South Africa is home to a number of media houses which own reputable news websites such as SABC, News24, Mail & Guardian, Independent Online, Timeslive, etc. These websites usually provide the latest news on matters happening in South Africa and around the world. Many of their readers come from Google News and other search engines. When it comes to local stories, one would expect local websites to rank at the top of Google News. However, this is not the case. Whenever a big story breaks, foreign websites dominate the front page.
When former president Nelson Mandela died, all South African news websites posted articles about his death. However, Google News, one of the most popular news aggregators, showed articles from websites owned by foreign media companies. I read about Madiba’s death on BBC News. South African websites only got a break when the number of international websites covering the story decreased.
Google News tends to give more priority to websites such as CNN, The Huffington Post, BBC News, The Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AFP, etc., which is unfair. It gives one the impression that news reports from international news providers are more important than those from South Africa. This negatively affects the advertising revenue made by local media companies.
The day U.S. President Barack Obama dies, South African media houses will certainly send journalists to America to cover the news surrounding his death and provide updates about funeral proceedings. However, South African news websites will not likely make it to the front page of the U.S. version of Google News. Only American and English websites will dominate. This is a form of discrimination. South African news providers are being undervalued.
It is okay for international news websites to write about South African stories. However, the local version of Google News should give local websites more priority than it currently does. Even though the news aggregator is automated, it has records about the countries from which news websites originate and therefore can easily identify between local and international websites.
In the South African version of Google News, when there are big stories like the one about the death of Nelson Mandela, we would be happy to see South African news websites prevail on the front page. South Africa has its own media houses and many good reporters. Let South Africans be given a chance to tell their own stories to the world.