FCJ supports decision to pull Thembisa 10 entry from international media awards

Independent Media launched a video series about human trafficking in South Africa after Pretoria News’ initial story about the decuplets. The series made the shortlist for INMA’s social media category.

The Forum of Community Journalists (FCJ) supports the belated decision by the International News Media Association (INMA) to pull the entry related to the Thembisa 10 from its shortlist for Best Use of Social Media category.

FCJ members have reported that the controversial story published by Pretoria News in June last year, had a negative impact on community journalists’ newsgathering in Thembisa as the community’s trust in the media was negatively affected after the birth of the decuplets could not be confirmed.

Community journalists’ attempts to follow up on this article published nationwide was hampered by a lack of trust from the public to speak to any media.

Also read: Statement reportedly issued by Tsotetsi family denies existence of #Thembisa10

Independent Media, owner of Pretoria News, later launched a video series which reportedly deals with human trafficking in SA. This series derived from the Pretoria News’ initial story on the decuplets.

The announcement in March this year that the video entry was shortlisted, resulted in criticism from South Africa media circles.

INMA chief executive officer Earl Wilkinson issued a statement on April 6, that after the INMA awards competition shortlist was made public on March 8, concerns were brought to association’s attention regarding the social media campaign promoting a baby trade story in South Africa.

“INMA understands how important trust is to news media. The shortlist process can be, and in this instance, has been used to provide additional information which the judges had no access to at the time of judging. Given the opportunity to review information from all parties related to the concerns raised, our international judges have reconsidered the entry, and it is no longer a finalist. We respect the jury’s decision,” Wilkinson stated.

“I commend INMA for acknowledging the importance of trust in the news media. This was evident in the challenges faced by community journalists who had to go out into Thembisa and rebuild relations with a community who was left disappointed and embarrassed by a headline that made world news and even bigger news when it could not be confirmed,” said FCJ executive director Marietta Lombard.

Also read: Sanef criticises Rampedi for reportage of #Thembisa10

“Although these community journalists were not the ones to first report on the decuplets, they had to speak to the community about the Pretoria News report as part of their own newsgathering.

“These journalists witnessed a community celebrating a world record and had to witness that same community’s embarrassment when the decuplets’ birth could not be confirmed. Embarrassment even led to anger and community journalists had to bear the brunt,” said Lombard.

“Resources and time went wasted as community journalists tried to confirm an incident that never happened. It negatively affected productivity in newsrooms that are already strained. Like most consumers, the news consumer remembers the negative. Community journalists had to go to great lengths to rebuild the community’s faith in the media including the local community journalists after it was realised that this story could not be confirmed,” said Lombard.

“It is a reminder that we chase the truth of what is, and what is not. And in this case the truth of what never was,” said Lombard.

Also read: #Thembisa10: “We traced the family” – Masina

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