that his friend would call him back on Kelm’s phone”
Complaints from students, which were published in the follow up paper, explained that the article is defamatory as it paints all Nigerians in the same negative light. It [the article] tarnishes the reputation of Nigerian students and possibly endangers theirs lives on campus as now all students with an “accent” are considered ‘dangerous.’
Initially, when I read the article and the editor’s response to the backlash, I honestly thought the students who complained were being over-sensitive. The article also mentioned that the alleged con-man is black, but there wasn’t uproar from the black community and that the statements made by the paper were to alert all students to be on the watch for a person that fit the given description and not insult any particular culture or race. However, after much debate I was then encouraged to consider the feelings of the students on the receiving end of the paper. As South Africans we are fully aware of the “your people” notion and do not want to be associated with the negative stereotypes that come with belonging to a certain group. The danger of using stereotypes to generalise is that it labels and harms innocent people as well, for example; black people are criminals. This is an unfair statement to those black people -who are the majority- who actually make an honest living. So in a sense I do understand where they’re coming from especially considering that not so long ago foreign nationals were persecuted in the xenophobic attacks that gripped the country.
The article in question thus prompted me to respond using this article, which looks at how important it is not to label people for the sake of covering the story. Is it essential to mention the nationality of people that are covered by the media in general? Is it relevant that a person in question is South African, Somalian, British or Turkish? Or does it just add to the sensationalism of it all?
Looking at headlines and stories by South African news outlets I was surprised to see that journalists paid particular attention to inform readers about the nationality of people in question :
Have we as a society become so disposed to categorising people and still allowing stereotypes to cloud our judgement? Of course we can’t bury our heads in the sand and not realise that there are people who deal in illegal activities, but stereotypes do not help this situation at all.
Rather how the media so blatantly labels people with regards to their place of origin, fuels stereotypes and shapes the mindset of all media consumers. Remember, the media plays a vital role in informing the masses and creating certain attitudes they may have. Journalists need to take into consideration the consequences of their words, and the impact it will have on the well being of the most vulnerable groups in society.
The media is very powerful. Therefore, perpetuating stereotypes in the media (even if it is subtle) becomes all the more dangerous. In most cases the nationality of the subject does not add to the story and the media should therefore take a conscious step to moving away from such practise.
Ntombifuthi Kubeka looks at everyday pornography in the media.
Pornography is one of the most taboo topics in society, because it is attached to issues of morals, religious beliefs and so forth. However I would like to look at pornography a different light, not the sexually explicit material or ‘adult entertainment’ rather I will be discussing pornography as any material developed around exploitation, objectification and degradation of women. Keep in mind that children, animals and men can also be victims of everyday pornography. But for the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on women.
Pornography supports the sexualisation of inequalities, it capitalises plainly on ignorance and it encourages people to get aroused by repression and violence. Looking at everyday adverts from billboards to television and magazines, we experience pornography everyday of our lives and we are not conscious of it because it normalised. Adverts are a form of media that promotes sexualisation of women; they feed on everyday stereotypes and conventions of masculinity and femininity.
A crucial aspect of both the obsession with the body and the shift from sexual objectification to sexual subjectification is that this is framed in advertising through a discourse of playfulness, freedom and above all choice. Observation of women’s bodies constitutes perhaps the largest type of media content across all genres and media forms. A possession of a sexy body is represented as ‘a women’s key source of identity’. Essentially who and what women are is defined by their bodies.
Looking at adverts, it becomes clear that the representation of women in adverts are more pornographic than the representation of men. Women in ads are linked closely to the body, the looks, and the make-up. Let’s look at the Brut for men advert. Brut is a perfume and there is a specific advert that plays on South African television that I want to talk about. It shows Kerry McGregor, Sinazo Yolwa and Candice Boucher, three South African models and the focus throughout the ad is on their bodies. The women are facing down or sideways throughout the ad. They are seen shyly describing the ‘essence’ of the men, giggling playfully as if they are not quite sure what they are talking about. At the end of the ad a men’s voice talks about the product, giving authority and assurance.
In contrast to women, men are portrayed in a range of setting. Throughout different ads it is clear that they are casted for different occupational roles while they are shown as independent and in control. In most ads men usually are knowledgeable about the product, they are assertive and they look straight in the camera and that is rarely the case for ads with women in it. Women are constantly sexualised in everyday media, this re-enforces the inequalities that exist and this is a problem.
Society and the media industry need to recognise that women are more than just their bodies. There thus needs to be a conscious shift towards gender equality when looking at representation in the media.
Ntombifuthi Kubeka looks at an unfortunate trend in global media.
On Wednesday the 11th of September I logged on to surf the net. All the web pages I accessed seemed to be filled with one message. They were reminding us about the terrorist activities that occurred on 11th September 2001 in the United States of America. On the day in 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airlines so they could be flown into buildings in suicide attacks. These planes crashed into the North and South Twin towers of The World Trade Centre and within two hours both towers collapsed. The third plane crashed into the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence (the Pentagon) and the fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Almost 3000 people died in the attacks. It was a tragedy as many innocent lives were lost. Twelve years later we are still reminded of the catastrophe that occurred to the American nation.
My main concern however is the manner in which American lives are portrayed as more precious than other lives. Granted the 9/11 was devastating particularly to family members and friends of the people who lost their lives. It was all over the media and the world was in total shock of the misfortune that took place that particular day but it was not the first tragedy to ever occur in history. It nonetheless almost feels like because it happened to the leading superpower state, we are constantly bombarded and reminded of the lives that were lost. There have been many lives lost elsewhere every day. Historically, lives were lost during the times of slavery, apartheid as well as the Rwandan genocide to name a few. But these tragedies are not given the same global attention (in remembering the lives lost and so on) as the 9/11 events. This re-enforces the ideology that the lives of the people in the West are more important than anyone else.
The Rwandan genocide was an attack on the Tutsis by the Hutus that occurred in 1994 in East Africa Rwanda. The genocide lasted 100 days and it is estimated that over 500 000 people were killed. Despite the huge estimated death toll it seems as though this tragedy is not given the same importance on the global platform that remembers other tragedies.
The media as a whole is a very powerful tool and so it can be argued that the 9/11 saga is more popular partly because of the large scale of American media. But to me one is left wondering whether Africans are not playing their part by actively sharing their narratives with the rest of the world or whether it’s a matter of access.
My main aim in this article is thus to raise awareness about the inequalities that are constantly circulated in the media. Indeed we should not forget about the 9/11 tragedy but it is equally important that we should never forget about other tragedies that took place in history throughout the world. No life is more important than the other; all lives lost should be equally recognised.
Thabisile Ndhlovu looks at media in Southern Africa.
Compared to other African states, South African media surely does justice to its role as ‘watch-dog’ of society. The democratic nature of our country provides a platform for South African media to expose any shrewd and corrupt behavior that our political leaders may engage in. There is no sympathy or secrecy even for the President himself considering the ‘shower scandal‘ a few years back. Ministers are not excluded from the limelight and also experience their own share of embarrassment, whether negligent of their duties like Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga’s Limpopo textbook crisis, or extra-marital affairs with models such as Minister of Sports and Culture Fikile Mbalula.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has now had his own share of exposure and scrutiny by the media. When the news broke out that he was accused of rape by a 26 year old married woman, it was difficult for the public to believe since he has been one of the pillars of strength for working class citizens. Vavi denied the rape allegations laid against him, but agreed to having consensual sex with the woman accusing him of rape. It is alleged that the woman even tried to extort an amount of R2million from Vavi to keep the incident secret, to which Vavi did not agree to and instead opened a case against her for extortion. To me this shows the level of corruption that exists in our society. If the allegation is true it is sad because one does not draw the line at committing adultery but rather aims to benefit financially as well. Nonetheless, when this story was revealed it got me thinking. Is the powerful nature of the media a given in all contexts?
Just across the Limpopo River we find Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe where he claims to be a ruling ‘democrat’. The print media in our neighboring country is often coerced into publishing content that is in support of the ruling party. There is no freedom of speech and anyone who opposes the ruling government is likely to face some form of punishment. The Zimbabwean President does not take lightly to being criticized by the media. For example, in 2001 it was alleged that a private newspaper’s offices were bombed supposedly for being unpatriotic. New media technologies have thus provided spaces and platforms for communication for many Zimbabwean citizens without being scrutinized by the dictatorial government . Blogging and social media networks have enabled people to discuss political issues with the rest of the world while assuming anonymous identities.
Similarly, in Swaziland the monarch is also very cautious about the kind of media content that is offered to the public. The Swaziland television-broadcasting network is highly pro-government and autocratic .
The South African media is thus very effective in exposing dubious leaders as compared to other neighboring nations. Media democracy has enabled for supposedly fair and objective reporting of news regardless of who is discussed. However, another question that emerges from this conversation links to asking is it truly just if the media rarely discusses occurrences in the private sector and constantly attacks the public sector? Surely there must be corruption in the private sector as well…
Joan Madiba looks at the Protection of State Information Bill in South Africa.
It is said that the media we have today, cannot be separated from our history or past. However, that can be argued otherwise. The media in South Africa is notably developing in a rather controversial manner. Questions such as “is the media free?” tend to regularly come to mind. Moreover, in the country the ruling party introduced the “Protection of State Information Bill.” The latter, commonly known as the “secrecy bill” is a “proposed legislation which aims to regulate the classification, protection and dissemination of state information, weighing state interests up against transparency and freedom of expression.” In addition, anyone who has information classified as “state information” will adhere to severe penalties included in the bill for leaking documents of a certain nature. Consequences include jail time for up to 25 years. This then gives rise to questions regarding the role and freedom of the media in such circumstances. Will the media be free? Critics of the secrecy bill such as the Right2Know campaign, human rights activist and oppositional parties have argued otherwise, saying that the bill will undermine the right to access of information in the public sphere.
With such legislation in our country, the media will definitely be affected. The whole notion of the media being free is undermined. This has caused a lot of uncertainty concerning the media most notably with regards to press freedom. Moreover, the bill has met critics such as the media itself, which fear that it will prosecute whistle blowers who assist in regularly, uncovering wasteful spending by government authorities and so forth. In recent years journalists have used documents to level up with the accusation of the members of the ANC. This included President Jacob Zuma, amongst others.
However, since its inception in 2008, the bill has seen its amendments and was to be passed as a law in early 2013. The parliamentary leader of the oppositional party DA, Lindiwe Mazibuko has critiqued the bill saying that it is “unconstitutional and a threat to democracy’s foundational values of freedom and openness.” On the other hand, State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele argued that it will “strengthen democracy while balancing transparency and protecting our national security and national interests.
This then proves how members of parliament from different political parties are conflicted by this bill. Even with contradictory sentiments towards it, the latter was adopted as the law with 189 votes in favour and 74 votes against. Two days before the public holiday of freedom day, what does this say about our government? The minister further argued that the bill, after much “alteration” since 2008 has been adopted which will “address the concerns of our people”.
With the passing of this bill many are left with the question “will the media survive this?” Critics of the bill argued that this bill is likely to take our country back to the times of the apartheid regime in the country in relation to media freedom. In these times the government censored almost everything in the media. If that’s the case then that is both scary and sad. As South Africans we will just have to wait and see what happens next.
You are invited to join the Department of Media Studies and the Critical Research in Consumer Culture (CRiCC) Network for drinks to mark the launch of a new book, Consumer Culture and the Media by Mehita Iqani (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
When: Saturday 10 November 2012 16h45-18h00
Where: Graduate Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, East Campus, Wits University
Kindly supported by the Wits School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM).
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by 6 November 2012
The book launch marks the end of the first CRiC symposuim to be held on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November. A full programme is available here. All are also welcome to attend the symposium but please note lunch and dinner are reserved for registered participants only.