Analysis

'Churnalism' takes the stand as media vie for attention

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Extensive coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial is actually all about media houses trying to trample their competitors, writes Haji Mohamed Dawjee.

The trial of paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is mere fodder for a publicity hungry media. (AP)

This is a public service announcement. While the dedicated TV channels, up-to-the-millisecond tweets and special broadcast studios set up at some publications might have you believe that they are there to serve your public interest, they are not.

Because, in reality, a large number of the population don't actually care about how an entitled white guy shot his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year.

All this coverage is not about an athlete, violence against women or the killing itself. It's about something so sick, despicable and low that it's a perpetuation of entitled behaviour.

It's about the celebrity of the media and the opportunity it takes to trample its competitors – one tweet or broadcast at a time – to inch closer to an ivory tower carved out by some Kardashian reality-TV fantasy so they can stand an illusionary kind of tall and proclaim: “Brought to you by us."

As social-media-as-reporting-tool starts to take on a life of its own, you will see it move from 140 characters of (what at least pretends to be) objectivity to a wordy bunch of thrown punches between journalists – all vying for the biggest chunk of "churnalism". Ethics are buried with the very thing they are trying to report on.

No, public, this is not about you. Don't be fooled by bulletins and broadcasts that promise a nation is watching with bated breath. They're not.

And those who are, especially those privileged enough to tune in to dedicated channels, are probably those who also live in security estates with garages filled with silver spoons.

The rest of the nation has other priorities. They are not particularly concerned about how one white athlete is going to spend the rest of his life. I promise you. And no amount of subscription TV is going to change that.

Any kind of entitled behaviour, such as the case of Oscar Pistorius, stems from being told you're perfect your entire life, that the world is yours for the taking and that instant gratification is the only way. Anything other than that is obviously worthy of throwing your toys and stomping your feet. No guilt. No remorse. No introspection.

Unfortunately, this kind of genetic malfunctioning (for lack of a better term) also exists in the media organisations that take liberties with their, at times, opportunistic reportage.

Making award-winning stages from makeshift platforms, and entertainment hosts out of journalists – whose celebrity is second only to the one who is on the stand.

No guilt. No remorse. No introspection.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the Mail & Guardian’s social media editor.


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