Zimbabweans have been largely blamed for the kind of reportage in the local newspapers with experts citing that most citizens are intolerant of criticism especially on their prophets and politicians.
Speaking at a discussion under the title ‘Brand or “Prophet” Journalism: Its impact on journalism ethics and independence’ held by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe at the Ambassador Hotel yesterday, the deputy editor of the Newsday, Nqaba Matshazi, said that if they do not adhere to the demands of the market, they would go out of business.
“Firstly, I would love to pose a question; Is it a question of journalism really or it’s a reflection of society? If the society you write for does not approve of what you criticize, they will not buy your paper”
“Our society views prophets as papa and politicians as amai & baba. With such, it’s hard to criticize people’s paternities. Some of these prophets and politicians have become infallible & are beyond reproach.”
Matshazi also added an illustration that when they published a story under the headline, ‘Moyo rubbishes Makandiwa oil prophecy’, their online readers bayed for Professor Jonathan Moyo’s death saying he could not criticize the anointed prophet of God.
This revelation also comes barely three days after the recent release of a report by a local think-tank, Mass Public Opinion Institute, which stated that religious leaders are the most trusted in the country compared to their political counterparts.
According to a journalist, Valentine Maponga, journalism has shifted from setting the agenda to following it, hence leaving media houses with less control over what readers want to read.
“Zimbabweans have lost hope in all the other stories including political stories. All they want is a story that can give them hope, so if you publish something that gives them hope, they will buy your paper but if you criticize it, they will be angry at you,” Maponga said.
Matshazi also added that: “I will be honest with you, just that I do not own a newspaper but we exist in a neo-liberal market and we are in business. We will probably do what is good for the business.”
However, Patience Zirima, the director of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe argued that there was need for journalists to engage in accurate, fair and balanced journalism so as to keep the already dwindling standards of the profession despite all pressures.
A media consultant and part time lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology, Lenox Mhlanga, told the delegates that there is need for journalists to return to articulating news values rather than just focusing on brands and prophets.
According to an MMPZ reports, about 89% of Zimbabweans are Christians hence matters of the budding ‘prophet journalism’ are becoming an issue of interest that cannot be ignored at all.