Thousands caught in lending freeze – Sunday Express

Date: October 9, 2010
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Name of Article: Thousands caught in lending freeze
Name of Publication: Sunday Express
Date: 8 November 2009
Country: Lesotho
Theme: Business
Skills: Writing
Genre: Feature

Gem Classification: Subtle stereotype

This is a news-feature of an ongoing event. The article focuses on money lending. Money lenders freeze loans after a high court judgment against three of its members. It is reported that about 40,000 to 50,000 customers will be affected by the cut-off.

The article does not provide context or analysis about the users/consumers of loans. It fails to profile any of the 50,000 people who will be “burned” by the freeze. Traditionally, banks do not provide credit to the poor, who are considered high-risk, so their only option is to turn to money lenders who charge premium rates. In the majority of cases, women access credit from money-lenders.

This story covers the outcome of an event but it neglects to cover the issue holistically. It could have covered the story in a more contextual manner by sourcing those who sued the money lenders. The article failed to explore themes with a gender dimension. It is biased towards money-lenders and projects these associations as providing a fair service to the needy.

This article can be used to indicate bias, blatant gender stereo-typing and also as an examination of how sources can add or devalue a report.

The headline: “Thousands caught in lending freeze” conveys the impression that there are thousands of poor people suffering. The sub-heading: “Poor borrowers left high and dry as lenders fight ruling”, indicates tension in the story. But the story omits to offer a voice to the voiceless sector it opines about. The content does not reflect the promise of the main headline.

The money lenders are the main source. The sourcing is inadequate and crucial sources are left out. Considering the numbers of those affected by the freeze it was imperative that their comments were sought. The absence of gender opinion and dimensions in the story is grave and again underscores the bias in this story.

The language is grammatically correct. It is easy to read and technically well-written. The story flows easily and paragraphs link well. From this perspective, technically there are no flaws. It is persuasive – it favours money lenders. The skew in favour of the money lenders in terms of technical English is subtle. Sentences or words are not “loaded”. Thus the article is a biased but skillfully penned piece.

Visual Images
One picture of a money-lending institution accompanies the story. There is no activity or people captured in this picture and it conveys a sense of an institution that has closed its doors. The caption: “Money Lending: Institutions in Lesotho, including B-Blue financial services (the institution photographed), have indefinitely stopped giving out loans”, is appropriate. It correctly reflects the news story.

Story Angle and perspective
The intent of the story angle was to focus on the effects of the freeze of money flow post a court-hearing. The angle pursued emphasised, instead, the “positive” role played by money lenders and negates the reasons of the court order which grants in favour of consumers who are charged premium rates unfairly.

The story does not hold true to its promise and instead offers a platform for a single perspective to prevail. This is also contrary to the heading and sub-heading. Small and medium businesses – including women lenders, who make-up and are dependent on credit, in an environment in which formal institutions are risk averse – are ignored.

The perspective pursued ignores the court ruling, which informed the intended angle.

Placement or positioning
The story is a news item and placed on page five. It is well placed at the top of the page and constitutes half a page. The positioning reflects the weight of the story, considered important both in its positioning and placement. There is no other news item on the page competing with the story.



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