Sunday, December 30, 2018

SHOULD THE PRESS STILL BE JUDGED BY ITS OWN OMBUDSMAN

Dear Newspaper readers,

          South Africa’s Press Ombudsman Johan Retief has shown once again what a bad idea it is to have the press policing itself.
          Tucked away in the one corner of Page 5 of the Sunday Times of December 16 was a tiny story headed Press Council RULING Apology to Collins Letsoalo.
          This was a retraction of everything it published in its June 24 issue under the heading “Pay it back, AG tells Prasa’s 350% boss.” It apologised to Collins, the former acting CEO of South Africa’s Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) for “falsely, misleadingly and unfairly stating, both in the story and in the headlines, that the auditor-general had issued a special report on the matter and ordered Letsoalo to pay back the money to Prasa.”
          The office of the AG has categorically denied that it issued any such “special report,” it went on.
          “We apologise to Letsoalo for creating the false, misleading and unfair impression that he had obtained money to which he was not entitled, thereby unnecessarily tarnishing his dignity and reputation.”
          It ended by telling us that Letsoalo had complained to the Press Ombudsman who had found in his favour and that readers could find the full story on the Press Council’s website.
          This brief apology gave readers, who had not been following the story very little idea of what it was all about. Any other flaky report like this would be quite unacceptable elsewhere in the paper.
The little apology is on the right if you can see it
          The original story that carried the lies was a page lead yet, as so often happens, the Ombudsman lets papers get away with apologies which are given nothing like the same prominence as the stories that cause the damage to people’s reputations. It’s clear that they are being allowed to make them as inconspicuous as possible so that as few people as possible see that their paper cannot be trusted.
The original story
In this case Retief’s conclusion that the reporter, who did the story was a liar, was conveniently not published in the paper but left on the Ombudsman’s website for readers to go and find it for themselves.
The same applied to Retief’s very damning remarks.
Like: “Need I say what immense damage such reporting does to the credibility of the South African media in general, and the Sunday Times in particular.”
And: “I have hardly, if indeed ever, seen such misleading, unfair and untrue statements in a headline.” And, as the Ombudsman, he has been dealing with complaints like this for 10 years, although he recent resigned and will leave his position in the New Year.
The name of Caiphus Kgosana, the reporter responsible for damaging the Sunday Times’ reputation so badly, was not even mentioned in the apology that appeared in the paper.
The background to the story is that after Letsoalo was appointed acting CEO of Prasa the Sunday Times dubbed him the 350% boss for increasing his annual salary from R1.7 million to R5.9 million. The Board decided to dismiss him after the story appeared, although he was subsequently vindicated by a judge who ruled that he was entitled to the increase as it was in line with what his predecessor was getting.
The judge’s decision was made before the controversial story appeared and Letsoalo claimed that Kgosana agreed to quote the judgement to give balance to any report he wrote. But this never happened.
Dealing with the claim in the Sunday Times story that the Auditor-general had issued a special report in which he ordered Letsoalo to pay back the increase, Retief stated that the AG’s office had denied ever issuing such a report or telling Prasa that the increase had to be repaid.
He wrote that he had given the paper ample time to “provide me with the special report that Kgosana says he has seen and from which he has quoted so lavishly.
“I have no other explanation for Kgosana’s inability/refusal to provide me with this document than one of the following alternatives:
·      Either there is no such document, in which case the journalist has deliberately misled the public, his own  newspaper, and this office; or
·      He has accepted the existence of a forged document as a real one, without proper verification.
     “I am highly suspicious of Kgosana’s failure to provide me with the report.”
          He believed the first alternative was the most likely one.
          “This can only mean one thing,” he added. “The journalist has deliberately misled all and sundry.”
          Retief ruled that the apology the paper had to print should be on Page 3 which was the same page where the original story appeared. 
          He also decided that due to the “seriousness of the matter” the Sunday Times had to carry a so called kicker on its front page that had to include the word apology and Letsoalo’s name “referring to the text on Page 3” – Ha! Ha!
But the Sunday Times didn’t regard it with the same seriousness. It ignored this directive and put the apology on Page 5, presumably on the basis that it was less likely to be seen the further into the paper it was placed. In any case the front page kicker was so innocuous it would not have alerted many people to the existence of the apology.
Letsoalo has threatened to sue the Sunday Times, Prasa and its former executives for R20-million for loss of income and defamation. 
        Newspapers would be less likely to behave badly like this if they knew they would have to publish an apology just as prominently as the original story, at the very least. That’s what should happen automatically if proper justice was to prevail instead of these token wishy -washy, penalties that are the inevitable result of an industry that has got away for years with a system of judging itself.
Retief told me that he always directed a publication where to publish the apology, “even determining that the word ‘apology’ be published in the headline.
“It depended on the seriousness of the transgression. Normally I direct a newspaper to publish on the same page. In some instances I have gone to page one even though the transgression was not on that page. A few times I have taken a whole page.”
        Inexplicably he told me he did not know what I meant when I asked him this: “Why is it that you allowed a newspaper like the Sunday Times, which is not an on-line publication, to merely refer its readers to your website for the most damning part of your ruling in this particular case?”
          In a supplementary question to the one above I asked if it was his normal practice to allow newspaper apologies to carry just a small part of his ruling in print and then refer readers to the Press Council’s website?
          He merely answered: “I always ask a newspaper to publish the sanction – this is normal practice.”
          He assured me that as soon as his office reopened after the Christmas recess the Sunday Times would be told to repeat the Letsoalo apology, this time on page 3.
You would think our lying reporter would be in for the high jump, especially as the SundayTimes has been forced to carry a rash of whole page, record setting apologies in the last couple of years.
As recently as Oct 2018 the Sunday Times carried a screed by media
 strategist Chris Vick to try and convince us that it had reformed. This
was part of it, but the tall stories keep getting printed

         You would be wrong. The week after the apology appeared Caiphus Kgosana’s name was the first of two in the byline for the papers’ front page lead story, as if nothing had happened.
But this is nothing new. It took ages for it to get rid of its long time ‘ace’ investigative reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika for mixing fiction with fact. And then it continued to employ Jim Jones as a freelance writer in its business section (Business Times) for eight years after it knew he was a thief.
Regards,
Jon, the Poorman’s Press Ombudsman who worked on the Sunday Times in the days when its fairy tales were true (goldilocks and big business).

P.S. Before I had seen his tweet I sent Kgosana an email tell him briefly what I intending writing and I invited him to make any comments he wished on the Ombudsman’s damning report. I also asked him how current this Linkedin profile was and he never replied although I got a read report.
If this is correct is he the right person to be teaching
journalism at a university?
Note:The Press Ombudsman comes under the Press Council that has been established by the media industry to police it with the aim of maintaining a high standard of ethics. It only has the power to make rulings involving its member publications and it can’t order any of its members to pay damages. Aggrieved parties, who believe this is what they deserve, have to go to the supreme court for that.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

THE MOST PRECIOUS RUGBY TEAM IN THE WORLD

Dear Parents,
Guy Pearson Headmaster
of Bishops

          Boys at Cape Town’s Diocesan College, commonly known as Bishops, are so special that the school feels it necessary to make sure that its rugby first team stands out from the from the commoners at other schools.
          With a motto of Pro Fide et Patria – For Faith and Fatherland you could hardly expect anything different from this private, all boys school where the annual College fees in Grade 12 will set you back R240 380 per boy, plus no doubt thousands more in extras. So you wouldn’t want them treated any other way would you?
          The boys in the team I’m talking about have no numbers on their jerseys, because as one of the boys said on TV just before a televised match: “We are one.”
          Meanwhile the teams they play against such as those from the nearby Government schools like South African College Schools (SACS) and Wynberg Boy’s High all have numbers. The fees for Grade 12 borders at these two schools are considerably less than half what you would pay at Bishops.  
          This was Guy Pearson, the headmaster of Bishop’s explanation for this very elitist behaviour: “In his book ‘Bishops Rugby, a History’ Paul Dobson writes the following: Bishops does not wear numbers, partly because there are usually no programmes at matches, partly because it holds to the belief that rugby is a team game and individuals should not be singled out. At worst it is a harmless tradition; at best it is an expression of idealism.”
Bishops & Wynberg players
          Idealism has been defined as the unrealistic belief in perfection – hardly something boys should be taught so early in life I would have thought.
          And just to make sure that Bishops has no big heads in its teams Pearson told me: “You are correct; we do not pick a man of the match. You will notice that when the game is televised the commentators pick a man of the match, but we don’t.
          “I forgot to mention that the teams we play do not mind us playing with no numbers, they appreciate this tradition. We have other ‘quirky’ traditions like running on as a group from behind the post and not through a ‘tunnel of adulation’ like other schools.”
          Is this Bishops approach to rugby the best way to prepare boys for the real world, where everybody is certainly not equal? Didn’t Communism fail dismally with its no class divisions ?
          Bishops evidently believes it is so unique that it can blithely ignore the whole purpose of having numbers on jerseys. As everybody must know they are there to enable referees to easily identify players that transgress, and it also makes the job of commentators of televised games a lot easier. They complain that when Bishops is playing they sometimes get picked out for getting the names of players wrong.
          Mr Pearson was not exactly correct when he told me that the schools Bishops play against don’t mind this no number business. I canvassed the heads of just two other Cape Town schools that play Bishops and they have both been sporting rivals of the special one for longer than most people can remember. 
Jan de Waal


          Jan de Waal, Headmaster of Wynberg Boy’s tactfully phased what I believe most people would say: “This is a classic case of tradition, which is now having a negative impact on the modern game.
          “Many schools have little traditions passed on from one generation to another.
Queens (Queens College, Eastern Cape) for example do not play with a number 13, Bishops have no numbers etc. I’m sure there were soundly thought through reasons for the original decision, but maybe its time to revisit those traditions to adapt to the current realities.”
          On the other hand Brendan Grant, Headmaster of SACS has a very passive approach. “That is Bishops tradition and we have no problem with it at all. We look after our traditions and do not dictate to other schools what they should do.”
          While doing research for this post I came across an advertisement that must have given the boys a laugh. It was immediately below a video of a Bishops vs Wynberg match and was for Vascamen, available at Clicks and Dis-Chem, where it can also be bought on-line. It’s in the sexual wellness category with ingredients like horny goat weed.
          Nobody seemed to know how it got there.
          “It doesn’t seem right to me that they should have videos of school rugby coupled with ads like this without obtaining the okay from the schools involved,” I told Pearson in an email. “As if teenage lads are not horny enough without getting them to take horny goat weed etc. Does anybody at Bishops or any other school know if this product is a performance (on the rugby field as well as in the bedroom) enhancing drug?” 

          Pearson told me that the video streaming of schoolboy matches was done by a company called School Sport Live. Bishops had nothing to do with this. “I will let them know that some of their adverts are not appropriate in a school context,” he said, adding: “I personally do not watch these videos so am unaware of the content of the adverts.”
           “This advertisement is not created or endorsed by us,” Rowan Raaff head of School Sport Live emphasised. “We deal with schools, so we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we associated ourselves with a product of this nature.”  
          Vascamen is a local South African, Loock Pharmaceuticals product. Its Marketing Director Marieke Prinsloo assured me they would never place an advertisement for this anywhere connected with schools. “We do however have a few deals with sports magazines, both printed and on-line, that fit our target market profile, mostly 35 years and up.”
          The advertisement in question must have been one of those Google phenomenons because when I looked again it had gone.
          “While it offers a variety of sporting choices rugby is truly at the heart of the school,” Bishops tells us. “The main rugby field was the first in South Africa and is sometimes used by the Springboks for practice sessions out of the public eye. Many Bishops boys have gone on to become Springboks, most recently Robbie Fleck and Selborne Boome.” 
Former Bishops boys have become rugby internationals
all over the world
          Bishops was established in 1849 by Robert Grey, the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town. He founded two schools, one for native children and the other for European children and it was the latter that became Bishops.
          The Bishop was certainly not preaching "We are one" in those days.
          Regards,
          Jon
P.S. When I was at Bishops a hundred years ago we were not nearly so precious and if you stepped out of line you knew all about it. Six of the best with a flexible cane left an indelible impression on your backside, and your mind for quite a long time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

CRAZY COMPLAINT REQUIREMENT OF THE PUBLIC PROTECTOR: 'PROVE YOUR CASE BEFORE WE CAN DECIDE IF WE CAN START'


Dear Readers,

          Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, South Africa’s Public Protector recently announced that in the years 2016/17 and 2017/18 they finalised 21 176 out of 25 288 complaints.
Well, if mine is anything to go by these figures must be extremely suspect.  After more than a year her Cape Town office had not yet decided whether or not the law allowed them to investigate my complaint against the Cape Town City Council.
For nearly three years now I have been investigating why the Council goes on spent millions on ineffective schemes to try and keep the sand dunes in place, above a municipal rubbish dump at Witsands near Cape Point. The dump was closed more than 30 years ago.
26 June 2017: I emailed my two page complaint about this shocking waste of money to the Cape Town office of the Public Protector.
29 June 2017: The receipt of this was acknowledged in a letter signed on behalf of a senior manager in which I was told that once they had established “whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint” they would contact me again.
6 November 2017: Ayanda Mngqinya asked me to provide proof of my allegations against the Council and two days later I sent her a five page email in which I expanded on my original complaint. This included links to six of my posts on the subject in which there were numerous pictures, which showed conclusively how the use of nets to try and keep the sand in place had failed dismally. They had either been blown over or buried by the very strong winds that are endemic to the area. I quoted Councillor Johannes van der Merwe, the Member of the Mayor’s Executive team at the time, who was in charge of the Environment, as well as other people involve in the project. Van der Merwe claimed that what they had been doing was an extremely cost effective way of managing the landfill site. I pointed out that on 30 March 2016 the Cape Argus carried a story based on my blog that effectively verified what I had written. I mentioned that in another post addressed to the Mayor Patricia de Lille I had emphasised the fact that the Public Protector had described the conditions in the township of Masiphumelele, which is not far from Witsands, as the “most disgusting I have seen in my life.” And I appealed to her to get the Council to stop wasting money at Witsands. I also pointed out that although my posts had all been very critical of what the Council had been doing, I never had single complaint about the accuracy of what I had written.
22 January 2018: I sent an email to Ayanda Mngquinya asking her what progress there had been with my complaint as the money wasting by the Council was starting all over again at Witsands. I attached photographs that showed how nets had been blown over just days after they had been erected.

11 April 2018: Ayanda replied saying she was “currently unavailable” and that I should directed all queries to Mrs Judith Steyn. This I did.
16 April 2018: Nkagiseng Motaung replied under the heading PROGRESS REPORT. “Kindly take note that your complaint was received by the Public Protector Western Cape Regional Office and I am the investigator assigned to your matter.” She went on to say that she will be “assessing my matter” and will revert back to me with the “outcome of the assessment.” So it was clear from what she told me that at this stage, 10 months after her office received my complaint, nobody had yet decided whether it was something they were entitled to investigate.
12 June 2018: I sent an email to Advocate Stoffel Fourie, who I was told was in charge of the Cape Town Public Protector’s office, even though he is apparently based at Bhisho in the Eastern Cape. Before I was given his email address my phone calls to the office in Cape Town, the head office in Pretoria as well as the one in Bhisho went unanswered. His email address wasn’t much help either, because all I got was two read reports in reply to my emails, and nothing more.
23 July 2018: Although my complaint was now more than a year old this unbelievably inefficient organisation was still trying to work out if it was qualified to deal with my case. Nkagiseng Motaung told me in an email that they required some more information to “assess whether the law allows your complaint to be investigated.” She wanted to know the following (My comments are in brackets):
1.    Issues that you wish the office of the Public Protector to investigate (As if I hadn’t told them already).
2.    Outcome sought by yourself should your matter be investigated (This must have been painfully obvious from what I had already sent).
3.    Proof that you formally raised your complaint with the City of Cape Town Ombudsman, your reference number as well as proof of outcome (This I hadn’t done because I didn’t think it was necessary as the Mayor and a member of her Mayoral Committee must have been aware of what I had written)
4.    Proof that you formally raised your complaint with the Office of the Speaker in as far as the conduct of the Councillor and Council is concerned and the proof of outcome (Same answer as Item 3).
5.    Proof of any other institution/s you raised your complaint with as well as the out come thereof (Same Answer as 4).
6.    Any other relevant information and/or documentation including correspondence between yourself and the official you communicated with. (I wasn’t prepared to send all this because I felt I had already sent more than enough information for any investigator to get started)
It ended with “Please take note we will now proceed to pend your file to the 3rd of August 2018 in anticipation of the above requested documents, as we cannot commence the investigation due to insufficient information. As soon as the above has been received, we will then proceed to asses the matter further and advice (sic) accordingly.” In this email this ace investigator also changed my sex by addressing me as Ms. J. Abbott, although all my emails had ended “Regards, Jon Abbott.”
24 July 2018: I replied to Nkagiseng Motaung saying that her office was an “absolute disgrace” because more than a year after I submitted full details of my complaint I was now being asked what outcome I wanted “should your matter be investigated.” I added that it was like reporting a murder to the police and being asked what outcome I wanted. “If something appeared wrong it was up to the Protector’s office to investigate it and not expect the complainant to provide all the proof,” I told her. “How could some poorly educated person possibly provide any of the information you are now asking for?”
10 September 2018: I got an email with a letter attached signed “PP Sune`Griessel (Mrs), Provincial Representative (Western Cape). It began with: “For further enquiries: Mrs N. Motaung, 31 August 2018.” The gist of the five paragraph letter was that as the Public Protector was “an office of last resort” I had not taken “all reasonable steps to exhaust all remedies available” to me
          “Due to the insufficient information regarding your complaint, we are unable to assess the matter further. We will now proceed to close our file and thank you for engaging with the office of the Public Protector.”
          I’m a retired former Sunday Times investigative journalist. So if I can’t present the Public Protector’s office with sufficient information to get it started, what hope has the average person?
          My experience shows how very unlikely it is that 83% of complaints to this branch of Government were finalist in the last couple of years as Busisiwe claims.
          Regards,
          Jon, a very disgusted Consumer Watchdog, who hopes he does a much better job than this.
See also: Monumental waste

Sunday, October 14, 2018

SUNDAY TIMES EDITOR APOLOGISES FOR PAPER'S LIES WITH ANOTHER WHOPPER

Dear Bongani Siqoko,  

Editor of the Sunday Advertiser aka Sunday Times,
          I feel terribly sorry for you. They take you from that piddling little Daily Dispatch (Circulation 25 000) in East London (population260 000) and make you Editor of the country’s top selling national paper, the Sunday Times (Circ. 260 000) that operates out of Johannesburg, our biggest city (pop.1-million). That was at the end of 2015.
          Ever since then you have been the face of record breaking Sunday Times apologies.
You were just getting into the hot seat in December 2015, when the Press Ombudsman gave you his Christmas and Welcome to the Sunday Times present. It was his ruling that the ‘rogue unit’ expose` about the SA Revenue Service (SARS) was rubbish. It had been running for months and he order that your new paper must retract everything and apologise in writing.
          One has to wonder what really went on here. Pearlie Joubert, a member of your paper’s investigative team at the time, says she was isolated when she began to question what was going on. What was the motive for ignoring the very perceptive alarm bell she was ringing? Could it have been something more than just a front page lead?
          When she could not get her message through, she very bravely resigned.
          She’s was the real hero of that disgraceful chapter in the history, of a once proud newspaper. What she did is actually the front page lead for next week, but of course you will never print it.
The REAL HERO Pearlie Joubert: She's laughing here
but it was no joke on the Sunday Times
          Did you know at the time that you were being brought right across the country just to be thrown among the Great Whites, without a cage, almost straight away? Soon afterwards you had to explain that whole page apology that appeared in April 2016.
          At the time your appointment was announced Andrew Bonamour, Times Media (Now Tiso Blackstar – the Group changes it’s name more often than a chameleon changes colour) CEO had this to say about the outgoing editor Phylicia Oppelt, under whose watch these lies occurred: “We are delighted that Phylicia will remain with the group and help drive the exiting changes across the titles.”
          What?  Just when she had so completely messed up. Why wasn’t she asked to explain how it happened, instead of you, in that whole page apology? And where is she now - still driving “those exiting changes?”
          Today I see you are at it again, apologising once more for cock-ups that occurred even before Oppelt was the Editor. Now it’s all about the 2011 Police “death squad” lies that appeared when Ray Hartley was the Editor.
          These, as you say, “created the impression that Gen Johan Booysen was operationally in charge of the unit, and by association directly and personally responsibly for the killings.”
          Only a trivial libel that just happened to be completely untrue.



          You gave Booysen a lot of space to have his say. Unfortunately this shows how meaningless these apologies of yours are, if your paper and other sections of the Tiso Group go on employing the same journalists, who have proved conclusively that they can be relied upon to get it wrong in a big way.
          The scribes mentioned in the bylines on the stories you are apologising for now are Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Africa and Rob Rose.

                                                *     *     *     *     *     *
Breaking News

            In having his say Booysen told us that he had to contact the Editor Hartley to “demand to be heard” to give his side of the story, when that’s one of the basics of journalism that every cub reporter gets told: Always get both sides of the story.
            Hofstatter then comes to see him and they had a recorded teleconference with Wa Africa. Booysen tells them that the photographs they had of dead suspects had nothing to do with the story they are doing. He also told them that he knew their “sources” and that they were being investigated by the Hawks.
          Undeterred your ace investigators “evidently made no effort to verify the facts with the institutions” Booysen had referred them to. “Instead the versions of the suspects under investigation were published,” Booysen went on.
          This Don’t let the facts spoil a good story team then ensured that the gruesome pictures of the bodies appeared with their story when, as Booysen had told them, they had absolutely nothing to do with it.
How brainless was that?  These were supposed to be senior journalists behaving like naughty kids. 
Your apology today, which is full of excuses, loses any value it might have because you have including something that is clearly not true. What good is there in saying Sorry for our lies and then explain why with another one.
“We were in pursuit of nothing but the truth and we were not motivated by political, commercial or personal interests,” you told readers. “We stood to gain nothing from reporting on these issues, but merely fulfilling our constitutional obligation to inform you”(Isn't "were" missing somewhere?).
What a lot of guff. Is the Sunday Times now a charity? Does it not need money to exist? Your paper was purely motivated by getting exclusive, sensational stories that increase readership and the profits that flow from that.
I know we are supposed to have a very good constitution, but I can’t find the section that says newspapers have a duty to inform us. It’s probably just me. I can’t see for looking.
Bongani, I accept that you can’t be blamed for the fictitious scoops that appeared before your time, but some odd things have happened while you’ve been in charge.
For a start how can you still have Wa Africa doing investigations for your paper and having regular front page leads?  He should have been bowled out as soon as it was apparent that the police death squad story was rotten to the core.
He was still there after Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers came out in October 2017.  In the book he accused Hofstatter and Wa Africa of “Helping Zuma’s keepers to destroy the finest law enforcement institution in the country.” He was talking about a group of people in SARS who lost their jobs as a result of the “rogue unit,” to which your paper gave credence to.
There’s perhaps a follow up book for him: The Rogue Unit at the Sunday Times – the inside story.
The Terrible Twins - Hofstatter & Wa Afrika
Then too you should have known that freelance Jim Jones was a crook when the Business Times, your business section, continued to use him.(love affair with a crook)  You were also very much in charge when that whole page, paid African National Congress anti Democratic Alliance plug, masquerading as a news story, appeared.(dropping moral standards)
I know you don’t decide these things but the management of your group must also be censored for making Rob Rose the Editor of the Financial Mail and keeping  Hofstatter on reporting for the this publication and Business Day. His excuse for going astray was that they were “under pressure for scoops.” This is the life of every reporter, so imagine what it would be like if they all come up with fairytales.

Both Rose and Hofstatter have written allegedly factual books about shady goings on. One has to wonder now, how much of these are actually fiction.
Regards,
Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who tries to keep his factual fiction to a minimum. I must add that my only motive in writing this blog is to put the world right without any thought of being rewarded.

Monday, June 18, 2018

THE NIGHT THE BISHOP WENT ON A STRIP CLUB CRAWL OF LONDON'S FLESHPOTS


Dear night clubbers,
Peter Stringfellow
          The death of the “King of Clubs,” Peter Stringfellow revived memories of our daughter Belinda Abbott’s brief strip club waitressing career. Convent school educated she was a sweet 21 year old, who had left Johannesburg to see the world, when she got a job at Peter’s London Stringfellows Club.
          She hadn’t been there long when this man surprised everyone. He arrived dressed in a Bishop’s cassock and a mitre.
          “Stringfellows was packed, but it felt like the parting of the Red Sea as astonished revellers made way for me,” he was quoted as saying. “I paused for a moment and the club’s best looking waitresses draped themselves all over me and pouted professionally.”
           One of them was our Belinda.

          The story with our daughter and another girl in the main picture with the Bishop was a page lead in London’s Daily Mirror. No names of the two waitresses were given in the caption, so when Belinda sent us the cutting I replied: “Which one is you? P.S. What does a Bishop wear under his cassock.”
          The Bishop turned out to be none other than Daily Mirror reporter Chris Hughes. The article claimed that he had proved that “bishops REALLY are God’s gift to women.”
Peter and his admirers
          It began: “After years on the town with the lads I found out at last what it felt like to be Mr Right. Well Bishop Wright actually.
          “Forget corny chat-up lines, after shave and wads of money,” he wrote. “If you want to pull the girls dress up as man of the cloth.     
 “I swopped my suit for holy vestments for six hours – and by the end of the evening I had been to Heaven and back.”
          According to his holy orders he claimed that his final test was a visit to Stringfellows night club in London’s West End. By that time he was “in mortal danger of falling from grace.”
          Belinda is now Belinda Glynn a fashion designer in Melbourne, Australia.
Celebrities (Belinda is third from the left) at the 2017
Australian Open in Melbourne. A far cry from waitressing
in a London club
          The Club’s website boasts that “Peter has made Stringfellows the most famous Gentlemen’s club in the world offering the epitome of fine dining and certainly the most beautiful girls that you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.”
Belinda now

          At the start of his entertainment career Peter booked the likes of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix to play at his clubs. After opening Strngfellows in London in 1980 he launched other clubs in Paris, New York, Miami and Beverly Hills.
          Stringfellows hosted such celebrities as Rod Stewart and Tom Jones.
          Peter died of cancer earlier this month aged 77.  He married three times and is survived by his wife Bella and four children.
          Regards,
          Jon, who has never been a bogus Bishop but he has always been a real Abbott.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

WHEN GOLDILOCKS TOOK ON BIG BUSINESS AND WON

Dear readers, 

         Fairy tales don’t often come true but this one did. And who needs consumer journalists when Goldilocks can do the job so well.


Regards,
Jon, a Consumer journalist who had his belief in fairy tales restored by this case.

P.S. This is a blast from the past when my hard hitting column Business is Business ran for two years in the Business Section of the Sunday Times. Beares has been swallowed up by the Lewis Group although the name still lives on in some of the stores.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

LIES,LIES AND MORE LIES ARE WHAT TWO MASSIVE AFRIKAANS MEDIA GROUPS PRINT TO ENABLE SHYSTERS TO RIP OFF POOR BLACKS

Dear Readers,
Prof. George Claassen
          How can this possibly be allowed 24 years after the White apartheid government was replaced by a Black one? Are we back in those much hated apartheid days when South Africa’s Afrikaner rulers felt nothing for the welfare of the Blacks they were oppressing?
          Old habits die hard with Naspers and the Caxton Group it seems if they can get away with it, and do what big business so often does – make money with no regard for the ethics of what they are doing.
          Naspers, a multi national internet and media group offering services in 130 countries, does it through its Media24 newspapers.  And so does Caxton that has 88 titles in its newspaper division.
          They think nothing of continuing to print in various editions advertisements aimed at the poorest members of our society which they themselves agree are not believable.
          The ads, clearly aimed at Blacks, promote such obvious lies as penis enlargements and instant riches all with a 100% success guarantee. The purveyors of this deceit have equally unlikely titles such as Dr Bonga, Queen Apiah, Professor Habib, Chief Juba, King Abuja and a host of others.
          The Professor Habib ad was in Media24’s Daily Sun and this learned gentleman claimed to be the “strongest herbalist, healer from Egypt” who could bring back “lost loved ones”; make your “manhood strong and thick ”and “win lotto” etc.
          While it is unlikely that this no doubt fictitious title could be confused with Professor Adam Habib the Vice-chancellor and Principal of Wits University I think the papers are playing a dangerous game. They could just libel a real person.
          As far as I know it is illegal to call yourself a doctor when you are not one, but that doesn’t bother these newspapers one iota. Making money is all they are thinking about.
Citizen ads

          I began my efforts to stop these ads being printed with Caxton’s Johannesburg based daily The Citizen. Steven Motale the editor at the time conceded that these advertisements were “not believable.” He added that he felt his paper should still carry them with a “caution.”
          But when I said this would be an admission that his paper believed the ads were dubious he replied, “It’s a tough one. I’m going to take it up with the advertising department.”
          That was in 2013. Nothing changed however and the paper, which is publish Monday to Friday and has a daily circulation of 43 480, is still coining it out of these lies in the Herbalists section of the Classifieds.
          I have now turned my spotlight onto Media 24’s Daily Sun as well as its free weekly People’s Post which has 10 editions that are distributed door to door in Cape Town. The Sun that claims to be South Africa’s biggest daily has a circulation of 174 483 while People’s Post brags of a weekly print order of 318 495.
          So between them these two publications spread an awful lot of Herbalists lies week in and week out.

          What do you think happened when I asked Professor George Claassen Media24’s Ombudsman about these dubious ads? “I see that your group is not concerned about some of the ads it is happy to carry just to make money,” I told him in an email.
          He went even further than The Citizen’s editor by saying, “I agree with you, many of these ads are totally misleading and even fraudulent.”
          Claassen should know if anybody should. This former Professor of Journalism at Stellenbosch University has written a book on quackery which was an Afrikaans best seller.
Reggie Moalusi

 Reggie Moalusi Editor-in-Chief of the Daily and Sunday Sun told me, “I don’t believe in herbalists. But I don’t impose my views on our readers. There are people who believe in them.”
It’s a real cop out for Reggie to say he doesn’t impose his views on their readers when as an editor he must surely be making decisions almost daily that affect what the paper publishes on the editorial side.
Apart from heading these two papers he is also now the Secretary General of the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF), the organisation that gave me the complete brush off when I tried to raise the question of these dubious ads with it some years ago. This was in spite of the fact that it claims to be “committed to promoting and support ethical discourse and conduct in the South African media.”
However he was not a member of its Council then.
          The trouble is that so many newspapers conveniently regard their editorial and advertising sections as if they are completely different entities that have no affect on one another.
          When he was appointed Media24’s ombudsman Prof. Claassen was quoted as saying: “Journalists cannot hold other sections of society, such as politicians, public figures and the private sector to account if they do not apply the same standards of responsibility and accountability to their own profession.”
          Well what’s the point in expecting journalists to do this in the editorial side of newspapers when the ones I have mentioned give a shop window to people who are lying their heads off in these Herbalists advertisements?           
          I have taken examples from the two groups that illustrate the kind of morality that is going on. These make me believe that this kind of advertising could be even more widespread in these media empires and perhaps in other groups, than just in the publications I have mentioned. 
          Prof Claassen put the blame on the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) code for being “very vague on these types of advertising.” He then referred to the old White Man’s law of caveat emptor (buyer beware) which he said “also comes into play in which the user/buyer has a certain responsibility to also make informed judgements on whether to buy a produce or use a service.”
Esmare` Weideman
          Esmare` Weideman Media24’s Chief Executive Officer relied on the same excuses when I posed this question to her: “Why does your group continue to feel the need to make money out of lies that are used to rip off the poorest sections of our community.”
          “George is correct that the ASA rules are vague, and that the user/buyer has to exercise judgment. As you know, we have a disclaimer on all our ‘smalls’ advertising pages.”
          Both she and George ignore the fact that the ASA does not publish newspapers and nor does it have any direct say as to what goes into them. So just because the ASA is not doing its job by taking action to stop these advertising lies, does that mean papers are perfectly justified in continuing to make money out of them.
          Early in 2014 the ASA had an Ad-Alert list of 19 advertisers on its website and nearly half of these were traditional healers with names like Dr Bumba, Dr Rehema and Prof. Wakho. This list is sent to all its members to ensure that those with an adverse ruling, who have not responded, can not advertise again.
          At about the same time the ASA claimed  to have “ruled against such advertisements on numerous occasions, and it is hoped that the appropriate authorities will address this issue as it is no doubt causing harm to the credibility of legitimate healers and practitioners and this industry at large.”
          The ASA, which is controlled and paid for by the advertising industry, has conveniently been structured so that it does not have the powered to order papers as whole to stop taking these suspect ads. It can only deal with complaints about the ads themselves involving its own members and it doesn’t initiate anything without a complaint.
The one time consumer journalist on that paper
          What these two media groups are doing is an indictment of the ASA’s failure to do what it claims is the main reason why it was established – “to ensure its system of self - regulation works in the public interest.”
          As for the disclaimer Esmare` talked about that is a published verification that her group is fully aware that what it is doing is not remotely kosher. By just publishing these ads I believe the papers are giving the services offered a certain stamp of approval in the eyes of the less educated on the basis that they would not expect their paper to lie to them.
          Here’s the one in the Daily Sun with my comments in brackets. It is headed Important Notice to Readers and goes on to tell them in the smallest of print that the paper “has not verified whether any of the services or products advertised are safe to use or will have the desired effect or outcome (Why is the paper promoting them if it is so doubtful about how genuine they are?). Readers will note that some of the promised results in the advertisements are extraordinary and may be impossible to achieve (That’s just glossing over what a lot of people would recognise as lies).  Beware some of the procedures advertised may be dangerous if not executed by a qualified medical practitioner (These ads promote some people as qualified doctors when they are obvious not). Readers are warned that they should carefully consider the advertiser’s credentials (How are the unsophisticated people who are evidently taken in by the mumbo jumbo of these herbalists supposed to do this?).”
          It ends by saying “Daily Sun does not accept any liability whatsoever in respect of any of the services and goods advertised (How can this possibly be right when the paper is promoting what it admits are lies and without its advertisements these shysters would have great difficulty in reaching the people they are out to con. In this case relying on the old buyer beware law is like driving the wrong way on a motorway with a sign on the back of your vehicle that says ‘My lawyer assures me that I cannot be blamed if anyone crashes into me because they have a duty to watch where they are going’).”
          What really should have happened long ago is that the journalists in these media groups should have exposed all these bogus doctors, professors and the like in an effort to stop them continuing to rip off the unsuspecting poor. Instead their papers have shown deplorably double standards by not dealing appropriately with that lying hand that feeds them, while still continuing to reveal the shortcomings of others in our society.
Regards,
Jon, a Consumer Watchdog of long standing and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who does his best to tell as few lies as possible. And if by chance he does tells one he is happy to correct it and not blame it on a reader’s poor eyesight, the Blog Council or some other pathetic reason.
See: citizen's lies

P.S.  I have been campaigning for some time on my blog to get The Citizen to stop taking these ads. But whatever I did I could not get it to cease publishing them. Although the ASA has deplored these ads it is clear that it is not serious about getting papers to stop taking these money spinners. When I tried to lodge complaints about the ads with the ASA I was given a complete run around. I was referred to the Print & Digital Media SA (now defunct) in 2014. Caxton was one of the members. They also claimed they did not have the power to stop this kind of advertising and I was referred back to the ASA. I then tried Terry Moolman, Caxton’s CEO and co-founder. He didn’t reply but his PA emailed me to say my inquiry had been passed to Paul Jenkins, Caxton’s Group Chairman and Chairman of the Social and Ethics Committee. I got no reply from him either and the lies continue to be printed in the Herbalist section of The Citizen. It also blocked me on Twitter as some kind of reprisal for exposing its dubious advertising practice on my blog. I was equally unsuccessful when I tried to get SANEF to take a stand against these ads. It claims to be “founded on high ideals in an industry that around the world is often maligned for its lack of integrity,” yet Mathata Tsedu, its director at the time didn’t bother to reply to my email even though I phoned him to make sure he got it. He is a former editor of City Press, which is a Sunday paper in the Media24 stable. Editors clearly won’t take a stand against newspapers over this for fear of putting their jobs on the line in a relatively small media environment.
But I have no job to lose.