We at Media Monitoring Africa have been monitoring the media in South Africa for the past 23 years and have learnt that crime is not a specialty in our field. What is our speciality is media monitoring and we can attest that Media monitoring is important in that it reveals trends of media coverage on particular issues. It allows one to provide evidence rather than spread baseless accusations: It is on this basis that we would like to share the following three lessons with you:

Lesson 1: The media is not homogenous. Unlike your observations that “all journalists do not investigate their stories” nor do they report on “the factual of the facts” our research has revealed that even though some journalists do get it wrong, in most instances they get it right.  (See our report on elections  Reporting_Elections_A_Good_Story_to_Tell.pdf )

It is through the very media that today we can question your credentials. It is also through media investigations that you too got to think about Nkandla! Your observations are therefore not only baseless, but place media freedom at risk.

Lesson 2: You confidently argue that journalists need to be regulated because they are clearly bad at what they do. You also suggest that the Press Ombudsman is not the appropriate body to ensure quality journalism because it is not independent. It appears that you have a legitimate concern around issues of self-regulation. However, as you know the Press Ombudsman is now under independent co-regulation.

This means that there are independent members of the public that are represented on the Press Council. It is important to note that even though you do not trust how the system works, it has actually worked and has helped many to receive recourse.  You only need to go to the Press Council website and check their rulings to see this

We know that your response to this would be to question the independence of the public representatives as most of them are academics and you clearly expressed at one of the recent TNA business briefings “that academics are also a problem. If you could point to us how many of the graduates you have employed at SABC during your tenure were actually poisoned, maybe we can then better understand your argument against academics.

Lesson 3: There is a difference between Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Both of these positions are important, however they are not equal. According to the current SABC editorial policies (which are now overdue by over 6 years), the SABC CEO is the Editor-in-Chief. This simply means that the CEO provides strategic leadership when it comes to editorial decisions that the News Editor has to make. Given that this should be the case, don’t you think it is best you let the SABC CEO do more of the talking about journalistic practices? He is mandated to do so and is in a much better position to make those observations. The buck stops with him after all!

We hope that these lessons will help you and the SABC. We also hope to further discuss and debate these issues with the News Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.

From Media Monitoring Africa