President Jacob Zuma is convinced that South Africans could do with more smiles all around. He is not alone in his desire to uplift the mood in the country by telling more good news. SABC and ANN7 are fully behind the president on his call for positive news to be broadcast to the public. SABC has committed to producing 70% good news content.
It seems that the president is intensely concerned about the goings-on in the media and communications sector. Not too long ago, the Protection of State Information Bill was high on his agenda. This bill will give the government control over which government activities become public knowledge and which stay classified.
The majority of South Africans and members of the media were not happy with what they thought would interfere with freedom of expression and transparent reporting. Many people feel that the ‘good news’ initiative is just another ploy to paint the ANC in a good light and brush the scandals which have plagued the ruling party under the carpet.
Some in the media fraternity are not clear on exactly how “patriotic reporting”, as President Zuma calls it, is going to be implemented. Reporters wonder if they must look for uplifting stories or if they must put a positive spin to the news as it unfolds. For a long time, reporters have simply been reporting on events and news as and when they happen in a factual manner. Now, they need to root out the negative. A lot of media personnel are inclined to report on the facts whether they are good or bad.
News correspondent Paula Chowles is still trying to get to grips with good news reporting. She tweeted: “Today I am reporting on the President answering questions in the NCOP. So it’s up to you, Mr Zuma, to give me some good news.” Equally uncertain Alex Eliseev posted a tweet which read: “Dear Mr Zuma. I’m reporting that robots en route to Sandton (which I pay for) are working today. #GoodNews Is that about right?” Lucky Brown did not mince his words on Twitter. Brown said: “In the new ANC the most corrupt is the best for this country. Now they want us 2 accept propaganda from SABC as good news reporting wow Zuma.”
It is not all doom and gloom for this broadcasting strategy. There are people who feel that it is about time that broadcasters did indeed use their platforms to cheer people up. Camilla who uses the Twitter handle @FabFood4All is all for spreading the smiles. She said: “If you look at the news you’d think only bad things happen, please start reporting good news more.”
Others remain on the sidelines, not sure how this will work but nonetheless, eager to see how this move will affect the culture of news reporting going forward.