Media as the Fourth Estate

On Wednesday, 21 May, I attended the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards, hosted by the Print and Digital Media South Africa (PDMSA). This year the awards were special, over and above celebrating great journalism and journalists, they were celebrating 20 Years of Press Freedom – which came with 20 years of South Africa’s democracy.

Let me state my bias upfront, the PDMSA is a client and print is my favourite medium.

Growing up in the tail end of apartheid and with activists for parents, the value of media in South Africa’s freedom has always been important. I grew up reading the paper – and being taught to read with scepticism and look for the truth in what I was reading.  It soon became very easy to differentiate between propaganda and the truth – and a great journalist.

Working in a communications agency, media obviously plays a significant part in my job. Over and above the memories of my childhood Sundays spent with my parents huddled around the breakfast table over the newspaper –10 years in this industry, I still remember my first piece of coverage for a client – again it was in a newspaper – not biased at all.

So when I started hearing rumblings of the death of print media, appreciating the role this medium has played in my life, I could not imagine life without newspapers. The PDMSA does not believe that print media is dying, however it does believe that the medium is evolving, as we all are; and it will move from being a ‘news’ paper to a place where you go to find insights.  Furthermore, the role of journalists will remain almost the same, the seeker and teller of the truth.  However, great journalists will not only be the ones that broke the story, in a world where authenticity is key, their DNA will include quality, truth, ethics and accountability.

Therefore the celebration of journalists and publications at the Sikuvile Awards is its way of recognising this important industry and its key players.

Above all, these awards reminded me, and should serve as a reminder to all South Africans, that great journalists are our eyes, ears and voice – even when sometimes we don’t like what we see and hear.  To our journalists, these awards should remind them of their role and responsibility as custodians of the truth; and that the survival of their industry and our democracy is reliant on their ability to report fairly, honestly and with accountability.

Congratulations to all the winners, the recognition is not only by their peers and industry, but to those who benefit in their existence – such as me.

Written by Thandi Moticoe