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In the public interest : news values, ethics and the need for a new focus in South African journalism.

The dramatic transition from South Africa's previous apartheid political system to a
democratic dispensation, has posed unique challenges for the media. Ethical
practices per se are difficult, with joumalists being faced with the demanding position
of having to act ethically on a tightrope between a totalitarian heritage and a newly
emerging democratic nation. This thesis begins with the mapping out of a new
theoretical model of ethical practice for South African journalists - a model that is
open-ended, context-sensitive, and emphasises critical and creative thinking, as well
as diversity and relativity in the process of moral decision-making. Considerable debate - both nationally and internationally - currently surrounds the ethical role of joumalists. In South Africa, these polarised positions have tended to
emerge as the two main discourses evident in the local press: the watchdog
discourse, broadly corresponding to the libertarian theory of the role of the media;
and the nation-building discourse, which approximates to the egalitarian or social
responsibility model. This thesis argues that the two discourses are not necessarily
mutually exclusive; the theoretical framework does not exclusively support either
normative theory as such, but rather facilitates the fostering of both sets of values
represented by each respectively. The case studies examined in this thesis are all underpinned by this idea. Attention is
given to an examination of the violence coverage in KwaZulu-Natal, demonstrating
an ethical breakdown in reporting during the years of apartheid, which shadowed
journalists into the transitional period after the unbanning of the ANC and the lifting of
all Emergency Regulations in 1990. The concepts of privacy and hate speech are
examined, illustrating a lack in the culture of the South African press, of any concise
articulation of its journalistic mission or what is expected of journalists. Finally
coverage of the country's HIV/Aids pandemic is examined, the ethics involved in
reporting such coverage are explored, and the ethical implications of an advocacy
role vis-a-vis HIV/Aids, and reporting in general, are discussed.
The thesis ultimately attempts to map out an ethics that creatively seeks to guide
journalists in both binding people together, and exposing what is wrong between
them, in order that they may participate in the crafting of a new moral order. / Thesis (Ph.D)-University of Durban-Westville, 2004.
Date January 2004
CreatorsJones, Nicola-Jane.
ContributorsWade, Jean-Philippe., Michell, Lincoln.
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish

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