Advocacy Journalism: a lost artform

What has happened to the state of American journalism? In an age of Michael Jackson and the Runaway Bride dominating the media, one would think that the profession is only concerned about gathering the most sensational items rather than news stories with substance. With the recent revelations about ethical misjudgements at Newsweek and CBS News, a news consumer can easily become delusioned, critical and loss faith in reporters.

Those Americans that still have faith in the media has to look back in time when journalists had to be credible and intellectually engaging. Henry Nxumalo is one of those journalists. This black South African sports reporter came into social conscieneness at the beginning of apartheid in the 1950s when many other black leaders such as Nelson Mandela came to prominence. Nxumalo is known in his native country for going undercover in prisons, plantations and police stations to the reveal true discriminatory practices of blacks being perpetuated by the white minority population. He came under fire by his white editors for wanting to change the status quo with his powerful writings. Nxumalo was celebrated by his country men, and vilified by the white establishment, who would violently took his life.

Nxumalo's murder was never investigated. His last story was about a white doctor giving illegal abortions to black women, many of who died. During apartheid journalists were routinely harassed and murdered for reporting the real treatment of blacks in the country.

Henry Nxumalo's life is chronicled in the new film, Drum, starring American actor Taye Diggs as the famed reporter. The film's director, Zola Maseko, not only feels that it is important to pay homage to leaders who helped crumble apartheid, but to put a spotlight on advocacy journalism."Henry Nxumalo is regarded by many as one of the best investigative journalists South Africa has ever produced," said Maseko in an interview at the recent Boston International Film Festival. "Most journalists today are not as hungry today to get the real news today. They don't make them [reporters] as they used to."

While the South African press has its share of sensationalized celebrity news, Maseko points out that some reporters in his country have stepped up to the plate and reported about ethical misdeeds in the post-apartheid era. Major scandals have erupted when the press reported charges of corruption that were proven to be true in cases such as Schabir Shaik, the financial advisor to recently dimissed Deputy President Jacob Zuma and the corruption allegations against Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Recently President's Thabo Mbeki has faced severe criticism from the press for his policy of “quiety diplomacy” in the recent elections in Zimbabwe and his objection to Robert Mugebe’s latest suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations. Mbeki has been further criticized for his controversial support of a small group of dissident researchers who believe that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Analysts believe that because of this stance the government has failed to respond adequately to the epidemic. South Africa has one of the highest infection rates in the world. At the same time the South African press has also made media stars out of people such as Zackie Achmat, an HIV positive activist who has refused to take anti-retroviral drugs until cheaper locally-produced AIDS drugs are made available to all South Africans.

"Journalism to me means being a watchdog for society, holding the politicians accountable," said Maseko. "

Maseko hopes to show all South Africans that they come from a gallant ancestry and illuminate a role model for future generations, including reporters. "As a filmmaker I like to look back at history to remember our heros," said Maseko.


Post a Comment

<< Home