Internationally renowned and multiple award-winning investigative reporter Sainath Palagummi says the media has often failed the public and democracy in critical times, writes Andile Makholwa.


Delivering a keynote address at the annual Power Reporting Workshop at Wits University, Palagummi said journalists have not given enough attention to the world’s pressing issues such as corporate agriculture, food prices and city slums.
 “We in the media sold products when we should have told stories; where skepticism was crucial, we showed sycophancy,” he said.
“We made announcement when we should have made enquiry; where we needed journalism at its best, we produced stenography at its worst; when called upon to drive investigation, we showed indifference.”      
Palagummi, who is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu in India and the author of the book “Everyone loves a good drought”, said the media have failed the minimum duty of good journalism which is “to signal weaknesses in society”.
He said while the emphasis has always been on investigative journalism, there was a need to investigate journalists themselves.
He said financial journalism has often failed the public during major global financial crises. “The gigantic failures of financial journalism haven’t been examined,” he said, adding that financial reporters often seek the opinion of the very same people who presided over the financial crises.
He said the dynamics of food price hikes, corporate agriculture and the structural shut-out of the poor remain untold stories in our exclusionary media.
Speaking at the same workshop, Gerald Guedegbe of the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (Fair) said media houses in the continent have not invested enough in investigative journalism.
He said many journalists in Africa are underpaid and work in newsrooms that are extremely under-resourced.
He said in some cases journalists are still unable to use computers because they don’t yet have them.
The Power Reporting Workshop is an annual conference and training opportunity organised by the Wits Investigative Journalism Workshop.