Local media steps up daily to tell uncomfortable stories

Livingstone Hospital has featured in a BBC piece about the state of hospitals in the Eastern Cape amid the Covid-19 pandemic
SHOCKING EXPOSÉ: Livingstone Hospital has featured in a BBC piece about the state of hospitals in the Eastern Cape amid the Covid-19 pandemic

It has been about a week since the BBC published its “exclusive, weeks-long investigation inside filthy hospitals in SA”.

The article homed in on Livingstone Hospital, the Eastern Cape’s designated Covid-19 facility, painting a picture of a hospital — and a health system — on the brink of collapse as it faces one of its biggest challenges yet in Covid-19.

Suddenly, South Africans were taking notice.

Not only that, some were attacking local media for not reporting on the situation at Livingstone.

Among them was one social media user who admitted to not following or reading news, but wanted to know why the crisis had not been reported by “our ANC media”.

“It’s shameful that a foreign news service gives a more thorough account of the Eastern Cape hospital collapse than our own media,” read another tweet that has since, it seems, been deleted.

One can almost forgive these people; their frame of reference will dictate what media they consume and, perhaps, a regional newspaper like The Herald might not be on their radar.

But there can be no excuse when someone like Anton Harber, a journalist and adjunct professor of journalism at one of SA’s top tertiary institutions, tweets in response to the BBC article: “Where is our local reporting?”

Because local media — and this newspaper especially — has been at the forefront of highlighting issues at the very same Nelson Mandela Bay hospitals long before and throughout Covid-19.

It will continue to do so once the pandemic has subsided and international media outlets lose interest.

So what, you might say.

Who cares about all this? Simply put — you should care.

An unjustified attack like this on the media, when it has been doing its job, chips away at its credibility and does great harm to an industry that has already been forced to shut down dozens of publications and cut hundreds of jobs.

It would be wise at a time like this to remember that journalism, a free media, is a cornerstone of democracy and holds a mirror up to society.

Without good journalism, we cannot hold those in power to account and our hard-fought-for democracy suffers for it.

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