Defend Truth

Opinionista

Great journalism is a powerful tool against corruption and injustice

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Mapi Mhlangu is the founder and Managing Director of MInsight Content Creation, a content consultancy firm. She is a convenor of judges at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards.

Journalism is more than a profession — it is a service to the nation, the mirror through which society views itself. It reflects our nation’s state and challenges us to strive for a better South Africa and a better world.

As I reflect on the recent 2023 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, I am filled with immense pride and respect for the incredible talent and dedication of South African journalists. This event, honouring the cream of South African journalism, revealed once again the vital role journalists play in our society — not just as reporters, but as guardians of truth and democracy.

This year’s entries were a testament to the journalists’ ability to inform, engage, and hold power to account despite numerous challenges within the industry and across the country.

Their resilience in uncovering hidden truths and amplifying successful initiatives while compassionately reflecting the pain, passions, and hopes of our people has been nothing short of remarkable. The high level of competition presented our panel of judges with a daunting task, but the regional winners who made it to the national finals showcased journalism at its best.

Through these awards, we recognise not just the achievements of individuals, but the critical role journalism plays in our society. In a world rife with misinformation, the commitment of these journalists to fair and accurate reporting stands as a bulwark against manipulation and deceit. Their work delves deeper than surface-level reporting, unearthing hidden stories and bringing them to light — the essence of great journalism.

Striking the balance

However, our responsibility as journalists extends beyond exposing wrongdoing. Our stories have the power to inspire hope. In these overwhelming times, narratives of ordinary people achieving extraordinary feats remind us of the resilience and strength of the human spirit.

The triumphs of the Springboks are emblematic of this spirit, mirroring the power of journalism to inspire and showcase achievement against the odds.

Journalism is the mirror through which society views itself. It reflects our nation’s state and challenges us to strive for a better South Africa and a better world. However, we must ensure a balanced view. We cannot afford to present our country solely as a nation in disarray. Our duty extends to celebrating the stories of ordinary South Africans who contribute to our nation’s progress, making South Africa a bastion of democracy, not just on our continent, but globally.

Our journalism should strike a balance, reflecting the challenges we face while also highlighting our people’s resilience, innovation and determination. These stories of hope and triumph are essential to our national narrative, reminding us of our potential and the strength within our communities.

Across South Africa, stories are waiting to be told — stories of individuals and groups contributing uniquely to our society. These narratives, illustrating our nation’s diversity and richness, deserve prominence. As custodians of the truth, journalists have a responsibility to ensure these stories are heard, creating a balanced and nuanced portrayal of South Africa.

In their relentless pursuit of truth, journalists embody the spirit of freedom of expression, a fundamental pillar of our democracy. Great journalism is a powerful tool against corruption and injustice. As we celebrate the winners, we must acknowledge our responsibility to shape perceptions and change narratives.

Journalism is more than a profession — it is a service to the nation. As we move into another year of journalism, let us continue to report with integrity, champion the truth, and celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary.

The freedom of expression that enables us to report, critique, and celebrate our society is a treasure that must be cherished and protected. DM

The title of the 2023 Young Journalist of the Year Award was given to Daily Maverick’s Tamsin Metelerkamp. This award emphasises the VJOY’s commitment to furthering the career of a dynamic young rising star journalist in South Africa, who has worked for three years or less. Metelerkamp wins an all-expenses paid trip to the United Kingdom to compete a course at the prestigious Thomson Foundation.

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