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Between “Bottom-Up” Journalism and Social Activism in Unequal Societies: The Case of GroundUp in South Africa

  • Wallace Chuma
Chapter

Abstract

It has been two decades since the dismantling of legislated racial segregation in South Africa, and the country’s democratic transition has often been hailed across the world as nothing short of a miracle. Yet, despite the numerous gains freedom has brought, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies on earth (Marais, 2011). The country remains largely divided across class and race, and these divisions impact on citizens’ participation in the full spectrum of what democracy has to offer. The country’s mainstream media are largely commercial institutions driven by commercial imperatives, and therefore generally privilege elite frames in reporting the South African story. Partly as a result of the mainstream media’s neglect of poor and ordinary citizens’ stories, and partly thanks to new information and communication technologies (ICTs), a new interesting trend of “bottom-up” storytelling has, over the past decade, emerged in the South African public sphere, to offer both competing and alternative narratives to the dominant stories. This chapter focuses on one such space of “bottom-up” storytelling, called GroundUp, a non-profit online news agency which generates news from both professional and “activist” journalists. The chapter explores the possibilities and opportunities this “weapon of the weak” (Couldry, 2002, p. 1) holds for increased participation and visibility of the marginalized outside of the “usual” dominant frames. It also debates the possible impact of this phenomenon on the quality of South Africa’s democracy, and discusses the limits as well, from funding to issues around access.

Keywords

Alternative Medium Mainstream Medium Public Service Broadcaster News Production Unequal Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Wallace Chuma 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wallace Chuma

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