Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Politics of Power in Zambia

By Molly Nocheck

News is a globalized commodity. It has the power to be far-reaching, poignant and life changing. Power is a precious thing, however and may be controlled to suit agendas. In Zambia, the news creates power- so much power that it creates an environment where anyone who has a dream can realize them.

Challenges in broadcast journalism

At my internship at Zambia National Broadcast Corporation (ZNBC), I was given a first-hand look of the politics of power. ZNBC is a government-run news station. By and large, the newsroom at ZNBC could rival a newsroom in the U.S. There is a suitable number of computers, phones and broadcast equipment. Though the Internet may be slower and technologies like tape-by-tape editing are still being used, it seems that ZNBC is a formidable presence in Zambian news.

The excitement of being involved in a growing newsroom was soon extinguished. I quickly learned that journalists in the ZNBC newsroom faced an insurmountable difficulty that made gathering hard news next to impossible. The lack of resources created the need to ration things like transportation among reporters. I was told that I would be able to do field reporting, but when the time came to actually get to accompany a reporter outside the newsroom, I was told that there was not enough room in the car. Furthermore, there weren't even enough cars for the reporters to go and gather the news. Resources like transportation are limited.

The Zambian government uses power to control the flow of information. By controlling resources given to reporters, the government can effectively monitor the news.

Differences in Reporting

At my internship, I was given a press release to write a story on. The story was about how a Zambian official was starting a campaign to warn women to not talk to strange men, as these men might try to get them to smuggle drugs to different countries. The story had an insultingly patriarchal feel. While reading the story, I wished I had the resources I had while reporting in the US to actually go out and get peoples' responses and reactions. Normally when I do stories based off press releases I am instructed to contact various sources to get quotes and information beyond what is published. At ZNBC, I was simply told to reorganize and rewrite the story. As I looked around the newsroom throughout the day, I realized that hardly any reporters were using the phone trying to dig deeper. In fact, I saw most reporters go online to sites like BBC and copy and paste stories. These reporters were barely scratching the surface of the news.


Posted on the wall behind the reporters was a code of ethics for ZNBC. The code demands balanced news, well-researched pieces, and more importantly- a voice for the people. I don't think the reporters have the ability to fully follow this code of ethics. Without suitable resources and a comprehensive education in journalism, I feel that there is a lack of journalistic integrity.

1 comment:

gina mcgrath said...

Very well written and interesting. We do not realize how fortunate we are in the United States.
Gina Mcgrath