UKZN Academic Presents Paper in Spain at Conference on Media Ethics
Academic Leader of Research in the School of Arts on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, Dr Nicola Jones, recently presented a paper in Spain at the 3rd International Conference on Media Ethics.
Jones’s paper was titled: "Damming the ‘Fountains of Justice’: An Examination of three South African Newspapers’ Coverage of Reeva Steenkamp’s Alleged Murder in the Context of South African Crime and Court Reporting."
Jones said her interest in the topic was heightened because 'there is such disparity between the way the different media organisations represented both (murder accused) Oscar Pistorius and the trial. People always talk about trials by media - I think that this was a really good example of such a situation,' she said.
The conference, hosted by the University of Seville in Spain, aimed to prioritise the challenges of journalism and media in the digital era. It also provided a platform to search for partners abroad as well as for the exchange of ideas for new projects by scholars.
Jones’s research found that the instantaneous nature of news as a consequence of technology was a factor in the stories examined. ‘What emerged looking at these stories was that instead of the due gate-keeping process being followed and the whole idea of audi alteram partem (hear the other side) being included, one found competitive edge and haste being the governing principles of news,’ Jones said.
‘The minute you make instantaneity the driver of news, this reduces the whole news gathering process to the logic of a lynch-mob.
‘People were just making spontaneous comment and it was being presented as news.’
Her main finding was that ‘there was a judgemental tone in all those stories and an assumed guilty bias, neither of which was necessarily very good. Such a situation could lead to a potential opposite scenario, where the public perception does not fit the outcome of the trial,’ said Jones.
The paper presented at the conference is being developed into two separate articles for publication, ‘the one dealing with the ethical side and the other dealing with the legal side’.
Jones, who is in the middle of creating a convergence journalism curriculum to be implemented in stages from 2016, is also involved in various projects which include working on a chapter for a Media Studies textbook by Pieter J. Fourie.
She is also looking at possible ways of incorporating the Zulu cultural concept of Hlonipha into traditional media ethical codes in South Africa.
She added that her interest also lay in digital journalism. ‘I am running a research project on South African newsrooms and journalists and how they are dealing with the influences of digital technology.’