OPINION | Shining light into dark corners

This week our multi-award winning journalists, Bongani Fuzile and Sino Majangaza, were recognised at the SAB environmental journalism awards for their exposé of how communities in the Eastern Cape were living alongside raw sewage and were forced to rely on polluted water supplies.

Bongani Fuzile
Bongani Fuzile

Last month, Dispatch journalists Malibongwe Dayimani and Mamela Ndamase won several Vodacom regional awards for their reports on topics ranging from violent upheaval in Stutterheim to a councillor accused of illegally selling houses.

Their work illustrates what we at the Dispatch see as our core function: to inform our readers. This often means shining a light on events that many in power would prefer to remain hidden from public scrutiny.

The role of the press is to ask the hard questions; to hold a mirror to the powerful, the corrupt and the inept.

It also should present a balanced view and allow myriad voices to be heard, all the while leaning towards allowing the voices of ordinary people to ring out.

It is not an easy task, nor does it come cheaply. Good journalism costs, unlike much of the unsifted content disseminated via social media.

Sino Majangaza
Sino Majangaza

While social media has democratised media in that anyone can be a mass communicator and has facilitated democratic uprisings such as the Arab Spring, sadly it has proven to have a shadow side.

It has shown itself to be a ready means for mass manipulation.

It is proving remarkably difficult for the social media barons to fact-check stories that, similar to gossip, spread like wildfire and to root out toxic propaganda designed to persuade citizens to adopt certain prejudices and even political stances.

At its worst, this form of media is a vehicle for crude untruths that work in favour of anti-democratic forces.

Of course no-one has a monopoly on truth or is infallible. We make mistakes too.

And worse — recent revelations of undue influence exerted on journalists at some national publications point to the need for extra vigilance by editors and the watchdog bodies that they account to.

Happily, the counter to such tawdry sagas is the sterling role played by this country’s media in exposing State Capture.

The heart has to be ethical journalism that matters. The recent growth in the circulation of several esteemed publications such as The  Guardian and The New York Times indicates that thinking citizens agree with this and support good journalism.

It is no different in our corner of the world. Against the odds — which include bottom line pressures — the Dispatch’s tenacious reporters go out each day to cover local news, much of which never makes it to national news bulletins.

The best of their work builds on this paper’s long, proud legacy of investigative and watchdog journalism.

 And they rely on the support of you, the discerning reader, to continue speaking truth to power and by doing so help strengthen our democracy.