Investigating and exploring the role of community newspapers against the background of profit-driven media environment : a Pietermaritzburg based study.
The aim of the study is to investigate and explore the role of community newspapers against the background of profit-driven media environment. The study adopted a qualitative research method. Data was collected using in-depth interviews with editors of the four community newspapers under study namely Public Eye, The Mirror, Echo and Edendale Eyethu, as well as readers of these publications. The study used focus group discussions as an additional qualitative instrument for data gathering. The SPSS software programme was used to present the data from the readers. Findings of the study The study found that media conglomerates and other businesses on the media possess both the human and financial resources to place them in a powerful position to determine the media content. However, while we know that this happens, some interventions could be considered to make sure that a more viable and sustainable balance between commerce and community is found and maintained. The study also showed that due to “market-driven journalism” embraced by the community newspapers, the right of the readers or consumers is increasingly compromised, and also that the profit-driven aspects of these publications confirm that media or journalism ethics of the community press is also at stake in that appear to benefit private and public sectors. This means the ample space allocated to advertisers as evidenced in almost every page of these newspapers, contribute to denying the readers access to relevant news or information. The study found that local content and political news are of great relevance to the readers, Community newspapers are vital in creating awareness amongst community members of different events taking place in the community hence enabling them to take an active part in different aspects of developments taking place. Community members would like to see more in-depth coverage in local news content, more coverage in events taking place locally such as community initiative projects, and more coverage on schools sports tournaments.