Media for social change
Independent Media is not simply a news organisation, it’s the centre of a media revolution, says Dr Iqbal Survé.
Within this body of transformative media approaches is a beating heart advocating for social change and an ardent desire to represent the South African voices of those who have previously been repressed or ignored. Our tumultuous socio-economic climate has made many of us cynical about believing any, if not all, social change claims. However, over the course of Independent Media’s “reboot”, there is a clear timeline indicating its intentions. And it clearly says we are agents of social change and unapologetic about it.
Here’s an example: Cape Argus launched a new collaborative editorial initiative called #TheDignityProject. The aim is to restore the dignity of those who struggle on the streets, the homeless, the desperate and disparaged. It’s a 15-part daily series that seeks to highlight the struggles many homeless people face and what they go through every day to survive on the streets. What the Cape Argus explores is our reality; the factors that directly interact with our lives, the matters that truly affect us.
“We have all these misconceptions about the people who live in our city,”says Gasant Abarder, editor of the Cape Argus. “We pass them every day and we never bother to hear their side of the story…
I came back to the office and I said to my guys: ‘There are so many stories out there about these people, who we ignore every day. Let’s do something’.” The Racism Stops With Me campaign was launched on February 11, using Independent’s newspaper and online platforms to fight the scourge. Independent Media, and its parent company,Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, teamed up with the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) and launched a campaign against all forms of racism by promoting active citizenry. The campaign has featured in all 20 newspaper titles and digital platforms, with Independent Media also encouraging debate and discussion on public platforms, in schools and universities throughout the country.
As we celebrate the day on which our democracy was founded in 1994, it is important to remember that racism is still one of South Africa’s major challenges in the 21st century, and much work needs to be done to combat it.
Independent Media also set up an advisory panel to investigate racism and hate speech on its online platforms.The objective of the panel was to get advice on how best to prevent hate speech from proliferating on digital platforms, while guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression. Far-reaching decisions were taken by the company on the strength of the panel’s recommendations. We have made strides in giving voice to the previously voiceless.
Unathi Kondile, the editor of newly launched I’solezwe lesiXhosa, says there is a market of more than 3.5 million adult Xhosa literates in the Eastern Cape alone, yet there was not a single daily Xhosa newspaper catering for this market. Independent Media launched I’solezwe lesiXhosa on March 30 last year.
The expansion into the Eastern Cape with this publication is again in line with the vision and strategy towards social change. The role of the media to advance the transformation and development agenda of our country is critical. Creating a platform for South Africans to communicate in their mother tongue is part of our contribution to this transformation.
Our belief in giving voice to the voiceless – and entering new markets – doesn’t stop with vernacular titles.
The year 2015 saw the launch of the African Independent, a weekly pan- African publication initially distributed in 15 African countries, but available online to the entire continent.
We also unveiled the Independent World of Work, aimed at giving our readers an in-depth understanding of the labour market and South Africa’s changing political economy. Youth is another segment of our population who struggle to find themselves represented and reflected in traditional media.
We have launched and are growing the Young Independents platform to capture exciting youth-driven initiatives locally and across the continent. At the heart of this is 100 Inspiring and Aspiring Leaders. This annual list showcases 100 South Africans changing and challenging the game. This platform includes young people, all under 35, on top of their field or poised to become just that.
Another initiative includes a new dimension added to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this year. It has been the introduction of events of the Cape Town Fashion Festival to run alongside the Jazz festival.
The Cape Town Fashion Festival, conceived in the early 2000s by Sactwu, has played a major role in promoting all aspects of the South African fashion manufacturing industry. The Fashion Festival has encouraged South Africans to buy locally produced clothing, shoes and textile goods through providing a platform for young and upcoming designers to showcase their talents.
Just recently, Independent Media was named the winner of the 2nd Annual Global Innovation Awards – Africa region, at the International News Media Association’s awards ceremony in New York.
Independent Media was commended for its considerable advancement since its takeover by a consortium led by Sekunjalo Investment Holdings in August 2013. The awards, attended by the world’s leading media industry professionals, were dedicated to energising media brands, innovating in product development, stimulating audiences and growing revenue in the global media industry.
Independent has been investing in the growth and development of its people and creating jobs by embarking on ambitious projects and launching new titles as it seeks to reach all South Africans in their mother tongue.
Their digital initiatives include the consolidation of all Independent’s daily and weekend print titles onto a single app called My.Independent as the company prepares for an increasingly digital future.
Independent Media also introduced its user-friendly IOL mobi-site as the company embraces a “digital first, print best” forward-thinking strategy.
The launch of the company’s Mobile Journalism (Mojo) Studio saw Independent’s youngest and brightest journalists team up with 17 of the country’s most promising journalism students from Joburg, Durban and Cape Town to revamp the company’s staid approach to news and start providing the kind of multimedia content which has been crucial to enhancing its IOL digital offering in future.
Under new leadership, Independent Media has undergone an intensive transformation. Its organogram has been reassembled for the sole purpose of leading a new media revolution. This transformation will continue into the foreseeable future. Independent Media is leading the new media revolution by helping to build and strengthen a democratic South Africa and grow its presence in new audience segments, locally and internationally.
The team hold a vision for a future in accordance with their principles and values, and continue to advocate and aspire towards social change. We have made a phenomenal shift within the media sphere towards a democratic and transparent mode of journalism.
Dr Iqbal Survé