Outside the Port Elizabeth city hall is a sculpture telling how the Portuguese spent 300 years searching for the elusive Prester John, a mythical Christian king. Inside, the hall, in the basement, a handful of people debated this Monday in search of the perfect system for press self-regulation. Hopefully, a less futile quest!
With a myriad experiences out there, what can South Africa learn in regard to reform (or replacing) the press self-regulatory system?
In order to avoid ad hoc or opportunistic borrowing, I devised a system. It's a tripartite test that focuses on (a) Matching our situ to a source context and purpose, (b) Abstracting a general model, and (c) Destination fitness analysis. (or M.A.D if you want an easy acronym).
It was a useful exercise that informed my submission to the Press Council's self review.
South Africans have two self-righteous bodies with major divergences in their mutual perceptions. Put in simplified form, you can say:
• SA’s journalists see themselves as watchdogs on power on behalf of the public.
• The ANC and government see the press as a bunch of hyenas.
• Politicians have a proclivity to be demons, according the watchdogs.
• Our leaders are angels, according the ANC.
There's a bit of schizophrenia here at the Deutsche Welle conference in Bonn, in a session that's dealing with journalism education. On the one hand is my experience of Twitter and Qik, and on the other I’m giving a presentation about old-style attempts to regulate journalism education (and journalism) in Kenya and Tanzania.