Do we really need Media FreeDOM?
The battle for media freedom is on. The gloves are off and the spit and snot is flying everywhere. It’s gotten ugly and not a moment too soon!
I have seen this coming for a while now. Since 2008 I have written numerous newsletters criticising the media for their negativity and unbalanced reporting.
Of course, nobody in the media took much notice. Now the mango has really klapped the fan and we are sitting at another critical point in the history of our young democracy.
Before I begin, I want to state the following upfront:
- I stand unequivocally and absolutely for complete media freedom in our country. The draconian, restrictive clauses in the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal are a major threat to our democracy. They should be fought tooth and nail by everybody (including you) at every opportunity.
- I also stand unequivocally and absolutely for BALANCED reporting. I would like to be fed a balanced diet consisting of what is going wrong in our country (and the world) and what is going right. This is definitely not happening right now!
- When I speak of the media in this article, I speak mainly of the print press, radio and television news reports. I refer broadly to the world media at large, not just the South African Media.
- I also stand for balanced politics. I am therefore not aligned or loyal to any political party. I am loyal to my country and her citizens. I will therefore always vote for the opposition, regardless of which party it happens to be, until such time as we have a healthy balance of political power in SA. In the USA, they have only 2 parties, both with almost equal support. The one is more left wing and the other more right wing. This creates a healthy balance of power, and every few years the one ruling party is replaced by the other and the new broom has the opportunity to sweep clean. I long for the day when we can get to a similar position in our country.
- I do not subscribe to GLOP, or General Labelling Of People. I therefore do not believe that ALL politicians and ALL policemen are corrupt. I do not believe that ALL journalists and ALL editors have hidden agendas. I do not believe that ALL men are pigs and ALL blondes are dumb. My experience has shown me that ALL people are unique and different, with a capacity for good and evil in equal measure. The Yin and the Yan exists in ALL of us. It is the CHOICES we make in each moment of each day which will determine who we become.
- I am a serial optimist, in that I always look for the inherent good in people, situations and life. I acknowledge that there is a whole lot in the news right now which may make some people concerned, angry, ashamed or downright terrified. I simply do not allow this drama to affect my positive focus or drain my valuable energy. I choose rather to be part of the solution and therefore keep looking for ways to make things better for myself and my fellow South Africans. Life is what you make it my boet, and happiness is an inside job!
- I am privileged to meet hundreds of new people every month as part of my work. They are people of every age, sex, race and religion. I interact and motivate and communicate and connect with them at all levels. I find most of them to be kind, helpful, concerned, caring people who simply want a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Yet they find it increasingly difficult to stay positive about our country (or the planet) and its future. Their attitude is massively influenced by what they see, hear and read in the mainstream media.
- I have a tendency to look at the bigger picture of our country, planet, galaxy and universe as a way to stay positive by keeping it all in perspective. I also try to be open-minded and see things from many different viewpoints, in order to understand WHY things are the way they are.
Ok so lets get into the topic of media freeDOM. In my understanding, the word NEWS is an acronym for North, East, West and South. Therefore part of the job of the media is to tell us what is going ON. Yet they insist upon telling us mainly what is going WRONG. More than 75% of what we see, hear and read in the mainstream media is negative.This would appear to be a worldwide phenomenon, as evidenced by the following quotes:
Bestselling American author Deepak Chopra: “The current perception I get from the news is that the world is dominated by human failure, crime, catastrophe, corruption, and tragedy. We are all tuning in to see how the human mind is evolving, but the media keeps hammering home the opposite, that the human mind is mired in darkness and folly”.
Paul Conneally, Head of Media for the International Red Cross: “In 2008, more than 75 percent of the media stories in Africa were negative. This is despite the fact that there are many positive indications that the African economy is going from strength to strength, that governments are becoming more accountable.”
A verse from John Mayer’s hit song, Waiting for the world to change: “When you trust the television, what you get is what you got, cause when they own the information, they can bend it all they want.”
In my May 2008 newsletter I sunk so low as to refer to journalists as uninspired, negative, disaster focused, sensation seeking, sad sorry scumbags. Again, I have come to realise that not ALL of them deserve this nasty title. However, since then, I have repeatedly asked why they insist on shoving so much D down our throats – Death, Destruction, Disaster, Divorce, Disease, Doubt, Depression and Doom. I have literally pleaded for them to dish us up more palatable, balanced fare with lots more C – Compassion, Caring, Courage, Consciousness, Creativity, Community, Comedy, Chivalry and Capability.
Yet all we ever seem to see is Catastrophe after Catastrophe.
Have you ever considered the reasons why the media cannot give us more C? Here are some possible causes:
1. They are simply giving the public what they want. They understand that for some strange reason we are morbidly attracted to the horror and disaster and drama. I often ask my audiences why they continue to watch, read or listen to the news, when about 80% of it is negative. They usually tell me: “I need to know what is going on”, or “I have always watched it – it’s just a habit” or “it makes me feel good to know that the crap I see going on out there is not happening to me!” Well break the habit buddy – you may as well go and bang your head against a wall because it feels so good when the pain stops.
2. The media have their backs against the wall – they are under major threat and engaged in a desperate fight for survival. They face huge competition from each other, as well as from the Internet, YouTube, Blogs, Social Media, Gumtree and the likes. Advertising revenue is plunging and shareholders are complaining. So they are forced to find the most sensationalist, scary, shocking headlines and stories in order to try and sell more newspapers and advertising space. When it comes to choosing headlines: If it bleeds – it leads. Sies man!
3. It is damn difficult to write positive, uplifting, funny, motivational articles. Do you know that it literally takes me weeks to write these newsletters? It involves countless hours of preparation and researching and agonising and refining and adding and deleting and fretting and fussing. I’m serious – writing these things sometimes feels like giving birth to a porcupine – a true labour of love.
It just seems to be so much easier to dig up some muck, uncover an affair, gasp at the levels of greed and corruption or dish up another disaster. According to the World Health Organisation, 150 000 people will die on this planet EVERY 24 HOURS and some of these deaths are bound to be horrific. So how hard do you really have to look to find something tragic to report on?
By the way, I am all for investigative reporting – goodness knows we really do need these brave people. But what about the POSITIVE investigative reporting – who does that? Who is tasked to go and sniff out the diligent, hard working unsung heroes in our politics, police force, educational system, bureaucracies and municipalities ? Who writes about those passionate, committed human beings who fulfil the thankless role of being true public servants? Somebody out there is providing low cost homes, electrifying the townships, supplying clean running water, improving our roads, catching criminals and paying out welfare. A whole lot of people worked their butts off to make the Soccer World Cup such a major success. Yet how many stories have you read about them in the media?
Think about this – how would you feel if you were a quiet, diligent, hardworking, honest, uncorrupt public servant, going the extra mile for your constituents and earning a pretty small salary to boot. You never seek the limelight because you are not doing this for the glory – it is your patriotic call of duty. And all you ever get to read about is the scum and sleaze and the sickening greed and excess of your colleagues.
How would this make you feel? Proud perhaps, or patriotic and motivated to work harder? Shit scared that you might get caught if you behave the way they do? Or tempted to get on the gravy train yourself because nobody seems to get convicted if they are caught anyway?
Option 3 seems most likely to me!
Do you stubborn editors sincerely believe that fear is a deterrent any more? Get your arrogant heads out of your arses and wake up! Fear ceased to work years ago. We have moved into a new age, a time of awakening consciousness, a time for using positive praise to reinforce good behaviour. You have not moved with the times. Admittedly, you have become really good at catching people who screw up. Now however, it is time for you to also start catching them succeeding.
The media seem to believe that if they continually catch people doing things WRONG, eventually EVIL will be eradicated and GOOD will prevail. So they encourage whistle blowing and investigative reporting and exposés. This is all good and well, but is it achieving the result? No, because the theory is fatally flawed. We all know psychologically that telling somebody NOT to do something is like waving a red flag to a bull.
So they keep perpetuating the negative behaviour. They turn criminals into superstars. Why can’t they turn boring bureaucrats or brave policemen into heroes? Or is that too much like hard work and not really “newsworthy” either?
The media seriously needs to redefine this term “newsworthy” if they want to retain their worth and relevance. Because even if government succeeds in forcing through restrictive legislation, modern technology will ensure that there is always a free flow of relevant information. And for this to happen we don’t really NEED the mainstream media. This is the awesome power of the internet!
Right now I can imagine the editors and journalists thinking: “Piss off you privileged little prick – it’s easy for you to sit in your ivory tower and take pot shots at us. You have no idea of the challenges we face every day in doing our jobs.”
You are right. I have never worked within the media. And I can imagine that you work under extreme deadlines and huge pressure, sometimes for relatively little pay. And right now, your very survival is being challenged. I imagine that it must be an extremely challenging time for all of you. That is why I say it is time to adapt or die my friends.
In my line of work, I speak to hundreds of people each month, literally thousands per year, with the objective of motivating and inspiring them and giving them hope and self belief. And I have realised that they believe what you feed them and that your narrative shapes their attitudes dramatically. And they have become so numbed and shell shocked that they have lost their passion, their hope, their optimism and compassion. They are wandering in the terrifying wilderness looking for guidance and you are giving them very little, if any, scraps of hope. Yet you expect them to support you now, in your time of need?
The question is simply as follows: Do you believe that seeing is believing or BELIEVING IS SEEING? Think about that deeply. Are you merely reporting on what is happening or are you actually CAUSING some of it to happen? Have you ever considered that some of your reporting on criminal behavoiur might actually encourage others to commit crimes?
Alternatively, do you understand the power of an optimistic nation filled with belief in itself?
Yet you continue to report mainly on what is going wrong, assuming that the public will find out for themselves what is really going on, what is going right. Well too many of them do not, they cannot, they will not. They need you to tell them, because they trust you and they believe you and they pay your salaries. You wield great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. I believe that it is the irresponsible use of this power which is partly to blame for the current media freedom debacle.
As I said earlier, I am all for media freedom. I am all for democracy and choice. But if you cannot make the shift to balanced, responsible reporting, you will cease to exist my friends. You are busy digging your own graves.
The negative news depresses me. It always has. It creates the perception that there is more going wrong on the planet than is going right. It fans the flames of fear in our hearts. And yet, there is so much good happening, in many of our communities, our workplaces, our corporations, our NGO’s, our places of worship, our conservation activities, our charities and our informal business sector.
I think that half of the hoo-ha going on right now actually boils down to the fact that the media rarely highlights any of the good work being done by our ruling party. They rarely champion any of the positive achievements of the ANC. They paint them (as they did the Nats before them) as corrupt, incompetent, bumbling buffoons, driven by greed and ego and nepotism. And as I said before, not ALL of them are like that. If they were, our country would be a lot worse off than it is right now. Perhaps it’s because the media are afraid of being seen as too patriotic or selling out to the government if they did show some balance by also reporting on their positive achievements?
Well I am not afraid. As I said earlier, I will support the opposition until we have a balance of power. But this does not mean that I cannot acknowledge the great work done by Trevor Manuel, Gill Marcus, Pravin Gordhan, Tito Mboweni, Cheryl Carolus, Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa. And these are the high profile people. How many more are there to be found out there, doing good, selfless, honest work to help make this place better? Let’s find them and praise them and report on them so that they can become highly visible, high profile shining examples of what is going right.
In the profession of selling we sometimes split our sales team into hunters and farmers. Hunters are tasked with seeking out new business and prospects whilst farmers focus on building and nurturing the existing relationships. What if the media employed a similar approach – hunters were tasked to dig up and expose the negative issues and farmers were instructed to focus on sniffing out and reporting on the good stuff. Cause we all know there is a whole lot of really good stuff going on out there. But how will the “farmers” make the “ordinary stuff” NEWSWORTHY? And, more importantly, will it be bought by their customers? It takes hard work, effort, sweat and creativity to find the good stuff being done by Joe Public and more importantly – to write about it in a positive, uplifting and interesting way.
But there are glimmers of hope. Just google Lead SA or SA Goodnews or Awesome SA or Stop Crime Say Hello. Take a look at how much good news they have to offer. Then ask yourself why you still pay to get depressed when there is so much positive stuff available for free?
The media must take some responsibility for the current media freedom debacle. I am not asking you to stop exposing the negatives. I am imploring you to find ways to balance these with more positives. We are hungry for good news boet, in fact we are starving .
Ultimately, it will require of us, the public, to shift beyond OUR conditioned, negative, fearful, victim based beliefs before we are ready to support such a massive shift in the mainstream media.
We urgently need to wake ourselves up, to become more conscious, to dramatically increase our awareness. We need to start recycling our garbage and conserving resources and saving our planet. We need to stop fearing and hating each other. We need to finally learn to love and accept ourselves and others. The next 2 years are going to force us to do this. We are going to see more change and uncertainty in the next 2 years than we saw in the last 10. And our best method to cope with this challenge will be to dramatically accelerate our spiritual evolotion. We do this through growing our knowledge and experience of what it means to be a conscious, whole and humble human being.
To quote Gary Zukav, from his beautiful book The Seat of the Soul: “Our species is no longer humble. It has no reverence. It is arrogant and filled with its own technology. We take from the earth and from each other. We destroy forests and oceans and atmosphere. We enslave each other, and torture and beat and humiliate and murder each other.”
He goes on to suggest: “Your decision to evolve consciously through responsible choice contributes not only to your own evolution, but also to the evolution of all of those aspects of humanity in which you participate. It is not just you that is evolving through your decisions, but the entirety of humanity.
So there you have it. And now that you know it is ultimately all up to you, yes YOU, what on earth can you do?
It’s your time now to stand up and be counted. Join Lead SA. Write letters to your media of choice, encouraging them to balance their reporting. Sign all the petitions for media freedom. Read self help books and attend workshops to accelerate your evolution. Find a spiritual teacher or healer. Get a LIFE.
If you are unsure where to start with all of this, please email me and I will gladly point you to the multitude of books, courses, teachers and resources which are readily available to you right now. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
But, most importantly, do whatever it takes to drop your baggage, move from victim to victor and make the shift from pessimist to optimist. Start making a difference wherever you can RIGHT NOW instead of waiting for the world to change. Start by really knowing and growing yourself. Start by becoming a better you.
As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
You are the world. It is your time to shine. Do it NOW.