A few years ago I would have argued that our media is quite balanced, we have a good dose of good news and a “good” dose of bad news. The only bad, I could also argue, was about the corruption and crime in the country. In my consumption of news I could see many firsts for women and black people and a progressive legislation that resulted in same sex couples having legally recognised marriages. But over the years, the scales have tipped to the point where I can admit that we are starved of positive reporting or maybe we don’t have anything good to report on?
Two weeks ago a lady tweeted about how a young girl had been raped by an HIV-positive adult, who had lured the baby girl to a track and threatened her once it was all over. The next morning a man found those tweets and not only did he defend the rapist but he also attacked the lady who had tweeted her frustrations. In other parts of Twitter, life went on as normal. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, one of the bigger parastatals is embroiled in scandal and no one is saying much. One of our first ladies is mentioned in a plot to kill our president and that has not sent us into a frenzy. And just yesterday, a radio DJ on a national radio station got suspended for telling a listener, albeit via social media, “f#@k you twice over” when she was in fact the ignorant one. The biggest thing in that story is the direct messages and not the said DJ’s ignorance. Have we become immune to the mess growing around us?
A few months ago I wrote about how men would be applauded for doing the bare minimum and that which is expected of them. In response, one man labelled me a confused and angry feminist and some other homophobic slur. While there were people who saw value in having that discussion, which centred on male privilege, many more people thought it was yet another complaint about men when men are trying hard and never get enough recognition. No one during those discussions could say there is work to be done on men, and from where I was sitting, men were “fine”. Another case of us having accepted things as they are or are we tired of fighting the systems that pull us down?
I am not a fan of “the first black/woman/gay” trend, but I see value in it. For a while that was our staple of good news. Children from township schools passing matric with six distinctions and getting into actuarial science degrees were also welcome. Success in sports and the rising middle class were good, Patrice Motsepe was also a nice feature. But on the back of that corrective rape and the murder of lesbians rose, Anene Booysen, police brutality, racism, corruption and another Zuma term … the bad took over from the good. All this happened as we watched and all we could do is tweet, seek humour and just keep it moving. Is it lethargy, fatigue or disinterest? I for one am tired of the bad news, but I still see value in that kind of reporting.
I am not a journalist, but as a writer on public platforms, I am also responsible for adding to the drum of bad news. Looking at everything I have written this year, perhaps the only good news was my last piece where I wrote about leaving my job to pursue my dreams. But even that starts with lamenting the unemployment rates. Are we conditioned into taking in the bad and moving with it, carrying the burdens of the bad news and regurgitating it? Are we the kind of community that responds more to bad news than good news? Are we a society that thrives on the bad and would rather push aside the good news? Are our journalists aware of the void and need for good news? If they are, are they deliberately denying us this need? Or maybe, we are yet to say, “good news please”?
I don’t have good news to share, but I know there is good news out there that’s not being reported. I know there are more first black/women/gay doing something and are deserving of public admiration. I know there are young people working to change societies and winning. I know there are businesses thriving. I know there are churches impacting change. I know there is a celebrity doing something bigger than just entertaining. And maybe, there is a politician who is doing one thing right and could get a special mention. There are certainly many other media personalities who are smart and are in tune with current affairs. My point is, we are thirsty and hungry for some good news, can we get some, please.