Ethical Reporting of Health issues in Africa: Exploring civic awareness with journalism practitioners and educators

A symposium hosted by the reaserch unit for Media in the Global South, The Discovery Centre for Health Journalism and The Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies, in Grahamstown, South Africa on the 16th and 18th June, 2011.

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The Research Unit in The Media for Global South

The Research Unit for Media in Global South is a unit within the School of Journalism and Media Studies, this unit is committed to the development of global media studies as a particular sphere of research and scholarship.

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Discovery Centre for Health Journalism

The Discovery Centre for Health Journalism is a recently launched initiative within the school, and is aimed at promoting excellence in health journalism through journalism education, and raising the level of national debate on healthcare systems and the public understanding of the issues.

idasa

Idasa

Idasa is an independent public interest organisation committed to building sustainable democratic societies in collaboration with African and global partners.

The School of Journalism and Media Studies

The School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, has for 41 years been a leading provider of Journalism and Media Studies education in South Africa and the African continent.

An Ethics of Care in the Service of Health Journalism

  • KEYNOTE:

    Clifford Christians
  • RESPONDENT:

    Herman Wasserman

An ethics of care teaches health journalists how to create caring communities and compassionate citizens.  All theories are based on presuppositions, and the ethics of care is grounded in the universal protonorm that human life is sacred.  In developing the sacredness of human life into an ethical system, three principles emerge:

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Shaping new curricula for health journalism education

  • PANEL:

    Panel: Gideon Tebid (Tshwane University of Technology), Alan Weiman (Walter Sisulu University), Gabriel Botma (Stellenbosch University), Tanya Bosch (University of Cape Town).
  • RESPONDENT:

    Marie-Louise StrÖm (Idasa)

How could African journalism curricula respond to the challenges facing journalists in the area of public health? What needs to be taught and how should it be taught?

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(Mis)understanding science – the media’s role in facilitating the public ‘understanding’ of health and medical science.

  • PANEL:

    Antoinette Pienaar (Beeld), Melissa Meyer (JournAIDS), Tamar Khan (Business Day), Zarina Galoo (Knight international Health Journalism Fellow, based in Zambia)
  • RESPONDENT:

    Gabriel Botma (Stellenbosch University)

“Pill solves complex social problem!” (Chapter title from Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science) 

Media are often inclined to report on tentative and provisional ‘soft’ scientific ‘progress’, often exaggerating small rapid developments but small breakthroughs over which little scientific consensus exists.  How can the needs to break ‘hard’ news issues be reconciled with

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In search of authority II: People, publics and the duty of utmost care: Interviewing patients, finding sources, and facilitating the voice of ordinary people in health journalism.

  • PANEL:

    Mia Malan (Rhodes JMS), Phumelele Dlamini, (Soweto TV), Veronica van der Westhuizen (Die Son)
  • RESPONDENT:

    Alette Schoon (Rhodes, JMS)

This panel will deal with some practical problems arising from journalistic work.  For example: How do reporters find people willing to speak about their health and on what basis are these interviews conducted?

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Independence, accountability, credibility, completeness and fairness – towards a ‘Hippocratic oath’ for health journalists.

  • Moderator:

    Steve Lang (Editor: Grocott’s Mail)
  • Panel:

    Cliff Christians, Alette Schoon (Rhodes JMS), Harry Dugmore (Rhodes JMS).

The first 8 honours students with a 28-week specialisation in health journalism will graduate in April 2012 (finishing their studies end of November 2011).  Do they have other, or more, ethical obligations than their counterparts?

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Weighing the consequences, balancing values:  Health journalism’s multiple audiences and responsibilities.

  • PANEL:

    Mercedes Sayagues (Knight international Health Journalism Fellow, based in Mozambique)
  • RESPONDENT:

      Nicola Jones (University of KwaZulu Natal)

Exploring ideas of ‘justifiable consequences’ and the 'weighing'of  relative harms, in Health Journalism.  How are news decisions made?  Do values trump consequences?  Is “doing the least harm” a

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Stigma, blaming and shame:  are journalists helping, healing, or harming?

  • KEYNOTE:

    Anne Waithera, (BBC East Africa), Khanya Ndaki (IRIN), Harriet McLea (The Times), Nicola Jones (University of KwaZulu Natal).
  • RESPONDENT:

    Ayanda Roji (Head: Communication Unit, Governance and AIDS Programme at Idasa).

Do health journalists ‘blame the victim’? How can journalists avoid stereotyping and contributing to social stigma? Do health journalists tend to work within a discourse of individual agency that under-emphasise various social determinants of health, such as poverty and illiteracy?

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In search of authority I:  Experts, empowered citizens, indigenous knowledge, and agency.

  • KEYNOTE SPEAKER:

    David Holwerk (Kettering Foundation)
  • Respondent:

    Marietjie Oelofsen (Idasa).

In the context of a decline of ‘disinterested science’ and what appears to be a rapid rise of privately funded research and even ‘co-authorship’ of scientific research articles by Pharmaceutical companies and their PR agencies, how useful is Stephen Ward’s notion of ‘active credibility’ – the ability for audiences to easily ‘check’ journalist’s research and be able to verify the reliability of sources – especially in the context of limited media access in Africa? How important is a multiplicity of voices in reporting, and can there be too many views?

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