Media Analysis South Africa

Wits Journalism: State of the Newsroom Report 2013

Wits Journalism has released its first-ever State of the Newsroom report. This is a pilot project, which deals with a selection of topical issues in the news media and has taken a year to complete.
Wits Journalism: State of the Newsroom Report 2013

The report titled State of the Newsroom (SoN) South Africa 2013: disruptions and transitions, discusses the massive changes and challenges that journalists face today internally, that is, within the industry and externally pressing upon the industry. The just over 100-page report describes the state of the newsroom as a ship sailing into extreme headwinds of change but one with an adventuresome spirit.

Some of these headwinds include:

• Shrinking newsrooms and retrenchments (in almost all companies);
• Declining circulations in print media (by over 5% in a four year trend analysis);
• Negotiating the digital first strategy and trying to make money from online journalism;
• A new press code and who complained about what to the Press Council;
• The ombudsman's rulings;
• Race and gender compositions of newsrooms (the majority of journalists in the newsrooms surveyed were black and male; the majority of editors were white by a slight majority and male by a large majority);
• Training policies, programmes and spending are also discussed (about R70m was spent on training, 2012-2013).

Externally pressures include the looming Protection of State Information Bill and what this would mean for journalists if enacted, as well as pressures from the ruling party (and the ANC) to conform to a more "patriotic" media.

There is good news

The report documents the good news too: the National Key Points Act has been sent off for review; President Jacob Zuma has dropped all charges against the media and there are newcomers to the media broadcast industry. The report hints that community media - both print and radio - appears to be growing, and the budgets for training is set to increase, in some instances.

Professor Anton Harber, Head of Wits Journalism, wishes to make this an annual fixture. He hopes that the research would be useful and create debate and discussion in the media industry.

Glenda Daniels who co-ordinated the project says: "This is exciting. It's like giving birth to a brand new baby. But it is also like trying to take a picture of a moving object."

Click here for the executive summary.

The full report (Large file).

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