The press faces reality test

The traditional media are struggling with the rapidly declining print advertising market, resulting in media houses cutting staff.

30 April 2019 | Business

The mainstream media find themselves between a rock and hard place and this has made them vulnerable to exploitation by market or government forces in a bid to survive in their traditional form.

These were some of the observations made at the launch of a media sustainability study in Windhoek yesterday.

Mail & Guardian editor-in-chief Khadija Patel emphasised that journalists should hold holy the ideals of media freedom, adding that there is a need for governments and politicians who are invested in the freedom of the media to be in power.

She also said tension between journalists and governments is healthy, but it is crucial that elected leaders understand that press freedom is intrinsic to freedom itself.

“Any real threat of news media business being in trouble is predatory ownership. What we are then most in danger of is being captured by the state or becoming vehicles to either gratifying the egos of business people or being used by state actors, people close to the state or people in the state,” she said.

“What we have to do is to stand firm. Success, we must accept, will not come easily or quickly but we must somehow be able to motivate our newsroom to be able to not just do the work of the day but do the work of the future.”

At the same time, the media must get their house in order not to be caught off-guard when the digital transformation hits gains momentum.

Patel observed that no one has the answer regarding the post-print future of the media.

She emphasised that there is no miracle cure and that media houses must innovate and find new ways of doing journalism.

The Namibian's editor, Tangeni Amupadhi, added: “We must not 'do something for the website' we must work on the website.”

The common view is that the challenge is immense and the cost of failure is intolerable.

The modern newsroom has to tell the news of the day but also has to secure the future of the news industry.

The Institute of Public Policy and Research's Dietrich Remmert pointed out that there is a need for media to accept digitalisation as a reality.

He added that the Namibian media needs to innovate, experiment and find synergies to survive and prosper.

Another challenge observed is a shortage of staff, which has resulted in clickbaiting and superficial reporting.

According to Republikein news editor Ronelle Rademeyer, Namibia Media Holdings has expanded its offerings onto digital platforms.

It changed the environment and as a result print journalists have been turned into broadcasters overnight.

She also mentioned that cost-cutting measures led to editorial vacancies not being filled.

The media sustainability study found that the number of Namibians using social media had increased by 8% last year.

The study found that the crucial issue for media in the country is that most have so far failed to reap the financial benefits of online media.

“Moreover, media houses have failed to capture a decent share of digital advertising revenue with their online product. Instead large technological companies such as Google and Facebook have reaped most of the financial benefits due to the rapid global growth in digital advertising,” the study says.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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