Does the media report or assume news?

The City Press newspaper reported yesterday that the ANCYL “supports the ‘mandatory initiation into contraception for all adolescent girls from the age of 12 to curb teenage pregnancy’”.

However, my reading of the statement referred to by the newspaper, which appeared in the league web site, states clearly that the league planned, as part of its fight against HIV/AIDS, “an intensification of the campaign on male circumcision is proposed and mandatory contraception of girls above the age of 13 is proposed to combat teenage pregnancy”.

Here, there is nowhere in the two reports or sentences referred to by the newspaper where the league says it “supports”. The report, instead, read more like a comment or an analysis. This ‘support’ can only be assumed to be what the league meant in its discussion document. And if this was the case – that the league’s document was assumed to ‘support’ – then it should have been made clear to the reasonable reader of this report.

This is so because the purpose of the media, and City Press in particular, is to “present news in the correct context and in a balanced manner, without taking sides and without intentional or negligent departure from the facts, whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation of facts; material missions; or summarisation”, according to the City Press Code of Ethics first published in The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) web site.

On comment/analysis, the South African Press Code states that a comment by the press “shall be presented in such manner that it appears clearly that it is comment, and shall be made on facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to”. The code goes on to say that such a comment “shall be an honest expression of opinion, without malice or dishonest motives, and shall take fair account of all available facts which are material to the matter commented upon”.

This “lost in interpretation” reminds me of what ANCYL President Julius Malema said recently during his cross-examination on the ‘shoot the boer’ case in which he said by saying checkers, one could either be referring to the Shoprite checkers supermarket or just a plastic bag.

When news is presented in this manner, should it be understood as news or comment/analysis especially when its meaning is lost interpretation through assumption?

Just asking…

One thought on “Does the media report or assume news?

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