Thursday, January 13, 2011

What code of Conduct

Dear Phylicia Oppelt, Editor of The Times,
             I said to my wife today that your paper is a great read now and she replied, It’s probably because its run by a woman. As I’m not a chauvinistic pig I have to reluctantly agree that my wife may possibly be right. But it’s a big may though? And if she is right it will be the first time this century.
          But while your paper could be the bargain of the decade at R2 and a five day a week freebie for Sunday Times subscribers, it’s an aspect of freebies that does concern me as the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.
           I look out for things that are too piffling for the South African Press Ombudsman, Joe Thloloe to worry about. Although with the ANC breathing down your necks threatening all kinds of terrible things against the Press I would have thought Joe would be looking out for transgressions everywhere so I wouldn’t have to do it.
          The other day virtually the entire page was taken up with a glowing puff about the Marlin Lodge in Mozambique’s Benguerra Island and Federal Airlines.
          It was written by Shanthini Naidoo, your deputy features editor of this Avusa Group paper. And it began There are a few good reasons to blow the budget. One of them, for a recently-wed like me, is to relive your honeymoon. The Lodge has 17 suites with rates starting from R3 000 per person sharing. Not the kind of place the Poor Man’s Ombudsman can afford to stay in unless he got a job with you guys.
          That was in October and the article concluded with this rider Naidoo was a guest of Mantis Collections’ Marlin Lodge and Federal Airlines.
          Then in late November it was Andrea Nagel’s turn to languish in luxury so she could report on the Lions Sands game reserve in your BLOW THE BUDGET section. That’s some place by the sound of it. This private game reserve bordering the Kruger Park is the haunt, Nagel told us, of the very rich and famous. People like George Michael, Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen and singer Vanessa Williams are just some of the names she dropped.
          Surprise, surprise people also go there to see wild animals, like the Big Five.
          The most romantic feature Nagel revealed was the private bush tree house at the top of a majestic 500-year-old Leadwood tree open on all sides to the plains and the wild animals that inhabit them. And though every moment of my weekend at Lions Sands was memorable, I’ll make sure that next time I sign up for the tree-house experience. Oh! and there will be a next time.  Even on a journalist’s miserable salary?
·       Nagel was a guest of Lions Sands we were told at the bottom.
          And in the sports section a week or so later a report on the Springboks’ tour of Britain by the rugby writer had a similar thought provoker. Simnikiwe Xabanisa is on the Springboks Grand Slam tour courtesy of British Airways.
           As the headline on Nagel’s article said, There’s no beating about the bush, so I won’t either. Does this mean Phylicia that The Times paid for these trips or did the journalists get them free?
            Avusa’s code of conduct you will recall proudly proclaims: We do not accept anything for free. We pay our way. We do not accept gifts, freebies, inducements, special offer tickets and so on that are not available to us as ordinary citizens.
          Well I’m an ordinary citizen, very ordinary my ex-wife would no doubt have told you, and I haven’t received an invite lately from Mala Mala game reserve (Approximately R4 000 to R6 000 a night sharing although they only talk in US dollars). And nor has South Africa Airways got around to inviting my wife and I to be their guests on a flight to Australia when they know perfectly well we have a daughter there.
          If these were free trips your paper was talking about, what’s the point in being so coy about them with these bits in italics at the end? Regarding the rugby one, is the rider the pay back advert for British Airways and in the case of the Naidoo and Nagel articles was it to tell us that, in the circumstances, we could hardly expect a critical assessment of the places where they stayed or the airline mentioned?

          EINA! In the Sunday Times of November 28 a prominent column on Page 4 ended with another of these what’s-going-on riders. It said, Makhanya visited Argentina courtesy of that country’s South African embassy.
          Did that mean us tax payers paid? If so nobody asked for my permission. Or was it the Argentinians who had the pleasure?
          You know who this is? It’s none other than Mondli Makhanya, former Editor in Chief of the Sunday Times and now the big shot of them all, the Editor in Chief of Avusa Media’s entire newspaper empire.
          What’s that the Press is always telling us; If you’re in the public eye don’t make a spectacle of yourself.
          Yours watchfully,
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on  It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice. 

No comments:

Post a Comment